Lomont Molding’s Strategy Calls for Big
Updated: Aug 16, 2019
The Georgetown, TX operation of Lomont Molding (headquartered in Mount Pleasant, IA) installed three new Jupiter II two-platen presses (2,700-tons, 2,200-tons and 1,500 tons) in 2018. Investment in large tonnage equipment and automation is just one way that Lomont Molding is continuing to meet and exceed the needs of their customers and stay on the leading edge of the molding industry.
We had the chance to sit down with Carl Frank, the company’s Director of Corporate Communications, to learn how Lomont Molding plans to offer a broad spectrum of precision molded products worldwide and maintain its role as a leading custom molder for many of the world’s largest industrial manufacturers.
AH: Why is Lomont Molding going larger with its molding machines?
CF: When you make purchases of this magnitude, many factors go into the decision. Most important, we had the customer base to support the purchases. You don’t buy several million dollars of equipment and hope customers will come. We had industrial customers looking to us for larger part molding projects if we would consider larger tonnage machines. All three of the large tonnage machines we bought from Absolute Haitian are very busy right now.
The geographic location – our Georgetown, TX plant – played a role in the decision. It had a lot to do with freight and transportation. Location has a big bearing where you manufacture these days. The ability to transport parts easily was important to us.
Another major reason we added large machines was to gain a competitive position. Large part molding isn’t low or no competition, but it is easier to enter if you have a certain type of customer base. It offers a niche because of the capital, time and expertise needed to adequately run large tonnage machines. We were in a good position to capitalize on this opportunity.
AH: Why did you decide to work with Absolute Haitian and acquire Jupiter II machines?
CF: If there’s one single reason, when it is all said and done, the service support from Absolute Haitian is excellent. The response times are great. We have been really pleased with that. If we have issues that need tweaking, Absolute Haitian is there for us. Our president, Jason Bender, asked me to make sure we conveyed this – service was a big consideration when putting together the purchase for Texas.
AH: What end markets/customers are you working with that use the large-tonnage machines?
CF: For the most part, air handling equipment. Air handling units, ventilation assemblies, etc. Most molders using large tonnage machines have accounts – we have a of couple different ones – that have large tonnage needs. Our customers told us, “We have a large part project and would consider giving you the project to you if you could handle it.” For instance, when we’re talking about 2,700-ton press. You don’t just put it on the floor and say, hey, we’ve got it, let’s hope we get some business.
If you have the equipment, your accounts can think outside the box. Their engineers can design differently so that smaller parts can be combined and the new part can be made all in one shot for greater efficiency and cost savings. We’ve allowed our customers to consider that design opportunity. For a couple accounts we have, the Jupiter II two-platen press really fits the bill.
AH: What does Industry 4.0 mean to Lomont Molding?
CF: The singular reason for Lomont to move into Industry 4.0 is that our customers are asking for it. Manufacturing needs transparency between customers, production and suppliers. Customers want to understand what our manufacturing process is and how our suppliers are integrated into all of this as well. Our larger customers are asking us to chart and provide analytics on the work we do. We are starting to accommodate them.
On the production floor, that mostly means adding automation. We have several robot guys here today [Absolute Haitian’s sales rep Mike Koberstein was there along with technicians from Sepro] working to integrate automation with one of our Haitian machines. We want turnkey production where decisions are made by the process itself instead of an operator.
When it comes to the whole Internet of Things, a lot of that may be handled by AI (artificial intelligence) in the future, say, in the next 6 to 7 years. The processes in our plant will have their own attributions and will be making decisions independently. Processing workers in the plant will be technicians performing monitoring and alerted to process deviations.
AH: Does Industry 4.0 solve problems for you?
CF: Our #1 problem is finding enough people to work. We have trouble finding competent workers here in Iowa where our unemployment is down to 2%. Technical people such as robotics folks and engineering folks are hard to find. If we can get the plant fully automated with a higher trained staff and fewer people, it will help solve this problem. In this plant we have 300 people. Between Texas and here, we have 450. Many of them do not have technical degrees. Some of these jobs will probably go away. Industry 4.0 will bring a more organized plant that will work more efficiently and provide more transparency for customers.
For a custom (versus captive) molder, flexibility in developing 4.0 systems is the challenge. When you are a custom house, you have many variables. Another molder in town, they only do whipped cream containers every day. That’s it. With us, we do change outs all the time. How do you do a quick mold change in the framework of Industry 4.0? How do you do a quick change on a machine that is 2,700 tons? One of our summer interns is evaluating mold changes for instance, looking for automating opportunities.
We deal with eight Fortune 100 companies and are cognizant of being responsive to their demands. They know Industry 4.0. They want to control their costs. Every piece is just in time. If you don’t get with the program, you won’t be working with the majors. Lomont is taking those steps to get that done. We see the future. Lomont Molding has a lot of innovative thinking going on right now.