Your boss puts you in charge of finding a high quality yet low priced, durable but flexible, reliable plastic part. It must simultaneously have the highest possible standards and an affordable price. He’s asking for the impossible.
Or is he?
Avid International Molding Solutions, formerly E&O Tool & Plastics, Inc. has been in the injection molding industry since 1986. It makes custom plastic parts for all industries, from filtration devices to an award-winning hinge for the Acura MDX. Headquartered in Elk River, Minnesota, Avid IMS is bridging the gap between cost-cutting efficiencies and well-planned, quality products in an innovative way.
Avid manages competencies and costs in three global regions: China, Mexico and the U.S. Avid designs and engineers the tooling for plastic molds in Minnesota, gets the tooling done by highly skilled professionals in China and has the product mass produced in Elk River, MN or Monterrey, Mexico, utilizing decades of injection molding experience.
“We’re really a highly skilled, technical-based staff and we have the ability to balance both cost and function of end product,” says Cory Miller, President and CEO of Avid IMS. Miller obtained his degree in mechanical engineering before he began working as a toolmaker. Over a twelve-year period, he worked his way up through the ranks of Avid, eventually becoming the President and CEO of its 300-staff operation. He has been a major player in Avid’s success over the past decade and is leading the charge to rebrand from E&O Tool & Plastics, Inc.
“E&O Tool and Plastics, Inc. is a great name in the injection molding industry but it’s not really reflective of what we are as a company,” says Miller. “We are a much bigger company than what we started in 1986. Our reach out in the industry has grown substantially; we wanted a name that coincided with that,” he shares.
“Avid, by the very definition of the word, fits what we’re about. If you walk around and you see the faces of our personnel, the way they interact with one other, their passion – they are avid about what they do. We are avid as a company about what we do and what we offer to our customers.”
Avid offers an optimal solution for customers who are looking to cut costs, as “tooling in the United States is quite expensive,” says Miller. “When we go over to the Asian marketplace we can obtain tooling at 60 percent of what the [local] market is.” Companies gain an advantage when working through Avid versus directly with Chinese tooling companies. “There are literally thousands of choices of companies over in Asia that will build molds and supply in the United States at a low cost,” explains Miller. “The challenge with that is going over and identifying key suppliers that understand U.S. domestic tooling standards.”
Companies can avoid the miscommunications, massive time zone delays and language barriers, and leave that up to Avid. With deep roots in the Chinese market, Avid can ensure only the highest quality products are shipped to its U.S. headquarters. “We do all of the engineering upfront within all of our facilities so we go through a full Design for Manufacturability Analysis. We dictate the design and our Asian counterparts basically execute our engineering strategy.” Once they arrive in Elk River, products are thoroughly inspected by its engineering and design teams.
To be sure, Avid’s work in its Elk River facilities is top-tier. The company is ISO 9001:2015 certified. ISO 9001 has a huge quality control component, but according to Miller, it’s more impressive that the firm is able to pass John Deere’s audits with flying colors. “John Deere’s audit in my eyes is way, way more intensive than the ISO audit we have to take on an annual basis,” he explains. “At the time John Deere was auditing our business, Avid scored the second highest overall score of any company they had ever audited, with the significance and excellence placed on our product development and engineering processes.”
It is not only quality that sets this company apart; the process itself with Avid is simple. The company works with customers on the design or redesign of their product, using a step-by-step logical process with a wide view of all production channels and an openness to innovation. “We are going to specifically tailor an approach that is going to meet the customer’s needs,” says Miller. “We look for cost-saving initiatives: what can we do to obtain the customer’s objectives at an affordable cost in a means that will be reliable for the life of the product?”
Communication with Avid throughout the process is easy. Calvin Jacobson, Business Development Manager at Avid IMS explains, “From that first phone call, you’re going to get a personal response; you’re not going to get automated messages. If you send something over the internet, you’ll get a phone call from me within 10 minutes.”
With a background in resin, Jacobson is not your typical Business Development Manager. “When we walk into a customer’s facility we don’t have a specialist just in tooling,” he says. “We have someone in resin, somebody that’s very well-versed in design and somebody who can just reach out and understand the customer from a philosophical standpoint and a personal standpoint… from there we bring in engineering, we look at your design, we see if we can cut costs on design to improve your part, whether it’s cosmetically or mechanically. It’s a lot easier to design a part and cut a dollar out of it with your design than pennies at the end.”
Avid is used to designing and redesigning products, because its team is fully motivated. “We offer a wonderful work experience; people feel empowered that they’re valued on a daily basis.” Miller walks along the production floor daily, greeting employees. Jacobson, a newer hire, was impressed with the culture at Avid and says, “It’s really easy for a CEO to say they want to create a good work environment… on the first day that I arrived, introductions were made and workers stated the times they had been here; very few were under five years. Most [had been here for] 10 to 15 years.”
Avid IMS isn’t looking to work with just any client that walks in the door. The team is serious about finding cost-cutting solutions and solving difficult problems for unique clients. “We want to be an extension of engineering for every customer that we bring in-house. We want to be a resource, not just the supplier,” says Jacobson.
Miller agrees. “We are looking for customers that appreciate the value of what we offer, and that need that additional engineering. We want to make our customers better than what they were before they met us. We want to partner long-term with these customers. We are very big on the relationship side of our business. When we have a customer, we want to call them by name, we want to shake their hands, we want to know them.”
A few years ago, Avid had a customer in Minneapolis that presented a complex problem with an over-molding for a car part. Over-molding is behind the technology that keeps laptop screens at any angle, but can also apply to vehicle storage floors.
“This particular company had a very unique opportunity to design a product for an automobile. They couldn’t figure out how to find a solution and they came to Avid International Molding Solutions,” says Miller. “We worked with them at the design phase of this product starting at the prototype side of it. Because the part was so unique, it was passed onto a tier 2 automotive supplier. We got involved with them because the product we were producing had limitations to the next customer. From there, it went to the actual tier 1 automotive company, Acura Automotive, and we developed an award-winning hinge that ultimately went on an Acura MDX.”
Engineering solutions to find efficiencies isn’t just used for Avid’s customers, but at its U.S. and Mexican facilities as well. “In calendar year 2018 we made a million-dollar investment in high-end automation,” shares Miller. A new, centralized conveying system carries finished products directly to the person who needs them. Instead of having workers go to the work, the work goes to them. “For the employee, we’ve eliminated a lot of chaos that they’ve had to go through and endure on a daily basis. Instead of them running back and forth across our floor, which is ultimately waste, work comes to them… that allows us to be more competitive in the marketplace.”
Avid International Molding Solutions develops superior, well-thought out injection molding products at cost-effective prices. If your project seems challenging from a cost or functionality standpoint, Avid IMS should be your first phone call.