Thank you China! You made us better, more efficient, improved lead-times, enabled us to make profit from poor quality tools and now it’s less competitive for the Far East to win more business – overseas competition was a good thing!

Forget the hype, the “re-shoring” of tooling and local supply chain is happening for real. Don’t get me wrong the Far East will always have its place for manufacturing tooling, especially higher quantities of mould tools and larger tools. With customers demanding shorter lead-times and understanding the “full cost” of dealing with the Far East it’s possibly taken over 10 years to fully register. Coupled with cost of living increase overseas, the UK and Europe now seems the first choice for sourcing tooling, or should I say the “preferred route”.

We still occasionally source certain types of tooling from the Far East, especially if say a suite of 20-30 moulds are being placed with Fenton, we sometimes need the Far East toolmakers to support. Over the years we have established suppliers who understand our build requirements and support with overflow work. Cores and cavities can be air-freighted over to be bench fitted to our ready and waiting tooling bolsters. We need to offer this service as it’s very difficult to foresee what tooling orders will be placed during normally quarterly cycles, if we had capacity for 20-30 moulds every month we would have serious problems!

Servicing, repairing, design changes and optimisation of Far East, European and UK manufactured tools is also a key area for our toolroom. We have experienced growth in both the automotive and industrial electronic market sectors for taking on this work when capacity allows it. It’s all about getting the right balance of work each month and forecasting ahead. Our core business of course is designing and manufacturing mould tools in house at Fenton.

Product design and prototyping services are also offered in house, during the last 18 months we have found a niche market for smaller companies who may not have in house design facilities or know where to go, sometimes larger OEMs who may not have capacity or resources available also – so we then step in as a “single point service provider”. As our design team are all toolmakers, we offer robust solutions with tools that actually can be manufactured.

Within the last couple of years we have developed clients located in Japan, USA, Germany, Austria, New Zealand and Holland. These are mainly for injection moulded products and subsequent tooling projects, all starting from a concept, re-design, prototype stage through to tooling and mass production.

Fenton concentrate on the more technical demanding mould tools. We have seen over the last couple of years OEMs specifying H13 (hardened moulds) for running less than 50k units over the product life – why? Good question. Fenton have then stepped in offering P20 steel tooling concepts saving on both tooling investment and lower unit prices as smaller presses can be utilised. Auto unscrewing, high cavitation, and modular bolster concepts also assist with the customers’ needs.

We have direct experience digitising mould tools, components and even broken elements of tools where data cannot be provided. Once the tools are repaired we offer on-site sampling and further optimisation stages to ensure the end customer gets a robust, high quality mould tool and product. In many cases the product is then re-tooled with Fenton at later stage, in some cases in parallel.

May the growth and activity levels increase for the UK tool making and injection moulding industry, its about time!

Nicholas Skidmore – Sales Director / Fenton Precision Engineering Ltd on behalf of PlastikCity