Tool and mold industry on a roll (con't)
Those jobs pay well too – an average of $25.00 an hour.
And, said Hicks, there is a vast service industry supporting those shops which have “almost as many jobs.”
These range from companies that service plant floor machinery to office equipment to customs brokers and legal offices.
Several high profile tool and mold firms closed over the last several years and Hicks admits the public perception is that the industry has taken almost a fatal blow.
He said he goes to social functions where people not in the industry who hear what his profession is ask “Do they still do that in Windsor?”
True, some of the once leading companies like ITL, Paragon and Hallmark, have shuttered.
But others have maintained work if with some difficulty.
Others indeed had had no production interruptions.
Hicks suggested the only negative aspect to current market conditions is the fact the Canadian dollar is relatively high, making the Canadian industry on balance less competitive.
“Proportional to skill level,” he said, “profit levels are not where they should be.”
But, Hicks said, despite this, the local industry is doing well - “really a testament” to its business savvy and technical prowess.
Hicks said the success is attributed to the comeback of the Detroit automakers, which are building newer and more advanced products, and that requires a great amount of tooling.
He has a Chevy Equinox SUV and said there is a “big difference” between the 2010 and 2007 models in terms of bells and whistles.
This includes computerized entertainment and communication systems, as well as more basic changes such as improved gas mileage, all of which require new or upgraded components.
Hicks said auto manufacturers also are ramping up for another five to six million production units a year.
He said there has likely been a 15-20 per cent increase in hiring since the depths of the recession two years ago.
Hicks said while former old stalwart companies closed their doors newer ones have taken their place such as Integrity and Concours.
“Those companies crank out incredible volumes,” he said.
Older firms have also survived by transforming their operations – investing in new equipment and speeding efficiencies.
An example is Cavalier Tool which “probably out produces the old Cavalier Tool five to one,” Hicks said.
He said new technologies allow for the designing of tools in a fraction of the time – say, from 30 weeks to 12 weeks.
A mold can be designed in less than an hour compared to two weeks.
Even a firm like Platinum Tool, which garnered publicity last year when it was in dire financial straits, has re-emerged and has been on a “hiring spree.”
Hicks said most of the company’s problems owed to a partnership dispute rather than not having the business.
That in turn held up financing.
Hicks said the great thing about the local industry is that more than 90 per cent of sales are exported meaning “more money coming into Canada” which is positive for the country’s balance of payments.