Tooling Barometer: Shops are Investing in the Future

Plastics Business

Tool shops will be looking to apprentices to assist in replacing an aging workforce, according to recent research by the Original Equipment Suppliers Association (OESA) and Harbour Results Inc., (HRI). The fourth edition of the Automotive Tooling Barometer (The Barometer), which was sponsored by Die Cad Group and Expert Tech, focused on the impending talent gap within the industry. The Barometer indicates that the mean age across all tool shops polled is 43, and shops are looking to apprentices to assist in replacing the workforce with 63 percent of tool shops planning to hire apprentices in the next 12 months.

“As the Barometer uncovered, there are still a great deal of program delays that not only impact the tool and die industry but also the plastics processor,” said Laurie Harbour, president and CEO of HRI. “Program management at the processor level is more important now than ever before. It is critical that they collaborate with their supply chain to manage new launches, project delays and engineering changes or risk eroding profits – or worse losing a customer.”

Although The Barometer indicates the tool and die industry is investing in apprentices, it is not enough to overcome the impending talent gap, Harbour noted. “There is a limited pool of people with the skills needed to maintain, repair and fix tools, and plastics processors will need to be strategic in their approach in attracting and retaining the best,” she said.

Another strategy shops are utilizing to offset the talent gap and address capacity constraints is outsourcing. Nearly 40 percent of shops say they are likely to outsource simulation, design, finish or rough machining in the next 12 months. The Barometer also showed a collective Tooling Sentiment Index (TSI) at an all-time high of 73, indicating a positive outlook for the automotive tooling supplier industry and an increase of 35 percent since the May Barometer. Optimism likely is based on the increase in progressive payment terms and five percent increase in capacity utilization across the tool and die industry.

“The August Tooling Barometer shows the flexibility of this industry,” said Julie A. Fream, president and CEO of OESA. ”It is adapting to market changes by meeting short-term capacity through outsourcing. However, in order to continue to have a strong tool and die manufacturing capability in the NAFTA region, it is critical that these shops develop and retain new talent through apprenticeship-type programs.”

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