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.”
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.”