Inside Logistics

Stepping it up

One manufacturer’s quest to modernize inventory management

June 24, 2009
by Deborah Aarts

Grant Richardson, left, of Mold-Masters and Brian Rodway of Johnston Equipment show off the four Remstar Shuttle XP vertical lift modules at Mold-Masters’s headquarters.

After years of neglecting the stockroom, Mold-Masters Limited is moving from hands-on picking to high-tech inventory management. The manufacturer is phasing in change one step at a time and reaping big benefits along the way: two years in, productivity is up more than 300 percent. Deborah Aarts explains.

Like most successful Canadian manufacturers, Mold-Masters Limited has done a lot of things right.

Since the company was founded in the 1960s, it has become a global leader in the manufacture of hot runner technologies. It creates the systems that allow other manufacturers to inject molten plastic into the cavities of a mould. Major players in the automotive, housewares, medical, packaging and telecom industries rely on its wares.

However, like many manufacturers, Mold-Masters let some things fall by the wayside in the process. One of those things was managing the inventory at its global headquarters in Georgetown, Ontario.

Until two years ago, the company paid very little attention to the way it stored and retrieved the thousands of parts needed to build its hot runner systems. The process was manual, slow and rarely accurate, but—as is the case in so many plant stockrooms—it was considered good enough to get by.

That is, until delays and errors started constraining the company’s competitive position.

When this became apparent, Mold-Masters decided to embark on a multi-year campaign to make its inventory management processes more high-tech and less hands-on. With production planner Grant Richardson leading the charge, it adopted a broad, bold plan for modernization.

The hardest part was taking the first step.

Tough demands
Mold-Masters does not keep much finished stock on hand—like many manufacturers, finished items are sent out almost immediately after completion. The company ships out up to 200 complete hot runner systems every week.

Most product is shipped by air to locations around the world—to end customers, as well as to Mold-Masters branches in Brazil, China, Germany, India, Japan, Singapore and the US. Courier companies handle most of the work.