Downsview, Ontario -- North American custom polyurethane moulders such as Talmolder Inc. witnessed a massive import boom in the early years of this decade, which adversely affected its business.
In the early 1980s, the advantage of North American manufacturers lay in high quality products, but, "as the 2000s rolled in, that edge soon withered away," said Talmolder's Mergen Davaapil
This does not mean that imported goods had superior quality, "they simply achieved the accepted range," Davaapil commented. Imports into North American of acceptable quality and low price grew exponentially, the Talmolder representative added, so that, "the dawn of survival by trial emerged."
With Downsview, Ontario-based Talmolder, the attempt to fix this problem has been threefold. In 2002, it was forced to cut its working days from five to three, and scaled down the number of employees from 150 to 50. To revitalise sales, a new approach was needed. The traditional approach of upgrading existing equipment was no longer a key to competitive advantage.
The first attack was to automate operations to lower labour cost - a task given to the in-house engineering team. "A few patents later, Talmolder produced over 1000 parts a day at the fraction of previous cost, in a total area of 110 sq.ft," said Davaapil. That alone was not enough to persuade all previous clients to switch back, Davaapil added.
A second approach was to become good environmental citizens. All areas of production were assessed and systematically replaced to exceed government environmental requirements. In-house chemists collaborated with production in all stages of manufacturing to reduce and eliminate all polluting agents.
That was still not enough.
The third strategy was re-examine the product lines. It was soon clear that the majority of new products were considered as "complicated" or "impossible" to mould by others, said Davaapil.
"We can mould anything that your current moulders cannot," became the motto. With the combination of these three strategies, Talmolder is now back in 2008 to a five-day week, with 90 full time employees.
Rising raw material costs now adds a new set of opportunities and risks, Davaapil said, pointing out that transport costs are rising, and raw material prices are increasing -- within a price-sensitive market. But Talmolder feels that, as consumers become better educated in the perils of low-cost production, consumer-pushed health standards will give opportunities for safety conscious green manufacturers.