The tooling industry will be required to innovate – ISTMA President Bob Williamson

Bob Williamson, President of ISTMA (International Special Tooling and Machining Association) World and President of PtSA – Production Technologies Association of South Africa, recently gave an interview to ETMM, a European-wide magazine focused on sourcing solutions for the tool and mould making industry, reflecting on the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic for tooling companies. He outlines the challenges of the industry in the light of the global pandemic.

Bob Williamson

In which regions is the industry currently suffering the most?
It is not possible to separate the regions and identify where industry is suffering the most. The world is facing a major challenge in consequence of the lockdowns forcing business closures and limiting mobility. The knock-on effect is really going to be enormous with the obvious consequence that many new projects will have been placed on hold.

How do the developments in the automotive industry affect toolmaking?
There are both challenges and opportunities. The introduction of electric vehicles clearly means new tooling systems will be required but this change means that there will also be a lesser number of parts per vehicle. It is almost a certainty that vehicles will become lighter and many new materials will be introduced, which could lead to the integration of interior and exterior parts. The tooling industry will be required to innovate and bring new solutions to the market.

What current developments drive the tooling industry forward and in what area lies the biggest growth potential?
The multitude of new technologies associated with the 4th Industrial Revolution will mean that digitisation and automation will be key to the development of the tooling industry. Whilst the biggest growth potential will remain in automotive, these technologies will also impact the way that packaging systems, medical devices or consumer electronics are produced.

Beyond the financial situation what should a member of your association best prepare for at the moment?
Companies should seek out talent and be prepared to innovate and accept the need to optimise processes at an internal level. Like never before, it is important to embrace cooperation and develop robust networks at both a regional and international level. Networks should be made up of competencies where knowledge can be shared between competitors, suppliers and clients.

Asian - above all, Chinese - competition is getting stronger, what must toolmakers in Europe or the USA prepare for?
Tooling companies will need to strengthen relationships at a regional level and emphasise the benefits of shorter supply chains. Innovation and efficiency are going to be the name of the game!

Bob Williamson was President of ISTMA for the period 2017 to 2020.