Europe: Toolmakers need to embrace digital technology

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Where do you see problems? Can toolmakers keep up with rising demands and growing competition?

The challenge comes from the customer base or the manufacturing industry; tooling systems must never be regarded as a commodity but rather as a highly subjective and critically important part of the manufacturing process. More than fifty percent of the cost of any product produced is directly linked to the selection of the tooling used in the manufacturing process. The secret is the close relationship between the manufacturing and the tooling Industries, with a focus on the total cost of manufacture.

Toolmakers are said to be very conservative. Is there any prejudice that you learned to be untrue in your work with toolmakers all over the world? Can you give an example?

Traditionally, the tooling Industry has always been socially close and independent when it comes to business dealings. This has proved to be a mistake. Today the world-wide tooling industry promotes networks, clusters and co-opposition. The best example of this positive trend is without doubt the Portuguese mould industry.

Do you have a personal role model?

There are several people who have had an influence on my career in the tooling industry; Derek Salt from Metalite in the UK for his passion for the design and manufacture of high-tolerance fixtures and gauging, Joaquim Menezes from Portugal for his leadership of the Marinha Grande Mould Cluster, Colin Muller, founder of the Aims Group, for the entrepreneurial spirit that enabled South Africa to become a recognised international supplier of automotive tooling, and John Mulgrew, owner of Design International, for the business sense and wisdom which has allowed him to build the largest South African manufacturer of automotive body-in-white assembly systems, exporting to all major continents. When I asked him, “How did you do it?”, he replied, “I have three principles: One, customers have the right to quality; two, customers have the time to on time delivery; and three, my company has the right to make a reasonable profit.”

One last question: What advice would you like to share with European toolmakers?

Stay in the lead with innovative technology.

This article was first published on ETMM-online.