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April 06, 2005

This is all Dustin Hoffman's fault!

Hi Folks, this is my first post on the Plastics.com Blog that Greg and the guys were nice enough to offer.  I'm starting out fixing the blame for 30 my years in injection molding squarely on Mr. Hoffman and that famous line in The Graduate where his character Ben Braddock is told by one of his Dad's friends: " I have just one word for you Ben.....PLASTICS!"  Somehow that stayed with me almost as strongly as the other line " Mrs. Robinson, I think you're trying to seduce me." which probably everyone else remembers much more clearly.

Long story short, and by way of introduction, that 1967 movie quote must have imprinted at the time, and took me into the injection molding business in 1970, after a minor interruption of a couple years when I was required to dress only in khaki or camo, and participate in some extended war games.  The good news is that 15 years in injection molding as a manufacturing and design engineer, and the next 15 as an independent consultant to the trade, has established that you actually can make a living in plastics. Tougher now than then, with the rise of competition from the whole wide world, but still possible.

So much for the biographical sketching, on to matters of more interest. This blog is going to be about injection molding. of course, but hopefully some shared tales of the work done, people met, and problems solved and being worked on still, will make it interesting enough for some of you to stay with me as time goes on.....

The issue of the day for injection molding, especially among the smaller shops that do custom work, is how to compete in the current market, with all the offshore competition. One of our clients has hit upon a couple of moves that seem to be working, so I thought tossing them out to everyone (with permission, of course) might be helpful.

These approaches are working well for at least one custom molder we know: Seaching for and doing custom work for local customers with smaller volume needs is one good niche, because going offshore for short run injection molding is usually not practical. Specializing in engineering resin jobs or large parts that are not stackable also limits the likelihood of losing work to the offshore producers. Working on projects where the customer himself is concerned about being "knocked off" by foreign competition seems to be the real cream, since these customers are actively avoiding the same manufacturers that are the worst competition. Oddly enough, one of the best solutions seems to be just an increased emphasis on customer service, with a downright aggressive effort to keep on every single current client with periodic calls and visits to keep them happy, even when "there are no problems".

Seems the philosophy this custom molding client is following is to maintain a visible presence with each of his customers, and to be sure no one else gets in the door. Who'd have thought that after resolving the whole laundry list of technical problems, from resin selection to product quality to packaging to on-time delivery, that my client's strongest suggestion for us all comes down to just keeping a friendly face in the customer's office (especially the buyer's) on a regular basis?

I'll be dong more of the strictly injection molding chat in future editions, since we've got a fair amount of helpful information stored up that only applies to injection. It just seemed to me that on the first step into the fray, addressing the one issue that's bothering all injection folks lately might be a better idea.

More to come later..........


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