Molds made in Canada reverse offshoring
Not all manufacturing roads lead to Beijing. Or Shanghai. Or Shenzhen.
Luckily for new product developers in Canada, they can also lead to Ottawa. L-D Tool & Die, an ISO 9001:2008 Registered, custom mold making, prototyping and injection molding company can produce dozens or millions of parts, depending on a customer’s needs, right in our own back yard.
Celebrating 25 years this September, Laurie Dickson, CEO, L-D Tool & Die, says his company can produce from small to large parts, from a tiny suction cup of a few millimeters to big boxes.
“We have about 70 to 80 customers and we do – as most companies do – about 80% of our business with 20% of our clients.”
Those companies include a mix of manufacturers for the medical, consumer goods, military, telecom, connector housing, plumbing, street lighting, gardening, sports equipment and toy markets.
“We have the largest molding machines in Eastern Ontario, including an 850-ton machine, and have plans to buy a 1200-ton machine,” said Dickson.
The company began with 17 moldmakers working two shifts per day. “Due to the influence of the Chinese we’ve changed now. We’ve got 5 full-time moldmakers on hand but we’re working with three companies in China with 300 moldmakers. So now we (effectively) have 305 moldmakers to satisfy customer demands.”
Those demands keep the local L-D operations “making between 10 and 15 molds per month so we’re kept pretty busy.”
Although L-D is more than capable of keeping up with production volumes, it can also guide a customer through the prototyping process and secondary operations that precede this.
“We do a lot of experimental work with customers that do design of their parts here. When the prototypes are completed, then the production molds can be built,” said Dickson.
“Our two (Haas) CNC machines are quite busy, running 18 hours/day at the moment, so we’re quite fortunate there. We also have two sink EDM machines. Designing is done in SolidWorks and machining in Mastercam.” L-D also has three grinders, running two shifts in the tool room and three shifts in the Engel injection molding operation.
The company prides itself on customer service, Dickson adds. “When we take the mold off of the machines, we clean them, we do maintenance on it, so if a customer calls us we can react very quickly and can get the mold back on the machine.
“We keep first and last samples of every job so that the operator can compare and maintain quality.”
Lorne Keefe, L-D’s quality assurance manager, said “Some customers want complete reports. If a correction is required, then more samples are generated for customer reviews and approvals. There is a QC inspection on every shift that includes first-off inspections and hourly in-process inspections.
“We have an open relationship with customers so that each one is comfortable with us to the point they can walk through the plant any time.”
Labour is minimized wherever possible. “To keep up with the Chinese who are making 75 to 80 cents an hour, we are using robots to extract parts from our Engel injection mold machines.”
When one order is for 4 million parts, having this level of automation becomes a serious advantage.
L-D is also gearing for expansion to accommodate a growing medical business. Its clean room is in the process of being tripled in size for medical products and secondary assembly operations. “Now that we’ve got ISO 13485 certification we’ll be building a 10,000 sq ft clean room with clean room injection molding,” said Dickson.
This standard represents the requirements for a comprehensive quality management system for the design and manufacture of medical devices.
Since we announced the certification the phone has not stopped ringing – we’re quite excited.
Plant manager Chris Kaerbye says L-D has a focus on continual improvement. “We work with customers on different issues, including new technology considerations.”
Dickson notes that L-D has started to use 3D printing with a service bureau in Toronto.
“We are in the process of purchasing our own 3D printer to create prototypes in-house and hopefully, in the not too distant future, cores and cavities for prototype molds.
Dickson concludes, “We’re very proud of our company.
As for our employees we have always tried to treat everyone as family. It shows with the amount of time people have been here. Many employees have been here for almost 20 years – so we must be doing something right.”