U.S. mold makers face challenges, but for the first time in several years, the need for a younger work force showed a very slight decline, failing to hit 100 percent.
The most recent survey by the American Mold Builders Association shows new business development, profitability and foreign competition also are top concerns.
The association released its AMBA Business Forecast Report on Feb. 2. In a webinar five days later, AMBA Executive Director Troy Nix and Omar Nashashibi, a Washington lobbyist AMBA hired last year to help reinstate tariffs on injection molds from China, addressed the issues facing mold makers in 2020.
The survey, conducted Dec. 13-Jan. 5, got responses from 113 executives at mold builders—87 percent of them smaller shops with less than $15 million in sales. Nix said 80 percent of respondents make injection molds. Most are in the Midwest.
Attracting younger tool makers does remain a priority, as the mold making work force ages. But the priorities are changing, according to the survey. AMBA said 93 percent of respondents reported that building an industry work force is a primary challenge. But for the first time in three years, that number did not hit 100 percent. And 15 percent said employment levels declined in first quarter of 2020 vs. the fourth quarter of 2019—which Nix said was the highest proportion since AMBA began doing the survey in 2011.
At the same time, 46 percent of mold makers said generating new business is a challenge, 13 percent higher than in last year's AMBA Business Forecast Report. And maintaining profitability grew to 20 percent of respondents, after just 7 percent last year.
Also getting 20 percent: Continuous improvement to become more efficient.