Chicago AMBA members talk shop at a recent meeting. (Photo courtesy of Creative Technology Corp.)
Moldmakers can be a secretive bunch, wary of sharing anything about their operations lest another shop steal their customers or employees. Although such attitudes aren't likely to change, they're increasingly in the minority among the membership of the Chicago chapter of the American Mold Builders Association (AMBA), says chapter president Francine Petrucci. "It's become much more open over the years," she says about the level of interaction at meetings. "There are definitely more shops that see the value of networking."
Recent gatherings have seen attendance climb well into the 80s, Petrucci reports, noting that she's even had trouble making announcements through the loudspeaker over the din of conversation. Granted, any group of like-minded business leaders in the same industry is likely to develop a natural rapport and provide a cathartic outlet for frustration. Yet she says members also seem more keen to truly learn from one another compared to previous decades, when she attended meetings with her father, previous chapter president and 2011 AMBA mold builder of the year Alan Petrucci. Even without getting into sensitive information about particular customers or shopfloor strategies, there's plenty of wisdom to be had about broader topics like workforce development and payment terms. "There's more of a sense today that we're all in this together," she says.
That sentiment echoes the one expressed by the folks I interviewed for a recent article about the Original Equipment Supplier Association (OESA) Tooling Forum, a peer group dedicated solely to automotive tooling vendors, many of which are also AMBA members. It's also the sentiment that drives the Southern California Manufacturers Group (SCMG), a smaller organization I wrote about during my time with our sister publication Modern Machine Shop. Although the SCMG has nothing to do with moldmaking, it could serve as a model for shops in any industry.
Trade publications like this one can also play a role in ensuring the continued competitiveness of American manufacturing by providing a window into how other shops approach their operations. Click here to learn more about how Petrucci's shop, B A Die Mold, has managed to survive and thrive for almost five decades of mold manufacturing. Finally, to find your own local AMBA chapter, visit the organization's web site.