Monday, April 26, 2010

M.R. Mold sell Cold Runner Systems

By Roger Renstrom

ANAHEIM, CALF. (Feb. 24, 10:05 a.m. ET) -- M.R. Mold & Engineering Corp. of Brea, Calif., sold three of its $17,500 cycle-counter-equipped valve-gated cold-runner systems since introducing the product at NPE2009 in June.  (Since this article was published, M.R. Mold has sold five (5) Cold Runner Systems)

Each system has spring-loaded Vanadis nozzle tips, gun-drilled airflow lines, an air terminal box with a Festo quick disconnect coupler and, for cleaning, a separate water jacket and nozzle.

President Rick Finnie founded the business in 1985 and has built a reputation for expertise in liquid silicone rubber molds and other tools. The firm has made more than 5,000 molds.

Recently, M.R. Mold added an OKK computer numerically controlled HM 600 system that Finnie said has a market value of $485,000. Finnie paid $285,000 for the repossessed CNC system, which was moved to Brea from a shop in Arizona.

M.R. Mold employs 22 and occupies 15,000 square feet, including 4,000 square feet in a technical center with three injection molding machines of 55-110 tons for mold testing and prototyping activities.

M.R. Mold attended the Medical Design & Manufacturing West show, held Feb. 9-11 in Anaheim.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

M.R. Mold looks to Survive Choppy Business Cycle

By Brad Dawson

Rubber & Plastics News Staff

BREA, Calif.—While the medical sector has been a good market to supply, the general state of the economy has left M.R. Mold & Engineering Corp. in survival rather than growth mode, according to its top official.

The last two years have been a “roller coaster ride,” M.R. Mold President Rick Finnie said, with projects going on for four months or so, followed by a slow period and then another short busy period.

“We’ve been through that cycle four or five times, battling to get every bit of work we can and trying to keep everyone busy and watch our costs. It’s been a tough couple of years.”

The trend has continued as of late, with the company quite busy at the end of last year but not as much so early this year. But Finnie believes business in general is pushing back up, with frequent quoting and several customers going through approval stages with projects. “I think 2010 will be a strong year, even though it didn’t start out that way.”

The company is trying to stay visible and active in the industry, making appearances at several shows such as the Medical Design & Manufacturing expos in Anaheim, Calif.; New York; and Minneapolis, and co-sponsoring the Molding 2010 event in San Antonio in April.

Finnie also is making a paper presentation at the International Silicone Conference in Cleveland in May.

Down the road, M.R. Mold expects to see more automation in the industry, with fewer operators and more robots, he said. There will be more thermoplastic elastomers in the medical field, and a potential trend toward more manufacturing returning from overseas as issues such as intellectual technology and freight costs become more important.

The company will need to respond by expanding technology of its own, especially within its tech center and the liquid silicone rubber tooling sector, Finnie said. He’d like to see the company get into two-shot molding, an area he believes it could succeed in given its capabilities in plastic and silicone.

He also envisions more partnering with industry colleagues and helping customers develop their automatic production cells and enhance their technologies.

Finnie said he looks forward to the challenges going forward. And while he said he never had a plan for all he’s accomplished looking back 25 years, he admits he wanted to establish a company with goals of being the best in the industry, being technologically advanced and providing its customers a competitive advantage.

“With hard work and dedication,” he said, “you can make it happen.”

M.R. Mold Celebrating Silver Anniversary

M.R. Mold celebrating silver anniversary

Rick Finnie at the recent Medical Design & Manufacturing West expo in Anaheim, Calif. / RPN photo by Brad Dawson

BREA, Calif.—When Rick Finnie opened his mold and tool shop in 1985, he had one employee: his dad. And as for a business plan, well à he didn’t have one of those.

“I just did it,” said Finnie, who is celebrating the 25th anniversary of his M.R. Mold & Engineering Corp. operation this year. His company has changed quite a bit over that span, with a 15,000-sq-ft. production site, a technical center added in 2006 and a 25-employee staff, plus an estimated 5,000 molds and counting built in a quarter-century.

Finnie’s journey ultimately leading to M.R. Mold began within his father’s line of work, which was in tool and cutter grinding. After his dad closed his business in 1977, Finnie worked for eight years for mold maker and former customer Kipe Molds Inc., located in Placentia, Calif.

After he left Kipe Molds, Finnie heard from a former colleague there who was starting his own business and wanted Finnie to come work for him on a contract basis. He did it for several months, and developed a following and started winning projects of his own, he said.

Of course, Finnie had no equipment of his own, so he had to pay his boss a percentage of what he made to use his machinery for those jobs. He soon decided it was time to open his own business.

“I had a lot of encouragement from my dad and my family,” he said. “I bought my own stuff, including a lathe, a used milling machine and a few other pieces and struck out on my own.”

Despite the risk and having no real master plan, Finnie said the venture didn’t frighten him, perhaps because several members of his family had businesses of their own as well. “My dad had his shop, my brother had an automotive detailing and service center, and my sister had a dog grooming business,” he said. “Self-employment seemed to run in the family.”

He also had his dad—who brought extensive knowledge in design and metalworking to the table—working with him, and later, his mother helped out as the company’s office manager.

Finnie named his business—housed in a 1,500-sq.-ft. building in Brea—M.R. Mold & Engineering for two reasons, he said. The “M.R.” was for Finnie and his wife, Marilyn (“My dad’s idea,” he said.), and the “Mold & Engineering” was added because Finnie didn’t believe the company was going to be just a mold maker but would design and build anything anyone needed.

“Ultimately, we ended up specializing in molds,” he said.

Growth by necessity

Over the years, M.R. Mold has expanded in size and scope, and the facilities in which it operates have been a microcosm of that growth. Two years after it opened its doors, the company doubled the square footage of its original plant; in 1990 it moved to a 5,000-sq.-ft. site in Brea; and over the next several years it increased the second location’s size to 11,000 square feet.

In early 2006, the firm took over an additional 4,000 square feet, turning the space into its tech center, Finnie said. The area includes two hydraulic presses—a 55-ton and 100-ton—and a 110-ton, all-electric press, plus some silicone pumping units.

The capabilities have helped tremendously, allowing customers to sample molds without having to free up a molding machine to do so, he said. M.R. Mold can build the mold, make parts, and send the customers those parts; customers can forward the parts on to their customers and get feedback; then M.R. Mold can change materials or processes at a customer’s request.

“We’re part of the (research and development) team,” Finnie said. “If a customer explains to us what their customer wants their part to do, we can help them with the design.”

The tech center provides the capability of completing turnkey projects for customers as well, he said.

M.R. Mold prides itself on offering more than simply mold-making, highlighted by a full machine shop where it can do repair and rebuilds on molding machines and build components such as inspection and assembly fixtures, extrusion dies and slitters, he said.

“We basically have a lot of very skilled people who know how to build things,” he said.

One of its more recent projects, for example, is a screw tip for a silicone injection molding machine. The company also has been doing R&D in cold runner technology and has refined a process where a molder looking to change color can add pigments at the mold rather than at the production material unit, allowing for a quick color-change within 12 shots, keeping the process cleaner and wasting less silicone, Finnie said.

The firm’s talent and the depth of knowledge its people have provide what company President Finnie believes are M.R. Mold’s main benefits to its customers. Finnie, General Manager Jim Albert and project managers Phil Bristow and Brian Geisel have among them more than 125 years of experience in the industry.

“Our employees are dedicated, honest, fair and loyal to our customers,” he said. “The average tenure of the employees we have is 10-plus years and we continually give them new technology and training.”

M.R. Mold also has been able to build lasting relationships with its customers that have become personal as well as professional, an accomplishment Finnie embraces. “I’m proud that our customers consider us to be friends,” he said, “and I’m proud of the fact that we are known around the world.”

Medical emphasis

While about half of M.R. Mold’s revenue comes from molds for liquid silicone rubber and 75 percent is medical industry-related, it wasn’t always that way, Finnie said.

The majority of the company’s original business came from the defense industry, consumer products and electronics, and applications in some of those sectors led to the “migration” into liquid silicone, which in turn led the firm into the medical market.

Having strength in the medical arena has been a huge advantage for the company, especially given the economic environment and instability of some markets out there. And over time, M.R. Mold has developed a deeper understanding for what its core market provides.

“We aren’t necessarily doctors or nurses or experts in the field, but we appreciate the needs of the medical industry,” Finnie said. “When someone talks about an implant, surgical instruments, patient comfort or the possibility of a product defect causing injury or death, we take it very seriously. We know what’s important about these products.”