Mold-Makers' Business Is Better

August 6, 2004
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ROSELLE, Ill.— Business is up for mold manufacturers.

In fact, it's the best business has been in the past six years for the beleaguered industry.

That finding comes from the Summer 2004 Business Forecast Survey conducted by the American Mold Builders Association (AMBA). The survey results show that the industry is beginning to stabilize and rebound from the horrendous showing it had from 2001 through 2003.

AMBA President Peter Manship said the upward direction that the industry is currently going was also reflective of what is generally happening in manufacturing.

Still, he stopped short of saying the worst of times were solidly buried in the past.

"It's not been an easy ride, but — like all industries — it tends to cycle.

"We seem to be on an upswing currently," Manship said. "Whether that will hold over the long term is anybody's guess. We feel that the industry is more stable now.

"Overcapacity was our own worst enemy," he explained, "and coupled with other competitive pressures it resulted in some thinning of the ranks in mold manufacturing.

"Now that capacity has been reduced to some degree, we anticipate that the industry will get — and stay — more stable in the short term, at least," he added.

The summer survey, completed in the middle of July, drew the largest member response since the AMBA began the survey in 1997.

Over 45 percent of the membership — 141 firms — took part in the survey, and here are the major findings:

  • 65 percent said their current business condition was either excellent or good, the highest percentage since spring 1998 when 82 percent had the same response.

  • 8 percent said business was poor or bad, the lowest percentage since spring 1998 when 9 percent had the same response.

  • Although members reported their average number of employees was down to 20, that average work force was up by 25 percent from spring 2002 when members reported an average of 16 workers per shop.

  • Average hours worked per week were at 49, the highest since fall 2000 when 49 was also the average reported.

  • 89 percent said quoting was up or the same, 86 percent said shipping was up or the same, and 79 percent said profits were up or the same.

  • 46 percent felt business would increase either substantially or moderately over the next quarter, while 49 percent said it would stay the same.

Only 5 percent said business would drop off during the next three months.

These findings were the best response the AMBA has received since 1998. The following year the industry began a downward spiral that hit bottom two years ago. (See related chart.)

"We can see by this comprehensive comparison that we've been on a roller coaster in the mold manufacturing industry," said Jeanette Bradley, AMBA executive director, from her Roselle, Ill., office.

"We rode to the top during the boom times in the 1990s and we've watched the bottom fall out for many in the industry in the (century's) opening years of 2001-2003.

The local AMBA chapter did not return phone calls made by the Business Journal as to whether business here had also picked up.

But the West Michigan Chapter is well represented at the national AMBA.

H.S. Die & Engineering Inc. Chief Engineer Kent Hanson is a board member, and Rapid Die & Engineering Inc. Vice President and General Manager Chris Jones is a vice president for the organization.

Bradley said the rollercoaster ride that mold makers have taken wasn't something new.

"We understand that business and industry is not a static or stagnant event, but that it fluctuates and cycles with economic ups and downs," she said.

"And during all of this … well, sometimes you're the windshield and sometimes you're the bug."    

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