Tooling Coalition Redefines Industry

June 30, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — After an 18-month pilot, 11 of Michigan’s progressive die and mold-makers — including several from West Michigan — have launched the United Tooling Coalition (UTC).

As a group, the coalition has extensive capabilities for engineering, prototype, tooling construction and tryout for a full range of progressive dies and molds.

Conceived through a partnership between The Right Place Inc./Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center-West and the Center for Automotive Research (CAR), and funded in part by the Michigan Economic Development Corp., the UTC was formed to help create and follow a collaborative business model that would be more competitive in global markets.

“We see the collaborative business model as a means of securing significant tooling contracts and building strength within our tooling companies to help head off further job losses,” said Michelle Cleveland, Right Place vice president.

The collaborative approach realizes the greatest benefits when a collection of inter-related components are sourced as a single order, she said. In this situation, when no single coalition member can handle the whole order, the greatest synergies of the coalition can be brought to bear.

“We have long recognized the importance of Michigan’s tooling industry. This grant demonstrates our commitment and support to our most fundamental manufacturing resource,” added Don Jakeway, MEDC president and CEO.

Jay Baron from CAR facilitates the collaboration, and helps provide a conduit to major customer contacts and possible collaboration partners.

“The UTC shops have identified savings opportunities of up to 35 percent that can be attributed to the collaborative effort,” said Baron.

The concept of the coalition is that by working together, costs can be reduced through cooperation, rather than simply by lowering quotes through a competitive bidding process, he said.

These savings are obtained through:

  • Workload Balancing — supporting each other as backup resources when one company has a bottleneck in its operation.

  • Lean Methods — companies identify their strengths and core competencies and focus on implementing lean methods around them, rather than trying to be competitive at everything.

  • Functional Build — When a collection of parts from an assembly can be purchased as a unit, there are significant opportunities to meet dimensional targets for the assembly rather than each individual component part.

  • Product Design — significant product design knowledge that resides in the shops can reduce tooling costs without changing the part from the customer’s perspective.

  • Improving Tool Standards — many customers tend to over-design their tools rather than designing them for the intended use, thus driving up costs.

Economies of Scale — the purchasing power of 10 companies for steel and tool components is far greater than any one company.

In addition to state support, the UTC companies have contributed funds that are being applied to the assessment and implementation of lean manufacturing concepts. Bruce Knapp from the MMTC is directing the lean assessment, training and implementation at the tool shops.

“There is a huge opportunity to reduce tooling costs through the implementation of lean methods, and the UTC is motivated to reap these rewards,” Knapp said.

The UTC coalition includes Accu-Mold, Autodie International, Enterprise Tool and Die, Lansing Tool and Engineering, Master Precision Molds, Northland Tool, Northwest Tool and Die, Paragon Die and Engineering, Precise Engineering, Richard Tool and Die and Schmald Tool and Die.           

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