In under a decade, Nominal Machine Tool has earned praise from customers that’s usually afforded only to companies that have been in business far longer. Why? “Uncompromising precision, unrivalled commitment, unmatched quality,” as Nominal likes to say.
Led by Tool & Die industry veterans, Nominal has earned the trust of clients across North America and Europe for its precision tooling, fast turnaround, and “no challenge is too big to handle” attitude.
Along with its Tool & Die and machining division, Nominal has recently launched a Robotics, Automation, and Integration Division, and is now launching its Stamping and Assemblies Division, for which the company has 22 stamping presses, a significant investment. With the controls electricians from Nominals Automation Division, and a staff of about 30 Tradesmen and Engineers, Nominal plans to increase those numbers with potentially up to 50 new staff members in time for the production startup of the new division later this year.
“For such a young company, we’ve gotten a great deal of attention worldwide,” says Nominal Machine Tool Co-owner Jim Mitchell. “We’ve even had an offer from the Polish government to partner with them.”
Founded on experience
Starting his career as an apprentice Tool & Die Maker, Mitchell’s well-rounded industry background includes metal stamping, hot stamping, stamping presses, production part quality troubleshooting and cycle time improvements, die repair, automation and robotics, plant management, and health and safety training. On top of his certificate of qualification (CoQ) for Tool & Die Maker, he holds a robotics certificate from FANUC.
Long before founding Nominal, Mitchell gained experience at automotive parts giant Magna International as an Industrial Mechanic-Toolmaker and then Tooling Engineer, and RC Tool & Die as a registered apprentice, where he first worked with Nominal’s present-day President, Brandon Cormier.
It was there at RC Tool that the decision was made to open their own shop one day. “And it took us twenty-something years before we finally pulled the trigger, but eight-and-a-half-years later, we have a 41,000 square-foot facility with three divisions.” Seeing an increase in its robotics, automation, and integration division, the company is presently quoting on several large projects.
Active in automotive and branching out into non-automotive areas, Windsor, Ontario-based Nominal is actively working on attaining certifications from ISO and the IATF (International Automotive Task Force). “Right now for IATF, we are at the point where we need to get a production job so we can finish our credentials, setting up all of our quality systems,” explains Mitchell. “But we were lucky enough to hire two people who are responsible for setting up quality systems at other companies, and both of them are people who train the auditors. So it’s a really good way to go. They have a lot of experience and are now helping us set all this up.”
Built for success
With the mission of assisting manufacturing sectors by providing trained staff, services, and technologies, Nominal Machine Tool is renowned for its abilities to engineer, build, prototype, repair, improve, and maintain dies.
Combining decades of Tool & Die experience with advanced level CNC machining and the latest CAD/CAM software, Nominal’s services and capabilities include building new stamping dies, die repair and refurbishment, custom 2D & 3D machining, die designing, replacement sections, stamping part quality improvements, wire EDM (electrical discharge machining) and many others, including re-shoring of overseas-built tooling.
Another advantage of working with Nominal is that it is a well-established Canadian company. This advantage became clear after the start of the pandemic as shipments of products from other countries were delayed, sometimes months at a time, and is still relevant to this day.
“Dealing with overseas right now is scary,” says Mitchell. “Is your tooling going to make it here on time? We all remember all those news stories about the ships stuck in the ocean, waiting to get to port. Unfortunately, one of the biggest factors or disadvantages when you deal overseas is you have to pay 100 percent of your tooling price before it gets on the boat, so what you get is what you get. Here in North America, we have to wait up to six months before we get paid for the tooling, sometimes even a year or more,” he explains.
With reshoring of overseas-built tooling a key part of its business, Nominal brings products from other countries up to North American standards, something it has done since the company was formed in November 2014. “What they do a lot of the time is have the tooling built and just put it in a press to make a part from the die / tooling—not even make the part fit the fixture, just get it to that point—and ship it to North America, and we’ll fix it here.”
The extra mile
To be sure, the team at Nominal Machine Tool has an upbeat ‘get-it-done’ attitude that extends to all areas of the business, including rush and emergency services, “as we get so much of that type of work. We’ve done that for some very grateful customers, often when there’s a big smash-up,” says Mitchell.
To get the word out about Nominal and its services, the company has built relationships with colleges, universities, and chambers of commerce. About a year and a half ago, Nominal joined the Canadian Tooling & Machining Association (CTMA) and is appreciative of the many benefits of CTMA membership, including exposure, connections, and meeting other companies.
The company is also part of the Chambers of Commerce of both Windsor and Detroit, its first venture into any type of association. “It has benefited us greatly: the networking and the introduction to people and resources have been a tremendous help and if we would have known about [the benefits] years ago, I wonder where we would be now,” says Mitchell, “That’s one of the reasons we joined other associations. We realized that we weren’t in enough associations and didn’t reach out to many people for things like that,” he says.
“We were just having our normal, loyal customers—we’ve never lost one—and we didn’t see a lot of need for it at the time. We didn’t look into anything like that, we were just busy.”
Ties to Poland
In recent years, the company has joined forces with academic institutions, including the University of Windsor, St. Clair College, and even a university in Poland. “I don’t think people realize and understand the many resources that the University of Windsor has, but they can really help our industry,” says Mitchell.
The company’s ties to Poland have their roots in a time many years ago when Mitchell was working for another company which took on 25 workers from Poland who, despite the language barrier, were welcomed and soon made at home.
Years later, after the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) was signed, a senator from Poland and the Windsor Chamber of Commerce entered into discussions around immigration from the EU.
The men from Poland that Mitchell worked with long before remembered his, and his colleague’s kindness and help with filling out rent applications and dealing with the necessary bureaucracy. They were looking for a Canadian company to work with and, fitting the criteria of a company not too big or small and that would work well with Poland, Nominal’s name came up. To this day, the company has an open invitation to once again come to Poland to partner with the Polish Government in a manufacturing capacity.
Serving the community
Realizing that success breeds success, the team at Nominal takes pride in helping others whenever it can. This includes working with the March of Dimes and being nominated for two Canada-wide awards from The CASE – Wiltshire Award of Excellence in Supported Employment from The Canadian Association for Supported Employment.
Mitchell recalls getting a call from the March of Dimes one day, saying they had a permanently disabled worker looking at a new career. The charity said they would provide six months of wage assistance to give the man the opportunity to follow his desired career.
“When the six months was up, the MOD came to Nominal to interview him, and he said a lot of really good things about us,” says Mitchell. That care for staff is clearly characteristic of a company which provides a sit-down breakfast for all staff every Saturday and has an account with a local garage where employees can get their vehicles serviced, with a manageable amount deducted from their pay every week and many other benefits that are by no means common practice in industry. “It is like a family here at Nominal and we don’t ever want to lose that ‘small shop’ atmosphere as we grow.”
As Nominal approaches its tenth year in business, Mitchell is proud both of what the company has achieved in a short time and of the rosy future that stretches ahead, which will include expansion and more staff.
“We’ve really exceeded our customers’ expectations for timing,” he says. “We do a lot of work with one larger company in the area, and even they thought we couldn’t complete two of their dies in the timeframe they wanted—and from here to Japan there were a lot of eyes on those jobs. Not only did we do it in the impossible timeframe, but we did it great, ahead of schedule, and they were floored by that. So that’s incredible. We have been doing a lot of work with them ever since then.”