MoldMaking Technology

DEC 2018

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Page 22 of 50 21 walking distance, producing high-quality molds in increas- ingly paperless production environments using the latest five-axis machines with pallet changers and other automa- tion equipment. Investments in R&D, Automation Most companies in this region report that they have invested in or have plans to invest in new five-axis machines, soft- ware, paperless production, lean management and automa- tion equipment. Some companies also have invested heavily in new, modern buildings and work environments that are sure to attract the best talent in town. So, what has happened since the GFC, when competition from low-cost countries and the sharp depreciation of the U.S. dollar against the euro combined to wreak havoc on the economy of the small European nation? By 2012, for example, mold exports to North America reached a historic low of just two percent of Portugal's total mold exports. Today, exports to North America have risen to 10 percent, including Mexico, according to Cefamol, the National Association for the Molds Industry. One reason is government funding through the "Portugal 2020" strategy, which is part of "Europe 2020," a European strategy to foster productivity and employment, among other things. Portugal will receive about 25 billion euros until 2020 to reach the goals defined by the European strategy, such as decreasing the unemployment rate and stimulating the growth of businesses. The other reasons are new and emerging markets, a strong automotive indus- try (82 percent of Portugal's molds are for the automotive industry), followed by packag- ing (8 percent) and the mold industry's own efforts to retool itself. About ten years ago, the sector's local leaders, in close coordination with the Portuguese Ministry of Economy and Innovation, founded the private, non- profit Pool-Net Association to manage the Portuguese engineering and tooling clus- ter. Formally recognized as a legal entity by the Portuguese government in 2009, the cluster's goal is to drive inno- vation and coordinate firms in the manufacturing supply chain that are engaged in industrial design, engineering and product development, prototyping, tooling, plastic and metal parts production. Sharp Rise in Product Exports All this led to Portugal's moldmaking industry being busy with work and realizing a sharp rise in product exports. "We are very proud of this industry, which experienced a growth of 8 percent last year," Portugal's Minister for Economic Affairs, Manuel Caldeira Cabral, says. "Portugal currently exports over 85 percent of production to 86 countries. In 2017, exports reached a value of 675 million euros. Exports and employment have doubled in the last 10 years. Europe is the main export zone, although exports to North America and Mexico are increasing." He says, "Our mold exports to the United States are increasing because of a growing demand for molds from various industries. However, in contrast to many other markets such as Mexico, our companies have no local pro- duction yet. But, there are very interesting possibilities in the development of relationships with companies in the United States." The Minister adds that while Portuguese moldmakers are much more integrated into the European supply chain, it is about finding the right way and the right opportunities in João Faustino, president of Cefamol, says that prices for molds and tools decreased in 2018, and companies like his own in Marinha Grande, which earn 80 percent of their turnover from the automotive industry, have to adjust and develop strategies to optimize production. He has recently invested in eight new machining centers to be delivered next year, all five-axis with pallet systems and some with two tables to optimize set-ups and increase the degree of automation. "The goal is to be able to run the machines 24/7 unattended," Faustino says.

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