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2016 Leadtime Leader Awards Honorable Mention: MSI Mold Builders - Optimizing Lead Times

From:Mold Making Technology
Posted on: 5/31/2016

MSI Mold Builders may make its home in the rural outskirts of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, but there’s nothing bucolic about this company’s capabilities and drive to build molds to exacting standards while maximizing efficiencies in its operations. It is focused on continuous improvement and opportunities for growth, and this and an impressive range of lead times is what makes MSI our 2016 Leadtime Leader Honorable Mention winner.

MSI, which originally stood for Manufacturing Specialties Inc., was founded in 1971 by Ed and CharLes Klouda in Swisher, Iowa, offering moldmaking and repair services. Their son Roger joined the business in 1978 and has led the company to what it has become today—a manufacturer that specializes in building injection, structural-foam, compression, blow, gas-assist, and structural-web molds. Now owner and president, Roger Klouda says MSI’s primary market is medium- to large-size injection and structural foam molds. 

Led by Klouda and a senior management team composed of Toby Bral, sales manager, and Jason Bramstedt, general manager, the company operates with 69 employees in its recently expanded 47,000-square-foot facility in Cedar Rapids and an additional 28 employees in a 20,000-square-foot facility in Greenville, South Carolina. MSI is especially known for its niche in large molds for presses of 500 tons and higher. The molds are mostly one- or two-cavity constructions in a wide variety of size ranges, including small to medium molds for presses ranging to 600 tons (lead times six to eight weeks); large molds for presses to 2,000 tons (lead times eight to 12 weeks); and “giant” molds for presses of 2,000 to 7,000 tons (lead times 12-16 weeks). Industries served include agriculture, heavy truck, medical, recreational, industrial, automotive and residential.  

Managing for Advancement  
MSI’s primary competition is other large, domestic mold shops as well as those overseas, but the company says it keeps customers coming back by maintaining a high level of efficiency and consistency in its operations. Bral says this is accomplished by constantly evaluating the company’s processes to ensure its molds are manufactured as efficiently as anyone else’s in the industry. “It’s a company-wide, cultural review process,” he says. “Some processes we follow—like quoting, launching a job, designing it, etc.—are pretty standard. What makes it better is remaining open to ideas. We’re constantly fine-tuning the way we do things, and our employees are encouraged to offer new and better solutions for any operation they perform.”

One example of this occurred when an employee wondered why a pre-material layout check was being done so close to the customer’s review. He pointed out that this timing did not leave much leeway for MSI to make any needed adjustments, so MSI changed the timing of layout checks. “That’s how you get better,” Bral says. “You work through a lot of little things that add up to significant improvements throughout the plant.” 

Bral says MSI is also focused on solutions that will drive more efficient mold setup times, maximize unattended machining and grow its mold-building capacity. For example, the 12,000-sqare-foot addition to the Iowa facility in 2014 enabled the company to greatly expand its mold-size and weight-handling capabilities by enabling it to add two 30-ton cranes and a large Parpas Formula horizontal five-axis CNC mill with travels of 12 feet by 20 feet. “We were finding that, although we were known for large molds, there were more, larger molds that really pressed our capabilities in these areas. The Parpas CNC helped rectify that problem,” Klouda says. “Installing a 3,000-ton Van Dorn injection molding press for sampling added the last remaining major capability that our competitors in the extra-large-mold market had that we did not have.”

While the recent machine purchases have increased capacity and lead times have improved over the last decade, Klouda admits that some obstacles still remain. “The build time is significantly less than it was 10 years ago due to process and manufacturing improvements. When we have good models, product details, etc., to work with, then the lead times are much less,” he says. “But that’s not always the case nowadays. We’re running into fewer well-done models, and the customers’ part designers’ lack of knowledge has a lot to do with it. They seem to be just applying technology, because they know how to use the software, versus knowledge of good part design for plastics and tooling. We often go through many iterations of part designs before a project is approved, and this can slow down the process. As a result, we are assisting more in part design than in the recent past.” 

While lead times for its molds are important to MSI, both Klouda and Bral are quick to point out that OEMs also have condensed time frames within which they must work, so the most important question is, “Are we hitting your customers’ targets?” as opposed to “What are our lead times?” Klouda says MSI’s focus is to try to meet every customer-required deadline. “The customers’ target dates are really what are key to our business,” he says. “Whatever those dates are, we have to hit them.” 
Having the ability to sample in-house with the 3,000-ton Van Dorn press has probably been one of the most significant contributors to cutting lead times, Bral says. Because of the shop’s rural location and the fact that it builds such large molds, it previously was costly and time-consuming to ship tooling elsewhere for sampling and then back. “We have to have in-house sampling capability to stay in the game,” he says.

Meeting Repair Needs in the East
The 20,000-square-foot facility in South Carolina, opened in 2001, also gives MSI the capacity to remain competitive and helps shorten lead times. Bral says, although smaller, this facility operates very much like the Iowa shop except that it has fewer five-axis milling machines, so MSI tends to build smaller sized molds there. Multi-mold projects also are often divided between the locations based on schedules and mold sizes. However, he adds that, ironically, most of MSI’s South Carolina customers require larger molds, and most of MSI’s bigger customers are based on the East Coast, so it boils down to each facility getting a mix of work. 

Additionally, about 85 percent of MSI’s business in the Iowa shop is in new-mold manufacturing, but because South Carolina is geographically closer to the central customer base, Bral says that facility is strategically positioned to handle more mold repair and maintenance, as well as engineering revisions. Currently, those services make up 30 to 35 percent of that shop’s business and mold building about 65 to 70 percent. Five years ago, its repair and engineering revision work was more comparable to that of the Iowa facility’s, at 15 percent, but Bral says customer demand for these services has grown, so MSI recently invested in a larger, 25-ton crane and a larger five-axis CNC mill from Italy-based FPT Industrie SpA. This enables the facility to both build more larger molds and repair them. 

Standardized and Lean 
MSI says it has spent more than 15 years implementing lean manufacturing principles to transform its shop from a moldmaking environment to a mold manufacturing environment. For one, the entire operation is departmentalized, and 3D models are used to communicate critical points within a project so that when a mold is received by a particular department, that team will know specifically what it should focus on. The shop floor is set up like an assembly line. Blocks of tool steel begin at the front of the shop and become more and more complete as they near the mold assembly area and back door.

Standardization is another way in which MSI controls the quality and integrity of its molds, not to mention keeping costs and lead times down. “When we build a mold, 98 percent of the time it’s never been built before, so we try to use standardized tooling to eliminate recreating the wheel,” Bral says. The shop stocks multiple sizes of leader pins, support pillars and other components, as well as multiple sizes of bar stock. Common hole sizes are preprogrammed in the machining centers to save time in the hole-drilling process, as are programs for machining water lines. The feature recognition function within the Lemoine CAM software the shop uses will kick out anything that is not consistent with established programs, Bral says. “All of this helps us spend a lot less time on the manufacturing floor than we would otherwise.”

Before a project is even sent to the shop floor, Bral says MSI’s project management team tries to solve as many potential issues as possible in the late quote stages and very early in the mold design process. This includes examining designs from the molder’s perspective to uncover unfavorable tooling conditions like inadequate drafts for shutoffs, venting issues and thin-steel conditions. MSI then examines the designs from the OEM’s perspective, considering end-use quality and what issues they might encounter, like filling conditions. While it can be time-consuming, Bral says these steps are critical for reducing overall lead times in the shop and for ensuring that designs are robust.  

MSI tracks quality issues to maximize “first-pass efficiency,” meaning a job should be complete on its first pass through a CNC machine, without issues, Bral says. Similar to MSI’s “cultural reviews,” Bral says the information collected, which can be any type of nonconformance, is used to evaluate what may be causing downtimes and to drive improvements on the shop floor. “We track costs and quality, rework hours, etc., and make sure we are improving on them,” he says. MSI also holds daily status meetings in which project updates are given and issues are shared so that everyone involved in the project is aware of them and can prepare to resolve them quickly. 

Another way MSI has streamlined operations is by front-scheduling machines. “Previously, we would work to meet required end-department dates, but if we missed a deadline in, say, the CNC department, it made us fall behind with subsequent work in other departments,” Bral says. “Now, by front-scheduling the machines, especially in the milling department, we’re looking at how far ahead of our end-department dates we can get a job completed and moved downstream. One way to do this is by offline programming, so that when that block hits a machine it’s ready to go. Front-scheduling helps us build some cushion into a job for those ‘just-in-case’ scenarios where issues come up and we need more time to fix them.” 

To further ensure work flows smoothly and quickly through the shop, MSI has implemented workholding systems in its small-component area, where slides, lifters, cams, inserts, or other small mold components are machined. The FCS modular clamping system (Breyl) from Single Source Technologies, used to position a workpiece in the machine, speeds the setup process, he says. MSI has also installed this system on its EDM machines and on the Parpas CNC mill, and plans to continue adding it to machines throughout both plants as a lean strategy to increase unattended machining.

Employee Development
While advancing automation in both of its facilities helps MSI stem the effects of limited skilled labor, the company does have a well-developed internship program in both Iowa and South Carolina, and offers frequent plant tours to expose high school and college students to the career options that are available in mold manufacturing. This internship program consists of three levels, high school, first-year college and second-year college, each with different responsibilities. For example, a high school student might gain exposure to the overall manufacturing environment by sweeping or cleaning or otherwise lending a hand to workers, and maybe shadowing during his or her summer break, while a first-year college intern might learn to run a lathe or similar entry-level machine. A second-year college student who presumably by then has made a commitment to work in the manufacturing industry might learn more advanced machining skills by operating more complex equipment.  

Scholarships also help to support students in the CNC machining program at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, furthering MSI’s goal to help develop the future workforce. MSI also pays 100 percent of the tuition and buys text books for its interns, provided they have earned a minimum B grade in each class taken and that they have attended at least 90 percent of each class’ sessions. The company currently has five interns, four of whom attend classes at Kirkwood and one who works in the South Carolina facility and attends Greenville Technical College.

As for employee development and retention, MSI conducts regular on-the-job training on software and machines to keep its team’s skills current, and offers tuition reimbursement for any class, even fly fishing, in an effort to develop employees both technically and personally, Klouda says. 

A Focus on Future Growth
Along with new machines and auxiliary equipment at both locations, the company has added two outside salespeople and one repair-focused salesperson to further pursue opportunities in its existing markets. Bral says MSI is in particular looking to break further into automotive work, given the forecast that there will be a shortage of suppliers in that market due to reshoring and because consumer demand is dictating more options for vehicles. This means more molds are needed to meet that demand, he says. 

Additionally, typical molds for the automotive market have a retooling cycle of one to two years, adding to the potential in that market. Although 25 percent of MSI’s moldmaking business in 2015 came from heavy truck customers, Bral says that was significantly more than what is typical of most other years. These very large molds run in presses ranging from 4,000 tons and up, and because heavy truck designs don’t change much from year to year, these products are typically only retooled every 10 to 15 years.

Klouda and Bral, with their teams in Iowa and South Carolina, continually look to the future of mold manufacturing and how MSI will fit into it. “We’re not just another mold shop down the street,” Klouda says. “Most of our prospects and new customers are amazed when they visit our Iowa plant and find a mold shop with our capabilities not just existing, but thriving in the middle of a corn field. And yet here we are, challenging ourselves with moving the company forward towards the next set of accomplishments.”

MSI Mold Builders expands in Iowa, eyes automotive market

From:Plastics News
Posted on: 3/30/2015PlasticsNew-NPE-2015

ORLANDO, FLA. — MSI Mold Builders has recently completed a 12,000-square-foot expansion to its Cedar Rapids, Iowa, plant, bringing its total footprint to just under 60,000 square feet.

The company also installed a 3-meter-by-6-meter travel 5-axis machining center and a 3,000-ton injection molding machine for sampling, representing a total investment of just under $6 million, President Roger Klouda said. Lifting capacity at the plant was increased to 30 tons.

“Basically what this allows us to do is additional flexibility in building larger tools. We’ve opened up a different class of tools for us to be able to build,” Klouda said during an interview at NPE 2015 in Orlando.

MSI’s Greenville, S.C., plant also got a new 5-axis machining center, and lifting capacity boosted to 25 tons.

This year was MSI Mold Builders’ fourth NPE and its largest booth. This year a Polaris Slingshot was on display, drawing eyes and inquiries. MSI did the tooling for more than half the plastic parts on the Slingshot, including the highly visible hood and dashboard, Klouda said.

“I would hazard a guess that we have the most photographed booth in the show,” he said. And beyond showing off a successful project, he’s using the attention to show customers and potential customers how the company has grown.

MSI does most of its work for the recreational vehicle, lawn and garden, heavy truck and medical end markets, and is targeting the automotive market as the company’s next growth area, Klouda said. He emphasized the importance of starting small; the company is hoping to have 10 percent of its business in automotive over the next year.

“We want to be a mold maker that does automotive work, rather than an automotive mold maker,” Klouda said.

But the automotive market offers some opportunities not available elsewhere.

“It’s a big market that we can’t stay out of and grow like we need to grow as an organization,” Klouda said.

The Hybrid Mold

From:MoldMaking Technology
Posted on: 3/1/2013

For years we have been hearing about the virtues of aluminum molds for injection parts, and MSI Mold Builders has built its fair share—mostly for special-purpose applications that did not require many actions. For smaller molds using specialty aluminum has its benefits; and, if cycle times are critical, you can justify the high cost. However, our experience has led us to a different set of solutions: hybrid molds, P-20 cavities and inexpensive aluminum cores.  

To review some facts, aluminum molds have been used for low-pressure molding for more than 40 years. Aluminum molds are not cheap molds, only molds made from a different material. They can, have and do use all the same features available in a conventional injection mold.  However, when you get to the point where lifters and cams require extra work, it is probably not as good a payback as with a P-20 mold. Aluminum molds are built with guided ejection, parting line locks, etc. Cheap aluminum molds are ones that are built for the wrong reasons or were designed to run 50 to 100 parts, but are now at 3,000 cycles for which they were not designed. Now enters the hybrid mold.

The Hybrid Mold
There are six facts to understand about hybrids: (1) they are not the cure for all programs; (2) have a limited market, but larger than the all-aluminum mold; (3) make for a good transition mold to overcome any fear of plunging into an all-aluminum mold;  (4) solve much of the issues all-aluminum molds cannot; (5) offer many of benefits of the aluminum mold with a lot less risk; and, (6) fill a gap for programs that don’t have high-volume, but require high cosmetics on the cavities.     

There are basically two different types of hybrid molds:

1.    P-20 with full aluminum core. In this mold, the core block is aluminum (pick your grade—cost implications as well as volume driven) with a steel ejector box. Some people believe that you need steel from the parting line through the aluminum core block to the riser, but we have not found that to be the case unless special circumstances exist. This option also limits potential water locations and can increase the cost.

2.    P-20 cavity with aluminum core inserted into P-20 support plate. Unless you are making a core insert because of part requirements, this improves mold life and gives you a steel parting line on both sides as well as thermal conductivity and ease of machining. Cost savings are less than P-20 with full aluminum core, but better than an all-P-20 mold. If you are inserting just to have an aluminum core, review the part configuration to see if it makes sense. Oftentimes the act of inserting drives the cost up, but you will still see an improvement in cycle times.
Applications and Benefits
Q: Why would we suggest a hybrid and what is the value to the molder and the OEM? A: Thermal conductivity. Aluminum’s thermal conductivity rate is five times that of P-20. It is basically the same as beryllium copper (BeCu).

You insert beryllium copper to enhance heat removal from areas of a P-20 mold; consider that now your entire core is as thermally conductive as beryllium copper. You also get a rise in surface temperature at injection, which in many cases will improve the flow characteristics and still cool the part faster than P-20. Some materials will not respond favorably to this temperature change, but these molds are not for every application.

One of the reasons a hybrid mold is so exciting is that you can obtain and maintain the same finish as a P-20 mold since the cavity is P-20. We have been successful in certain materials with texturing or applying a high finish to an aluminum mold, but the likelihood of it washing out or fading is increased. However, if you are only going for a few pieces (fewer than 5,000), you may be successful in an all-aluminum mold.

The material itself is significantly less expensive than P-20. We generally use a cast material, and throughout 15 years of using this material we have not seen one example of pits, inclusions, etc. Keep in mind that this is also the core side; it machines and polishes in about a third of the time it takes P-20—if we go slowly. Generally, the core has the most time associated with it.

EDMing ribs and features in a core is very expensive and we are limited in P-20 to approximately five to 10 times the diameter of the cutter when cutting ribs. In aluminum, we are routinely limited by the available cutters with enough flute length.

Polishing ribs and features in P-20 is very expensive and time consuming. Through our experiences with aluminum, we estimate an 80-percent savings over P-20. On most cores today we are only polishing for pull, so only the ribs and other features are getting polished. We can apply fillet radii when polishing rather than valuable machine time. Also we typically can drop off one electrode for each burn location.

High-speed machining makes short work of aluminum.  All the machining operation times are decreased significantly over P-20.  Currently, thick section P-20 materials are a little difficult to come by, which means increased material costs. As those prices keep going up, aluminum becomes a better value.

As noted, thermal conductivity is similar to beryllium copper and with a complete core side in aluminum, the expectation is significantly reduced cycle times. None of our customers have been willing to make a set of duplicate molds (one in aluminum and one in P-20 for a side by side test), but simulations have projected a significant cycle reduction and the actual cycle time reduction experiences were greater than the simulations predicted.

Typically, the core side of the mold has the most detail, so if you can decrease the hours associated with building the core, leadtime can decrease. Since we decrease polishing, EDM, etc., we will decrease the total leadtime of the mold.

We have experienced some challenges with thermal expansion differences between a manifold and an aluminum cavity, which can be dealt with, but are frequently a challenge. With the P-20 cavity and the manifold we avoid these issues and it still performs similar to a standard P-20 mold.

Some mention the potential for galvanic reaction between the P-20 and aluminum, and while we have not experienced this, it is recommended that the mold be sprayed with a good grade of mold preservative prior to storage.

A consideration of any mold is cost-effective repair/revisions, and with a hybrid mold cavity repair and revision is no different than that of a conventional P-20 mold. On the other hand, the aluminum core is easy to weld or insert similar to a P-20 mold.

Another advantage of the aluminum core is that in the P-20 mold the cavity is the half likely to see damage from flash as an unsupported surface. In the hybrid mold, it is more likely the core, which makes it easier to repair without cosmetic damage. Inserting the aluminum core is similar to P-20, but less consideration needs to be placed on cooling because of the thermal conductivity of aluminum.

Hybrid molds will not withstand high pressure in the same way a complete P-20 mold will. Care must be taken to use the appropriate amount of clamp pressure to mold the part and not much more. Cranking up the clamp pressure to cure a flash problem rather than determining the cause and repairing it, will most likely result in damage. However, that is true with a P-20 mold as well. Gas assist molds, both external and internal, are really great applications for hybrid molds as the core sees much less injection pressure than a conventional injection mold.

Applying good molding practices is paramount for both types of molds and being sure to identify the mold material is important for a mold setter. Many of our customers paint an aluminum or hybrid mold in a different color to advise mold setters that this is a “different” type of mold.

Hybrid molds offer options to the OEM and molder that can decrease mold costs as well as cycle times. On average a part volume of fewer than 20,000 parts per year and 100,000 life would be a very good candidate for a hybrid mold; although examples of EAU over 50,000 and 300,000 lifetime are possible.

Part configurations will be a significant factor in choosing a hybrid mold over a traditional P-20 mold. Intricate molds with a high number of mold actions would likely not be a good candidate unless the part volumes are low. Using a mold manufacturer with experience in hybrid molds is highly recommended to improve your success factor.

Roger Klouda is president of MSI Mold Builders.

iWarriors: Moldmakers on a Mission

From:MoldMaking Technology
Posted on: 3/1/2013

Three years ago, Tim Bartz, co-owner of 2010 Small Shop Leadtime Leader Mold Craft Inc. (Willernie, MN) and his wife Kim listened intently when their colleague Bob Byers (a regular contributor to MoldMaking Technology with his “Mold Shop Puzzle” series) relayed the journey of his son Will—a member of the 3rd Battalion 5th Marines stationed in Camp Pendleton, CA—whose battle with cancer prevented him from being deployed to Afghanistan alongside his fellow Marines. The 3/5 had also experienced a high injury and casualty count in in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan, which unfortunately resulted in the return of many young men as single, double and triple amputees. Bob’s story had an enormous impact on the couple, who decided they had to take action.

The Bartz family decided to organize a donation of iPads to these wounded warriors. According to iWarriors co-founder Kim Bartz, these iPads would help the marines recover faster by enabling them to stay in touch with family and friends who were unable to be with them at the hospital—as well as remain connected to the outside world.

Tim took the next step by setting up the nonprofit iWarriors.org to raise money for severely injured members of the 5th Marines based at Camp Pendleton, CA. The staff at Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego provided a list of amputees. After putting up an initial donation of $400 through Mold Craft, the couple challenged members and partners of the AMBA—via a letter writing campaign—to match this donation. “Our mission is to keep hospitalized marines in touch with family and friends while they undergo numerous surgeries and intensive rehabilitation,” Kim states. “The marines chosen to receive the gifts have returned from Afghanistan as single, double and triple amputees.”

Getting Started
The first round of donations landed the organization almost $10,000, which was enough to purchase iPads, cases, earbuds and iTunes cards for 15 members of the 3/5. Roger Klouda, President of Cedar Rapids, IA-based MSI Mold Builders, was on board from the very beginning. “It is a way of paying back the men and women that give so much and ask for so little,” Klouda notes. “Communication is such a precious commodity and being able to communicate with your family when you are separated is very important to one’s recovery.”

MSI also put out a challenge to its 85-plus employees to get behind this cause and both MSI and Klouda’s family personally agreed to match whatever monies were raised. “One employee made his Christmas present to his family members a major contribution to iWarriors instead of gifts,” Klouda comments. “MSI employees raised $4,250 dollars—and with the match it became $12,750.0—enough for 20-plus iPads. I couldn’t be prouder of the actions of all our employees to support these wonderful American heroes.”

Creative Blow Mold Tooling (Lee’s Summit, MO) was also involved after the initial letter writing campaign. “After sharing with my employees more details on iWarriors and the results of AMBA’s involvement, some of our employees asked me how they could help,” recalls President Michael Bohning. “Back in 2011, we shared information about the organization with all of our employees and I committed to matching 100 percent of whatever employees could contribute. We raised about $2,300.”

Bohning challenged his employees again last year with another pledge of a 100 percent match. “We kicked off the campaign with a pizza lunch and I had T-shirts made up with the iWarriors logo and gave one to every employee who contributed,” he notes. “I’m proud to say that 100 percent of my employees participated and we raised over $4,000. Getting our entire company involved in this campaign has raised the level of awareness for the needs of these veterans. It has also created a sense of pride for our people knowing that they are part of a larger effort through the AMBA to do some pretty amazing things to honor these heroes.”

Steven Rotman, President of Ameritech Die & Mold Inc. (Mooresville, NC) couldn’t agree more. “Reading and trying to understand what our military men and women have done for our freedom, as well as helping make a better life for those in hostile situations, there is nothing less that should be done than to give freely from our hearts in sincere appreciation to their sacrifice and dedication,” he states. “In our everyday worlds, it is hard to imagine those that are risking their lives every day for our country, and the good of mankind. As far as our donation, I didn’t want to take anything from the pockets of the employees, so we decided to make a contribution through the company that recognized all of our employees and what they do for Ameritech every day. They, in turn, could feel good about the donation, and their part in making that happen.”

Spreading the Word
In 2013, iWarriors is asking mold shop owners to match a new donation amount of $600 set by Mold Craft in the hopes of reaching a goal of $50,000. “This donation will outfit one wounded marine with a personally engraved Wi-Fi-enabled iPad (which Tim engraves himself), carrying case, iTunes gift card and earbuds,” Kim states. “A $600 donation will also ensure that your company name is added to the website as a proud sponsor of iWarriors.org.” (Editor’s Note: MoldMaking Technology has been a proud sponsor of iWarriors since the organization’s beginning.)

Word of iWarriors’ work has spread. The organization runs ads in trade magazines and journals and has a Facebook page where updates are posted about the wounded soldiers and the efforts to help them. “We have also been contacted by wounded marines, sailors and a few army soldiers for assistance,” Kim says. “As soon as we have documentation of their combat wounds we get an iPad into their hands. They are all so grateful. Many of the guys we help have Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Many suffer from short-term memory loss so the use of an iPad helps greatly with scheduling endless doctor and therapy appointments as well as reminding them of medication dosage, etc. There are now apps that the guys can download to assist in physical and cognitive rehab. We are so happy that they are able to use the iPads for more than our intended use—which was to simply stay in touch with loved ones and stay connected to the outside world while going through recovery and rehab.”

Although initially the support was solely for the 5th Marines, it now includes all combat wounded service members, regardless of the branch they serve. “This past year we gave iPads to four Army soldiers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Kim says. “We also sent Christmas care packages to one unit in Afghanistan whose mission is to train the Afghan army and local police to patrol the border. They were thrilled to receive the snacks, a nice change from the daily MREs. I had local school kids pack the bags and make banners and Christmas cards for the troops.” The organization has also made baby blankets for the battalion baby showers for those expectant moms on base whose husbands are away on deployment. “It's these little things that help spread the word of iWarriors across the Pendleton base and hopefully beyond to other hospitals and bases,” Kim emphasizes.

Wish List
Kim is excited about what iWarriors’ future may hold. “Down the road, we know these guys will all have iPads or a tablet of some kind,” she says. “We are interested in granting wishes to those who want to go on a hunting or fishing trip. Many cannot afford such a trip or are physically not able to go on their own. We are sure many enjoyed such hobbies before joining the military.”
Kim would also like iWarriors to be able to provide airfare, lodging or gas cards for family members to go visit their loved one in the hospital—especially when the hospital stay is extensive.

Finally, the organization is considering providing training to the wounded warriors. “What better employee can you ask for than a trained and disciplined military vet?” she notes. “The unemployment rate for vets returning is extremely high. Most can overcome their physical disabilities if given the opportunity.”

Kim encourages the entire industry to give. To date, the organization has handed out 58 iPads and accessories. This month the Bartz family will travel to Camp Pendleton and Balboa Naval hospital to present to a large number of marines and sailors. “We hope to support at least 30 wounded warriors during our visit,” Kim notes. “It’s about Americans giving back to those who have served our country and that have sacrificed so much. If every employee gives just $25 it can add up. And who wouldn't want the boss to get out the checkbook and match what they and their fellow employees donate to the cause! We hope that by involving the employees of the shops we get more exposure and that people share the iWarriors’ mission.”

For More Information

iWarriors / (651)303-4409
info@iwarriors.org / iwarriors.org

Kirkwood Community College working to attract, train ‘gold-collar’ workers

From:The Gazette
Posted on: 2/17/2013

“It’s really the start of a good career, with initial pay of $30,000 to $35,000,” Johnson said. “With a two-year degree and additional experience, the annual pay can grow to between $50,000 and $60,000.”

The cost of the 16-week CNC machinist certification program is $845 per module, or $3,000 if paid as a lump sum. Roger Klouda, president of MSI Mold Builders in Cedar Rapids, has committed $20,000 to “seed” a tuition assistance fund for the program, said Kathy Hall, vice president of resource development for the Kirkwood Foundation.

“The Kirkwood Foundation has historically provided scholarships for students in the two-year associate degree program,” Hall said. “The Klouda family and MSI Mold Builders have been supportive of the two-year CNC programs with two endowed scholarships. They’ve seen them work over time because it breaks down financial barriers.”

In addition to seeding the tuition assistance program, Klouda also wants the $20,000 to work as a catalyst so other employers will contribute to the scholarship pool, Hall said, “and we’ve seen some interest emerging.”

Klouda also hopes to use some of MSI’s contribution for marketing, believing that there are misperceptions about CNC machining and other gold-collar manufacturing jobs.

“These are good jobs for young people who are college capable, but just not college-focused,” Klouda said. “In days past, the kids who took shop class were the ones who weren’t going to go to college. Today, the kids who won’t make it in college will not make it in CNC.

“It requires a lot of math and visual skills to be good, and good CNC machinists are making good money. Our plants are air-conditioned and we still pay 80 percent of our employees’ family health insurance premiums.”

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MSI Mold Builders Becomes ISO Certified, Adds Equipment

From:MoldMaking Technology
Posted on: 12/6/2010

MSI Mold Builders, a leading manufacturer of injection and blow molds for thermoplastic parts for a variety of industries, has achieved its ISO 9001:2008 Certification.  The company has long been known for its advances in Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma, and 5S processes at its facilities.Toby Bral, MSI’s Quality Manager, says, “We’re a very process-driven organization and achieving our ISO certification helped us better document our processes.  While we’ve always had a formal process with respect to our design and manufacturing, the ISO Certification helps us maintain and improve our systems with formal internal audits and corrective actions.  Plus, we’ve honed our processes by adding complete traceability to make it easier to back-track the steps and get to the root cause of a problem.”  Bral also notes that many of its customers, particularly those in the Heavy Truck industry, require their suppliers to be ISO certified.In addition to its ISO Certification, MSI Mold Builders will be expanding its capabilities by adding new equipment in the next several months.  “We’ve budgeted for new equipment, and have purchased one smaller 3-axis CNC machining center,” Roger Klouda, MSI’s President said.  MSI has also identified an additional 5-axis machining center for the Iowa plant with approximately 40” x 40” travel to more efficiently manufacture smaller molds and components.  This will be MSI’s fourth 5-axis machine, with the largest two 5-axis machines having 65” x 110” travel capacity.Klouda notes that business is improving steadily over 2009, and he expects sales to be up 20% over 2009 by year end 2010.  “Currently we’re putting a lot of our growth in the South Carolina facility, including the recent addition of a 500-ton sampling press, because that plant has more capacity, and there are many good growth opportunities in the Southeast,” he adds.

MSI Mold Builders, a leading manufacturer of injection and blow molds for thermoplastic parts for a variety of industries, has achieved its ISO 9001:2008 Certification.  The company has long been known for its advances in Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma, and 5S processes at its facilities.

Toby Bral, MSI’s Quality Manager, says, “We’re a very process-driven organization and achieving our ISO certification helped us better document our processes.  While we’ve always had a formal process with respect to our design and manufacturing, the ISO Certification helps us maintain and improve our systems with formal internal audits and corrective actions.  Plus, we’ve honed our processes by adding complete traceability to make it easier to back-track the steps and get to the root cause of a problem.”  Bral also notes that many of its customers, particularly those in the Heavy Truck industry, require their suppliers to be ISO certified.

In addition to its ISO Certification, MSI Mold Builders will be expanding its capabilities by adding new equipment in the next several months.  “We’ve budgeted for new equipment, and have purchased one smaller 3-axis CNC machining center,” Roger Klouda, MSI’s President said.  MSI has also identified an additional 5-axis machining center for the Iowa plant with approximately 40” x 40” travel to more efficiently manufacture smaller molds and components.  This will be MSI’s fourth 5-axis machine, with the largest two 5-axis machines having 65” x 110” travel capacity.

Klouda notes that business is improving steadily over 2009, and he expects sales to be up 20% over 2009 by year end 2010.  “Currently we’re putting a lot of our growth in the South Carolina facility, including the recent addition of a 500-ton sampling press, because that plant has more capacity, and there are many good growth opportunities in the Southeast,” he adds.

MSI Mold Builders operates two facilities with a total of 60,000 square feet.  The company serves the Heavy Truck, ATV, lawn and garden, construction and agriculture equipment, medical, appliance and material handling markets.  MSI Mold Builders has been in operation since 1971 and currently employs 75.

MSI receives 2011 Leadtime Leader Honorable Mention

MSI Mold Builders (Cedar Rapids, IA), winner of the Leadtime Leader Large Shop: Honorable Mention, relies on its 75 employees’ unwavering dedication and team-driven principles—coupled with lean strategies aimed at reducing waste on the shop floor—to deliver its customers high quality plastic injection, structural foam, structural web, rim, gas assist, external gas and blow molds. Industries served include computer and business machine, medical diagnostics, material handling, sporting goods, lawn and garden, appliance, consumer electronics, outdoor recreation, agricultural, heavy equipment and transportation. MSI also provides sampling capabilities with Engle and Cincinnati molding presses with capacities up to 1000 tons.

Average leadtimes are six to eight weeks, which the company maintains by defining and refining its manufacturing process. “We use an incremental approval process that begins with mold concept and continues through final design,” MSI President Roger Klouda explains. “Incremental approvals for material approval and concept to speed the flow of production, beginning as early as 12 hours following receipt of the part database and continuing throughout the design and manufacture of each mold.”

Lean Strategies
In order to alleviate the impact that foreign competition has had on MSI, the company’s continual focus on manufacturing and engineering process and flow has decreased costs, Klouda notes. “We have tightly defined standards for engineering to provide design direction as well as standardization of mold components and features in the design,” he elaborates. “This works particularly well in the mold base where all common geometry becomes a defined feature. Then, using feature recognition CAM software on the shop floor, program creation becomes more automated and costs are reduced.”

The lean manufacturing principles the company established also play a vital role in MSI’s competitive edge. “Approximately 15 years ago, we visualized leadtime as a competitive advantage and tried to make significant changes, but realized we needed a person with manufacturing background to lead us out of the fog,” Klouda recalls. “We hired that person 10 years ago and the process and flow improvement began. Steve Kimm, our Operations Manager, came to us from a high-volume manufacturing environment that produced large appliances. Under Steve’s leadership we implemented lean about eight years ago and received our ISO certification six months ago.”

MSI has developed and adopted a defined and measurable process for each aspect of its business. “Once this was in place applying for ISO certification became a normal next step,” Klouda notes. “It drove use even deeper into the documentation phase and forced us to question some of our processes and the way they were measured. Certainly with written and documented processes in place the certification process was not as laborious as expected.”

Kimm combined several lean processes to devise a strategy for MSI. “While initially there was a big need for 5S, the focus became on flow, visual factory, waste elimination and standardized work and process,” Kimm says. “The flow of information is critical from order conception to shipping. How much waste is there because of the lack of information flow? When we are building a one-of-a-kind product, how much rework can be eliminated by standardized work, methods and check systems? The efficiency and leadtime is much easier when there is known information and there aren’t any mistakes.”

Finally, Kimm began to schedule jobs using a visual factory—a white board on the shop floor. “This laid out expectations and facilitated decisions,” Kimm states. “The employees meet daily at 2:30 to transfer into the night shift and ensure everyone is on the same page as far as job flow.

“We continue to improve our standardization and front-end flow through the design process,” Kimm continues. “We have identified strategies to better lay out expectations we have of the customer to allow them to help us do a better job for them. As most of our customers are custom molders, this will allow them to forward these expectations to their OEM customers to drive wasted time out of the process—or at least get them to better understand their ownership of delivery dates and our ability to make them.”

In the future, Klouda would like to revisit Continual Process Improvement (CIP) training. “We need to do this training again as some of our new employees haven’t had the training,” he states. “We still are utilizing the concepts on a daily basis yet additional formal training would be prudent. We are developing a more formal departmental meeting structure—sharing more data on a department rather than just corporate level, also to involve the employees more in decision development and solutions, and setting department goals as well corporate goals. We are truly a process- and flow-driven organization. We monitor factors critical to our success and adjust to market conditions.”

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