These days, going green is all the rage in every industry in the country. Fortunately for the mold manufacturing industry, the move to green not only benefits the environment—it also can benefit your shop by opening doors to new customers, new markets and more profit. Whether you are a mold manufacturer, molder, OEM or a supplier to mold manufacturers, molders or OEMs, green practices can benefit the entire industry.
Why Go Green?
According to Rebecca Reed, Marketing Manager of mold manufacturer MGS Mfg. Group (Germantown, WI), while the company is “frequently surveyed by existing and prospective customers with regard to our capabilities, technologies and services,” the past two years have shown a marked increase in inquiries regarding the company’s environmental policies. “We understand that this has become a very important issue to our customers and that it should be treated as a standard part of our business practices,” Reed states.
MGS did not initiate green practices to attract new business, but because of concern for the environment. “We have incorporated our green initiatives into our formal communications with existing and prospective customers via direct press release and during corporate facilities tours, and also will be detailing it in our web content,” Reed says. “The response to our efforts has all been positive and well-received. We have not yet—nor do we anticipate—being awarded any business opportunities solely because of our green initiatives; however, it has been our experience that our customers place the same high value on green manufacturing as we do.”
For moldmaker Tech Tool & Molded Plastics (Meadville, PA), green efforts came to the company as a by-product of lean practices. “Our initiative has been in place for many years as part of a lean effort,” states Tech Tool Director of Sales and Marketing Mark Hanaway. “Marketability and business retention was aimed at cost reductions, efficiency and productivity that provided a net reduction in energy consumption on a unit of work basis.”
Like MGS, cutting tool manufacturer OSG Tap & Die’s (Glendale Heights, IL) original intent for going green was purely for the good of the environment, notes Angela Golden, Marketing Coordinator for OSG Tap & Die, Inc. “As a company—and as part of society—we entered into green operations with the thought of improving the environment and preserving our natural resources for the betterment of all,” she notes. “Going green has opened new doors for OSG. Most people do want to make a difference and help the environment, and those people are very supportive of green efforts from companies. Other than the support we receive from our customers, we also have transitioned into greener marketing methods. Since we have reduced the amount of paper we use, we have branched out to use more interactive media. This media has created a broader reach in our marketing campaigns, and has also opened up new lines of communication with our customers. We can now communicate with our customers more frequently about company updates, new products, technical information, etc.”
Over at hot runner manufacturer Mold-Masters Ltd. (Georgetown, ON), customer satisfaction was the ultimate goal in the company’s green efforts. “Energy is an important aspect of our customers’ overall equation in being able to generate revenue,” Bruce Catoen, Vice President Marketing, Business and Product Development notes. “Our attitude in providing an energy-reduced line of electric valve gates was primarily focused on bringing an innovative and value-based solution to moldmakers that they could use to win business over their competition.”
Manufacturing an already “green” product also aids in the company’s efforts. “Hot runners are inherently more environmentally friendly than the traditional two- or three-plate cold runner system,” Catoen points out. “They require far less energy per part produced, improve capital and overhead utilization via faster cycles, use less plastic and send less plastic scrap going to landfills. The increased awareness around the environment has driven more and more conversion to hot runners from cold runners. This, in turn, has required moldmakers to look for advanced hot runner solutions that can provide not only cost effective solutions but also solutions that reduce a molder’s piece part price. One way they can do that is to reduce the energy consumed by the mold via electrification”.
“Over the past several years virtually every injection molding machine manufacturer has added an electric machine solution as there is a significant reduction in energy consumption for a molding operation,” Catoen adds. “To complement these platforms, Mold-Masters created a line of electric valve gates for both single cavity control (called EVG) or group control for multiple valve pin actuation (called E-drive). Similar to injection molding machines, these new electric valve gating solutions offer 50 to 80 percent reduction in the energy consumed compared to conventional/traditional systems. This has resulted in new business for Mold-Masters and our moldmaker customers because in some cases a new mold can be justified on energy reduction alone. This is especially true in high-volume applications like packaging, medical and closures.”
A Valuable Asset
Golden of OSG believes that green efforts have not yet reached their peak. “There is still much more business to be had with green efforts,” she states. “Now with the economy, everyone is looking for alternative uses of energy, such as windmills. These are huge projects just beginning that want to not only output green energy, but be green in the process.”
Our next green initiative is education,” Golden continues. “At OSG we believe that education is essential to preserving the environment. The more people know about what being green means and what they can do to help, the more individuals that will contribute. There are many small tips that everyone can use to do their part.”
Reed of MGS expands on Golden’s thoughts. “Once ‘green’ becomes a standard way of doing business, tool shops who do not participate may find themselves out of consideration by OEMs who have placed a high value on environmental concern,” she notes. “We will continue to practice green manufacturing as we have been, and will always look for new opportunities where additional efforts and improvements can be made.”
Tech Tool’s Hanaway believes green initiatives provide “a continuous improvement cycle that drives new opportunities as energy resources remain in a state of flux and cost drivers such as energy-imposed taxes create more challenges for domestic production. Many of our competitors and former customers have chosen to relocate manufacturing to countries where environmental regulations are nonexistent and green initiatives pale in comparison to human rights violations. We have chosen to take control of environmental conditions that produce the most fundamental of business pillars within compliance guidelines and sought efficiencies, productivity, and profitability measures that enable us to reinvest in modern equipment.”
“More and more molders are expecting their suppliers (moldmakers and hot runner suppliers) to provide them with environmentally responsible solutions,” Catoen of Mold-Masters adds. “If a moldmaker or hot runner supplier can provide their customer a high performance, competitively priced solution that has an environmental advantage to it, then it provides them with a competitive advantage and a value that others may not have. This may sway the order their way.”
According to Catoen, Mold-Masters is looking into ways to climb the value chain and provide a broader array of products and services which are environmentally friendly. “We continue to look for ways to reduce the energy consumption of our hot runners, improve color change performance and provide knowledge to the industry to allow molders and moldmakers to make informed decisions on the use of hot versus cold runners,” he notes.
“The word green is almost a synonym for efficiency!” notes Mold-Masters’ Catoen. “In almost every business there is room for improvement. Bringing green solutions to your customers will help their business and provide a means to build and grow long lasting partnerships. Get on board and embrace the fact that wasting energy and pollution is frowned upon and that there is a synergy between environmentally friendly products and higher profits. A new generation of molders and moldmakers is emerging that has grown up on recycling, energy awareness, and the potentially disastrous effects of pollution on the earth. The word green will only become more and more important to future generations and those that do not adapt to this will see their businesses decline.”
Reed of MGS adds, “Encourage employee involvement to identify problems and opportunities for improvement. Talk to your customers and suppliers for ideas—what works for them could work for you. Promote your efforts on your website, in presentations and in print materials, and in overall discussions with your customers. Also, get involved with local/community/industrial park programs.
“Since our company began looking for opportunities to be more environmentally-conscious, we were pleased to see many employees suggesting additional ideas for consideration,” Reed continues. “Our shipping department strives to reuse containers and invest in reusable containers. Our tool shop separates scrap materials into segregated bins, which are then picked up by local recycling centers. Also, obsolete steel and components are reused by area technical colleges. And all of our employees participate in recycling programs for traditional waste products (i.e. paper, cardboard, plastics).”
Golden of OSG advises those companies who wish to explore green initiatives “to start small and work your way up. There are so many small things that can be done that add up. Going green is a long process, but a very beneficial one.”