EFFICIENT COOPERATION IN PLASTICS PROCESSING
HOW THE TOOLPLACE PLATFORM BRINGS TOOLMAKERS AND PLASTICS PROCESSORS TOGETHER WITH KI
In my blog, I have already written quite a bit (unfortunately mostly German) about the impact of platform business models on the world of manufacturing. For years, I have been fascinated by how industrial value creation is being captured bit by bit by digitization and online availability. I see a great advantage, especially for smaller companies, in bringing innovations to reality more efficiently, more quickly and more cost-effectively thanks to the high availability and transparency.
In conversation with the founder of TOOLPLACE, Christian Götze, it quickly became clear to me that it is not just contract manufacturing that is undergoing change, but the entire value chain in individual industries. You can find the very, very readable interview with the industry expert below, which is a transaltion of the original German article of my blog.
Hello Mr. Götze, would you like to introduce yourself briefly?
My name is Christian Götze and I am 36 years old. I studied mechanical engineering at the Technical University in Dresden and then earned an additional degree in business administration while working. I started my professional career directly after my studies in Switzerland, at the company Georg Kaufmann Formenbau AG. There I held various positions and was responsible for the areas of innovation and sales for the last few years.
After more than 10 years as an employee, I decided to go into business for myself and set up TOOLPLACE, a digital solution that helps to close the existing gap between plastics processors and injection molders.
How were the first months as a self-employed person for you?
That’s a very good question, and one that can’t be answered too quickly. On the one hand, the past period has been characterized by many new and exciting situations. You first realize how extensive entrepreneurship is, and although you feel well prepared, there are still many situations that you didn’t expect.
At the same time, it is extremely motivating when you talk to customers about your ideas, openly ask for feedback, and then receive good suggestions from different directions on how you can improve your own approach and thinking. So that in the end they offer a better solution for the customer as well as for TOOLPLACE.
What surprised me most was the encouragement and helpfulness from my network. I was even proactively offered help from various directions, even though I hadn’t even asked for it, which is a very great experience.
But in general, I think that the experience from my development environment at Georg Kaufmann Formenbau AG has helped me a lot here. I’m used to clarifying things in the market, discussing hypotheses and finally adapting them so that they find favor in the market.
What are the current challenges in the tooling industry?
The toolmaking industry, specifically here in the German-speaking environment, is at a crossroads. On the toolmaking side, we are dealing with companies where the vast majority are very small. As a result, their means and opportunities for active marketing and sales are very limited. At the same time, on the plastics processing side, we are seeing strong competitive pressure, which is increasingly leading to staff positions such as strategic purchasing being reduced as well, meaning that there is less and less staff available for supplier search, qualification and development. These two developments mean that plastics processors are finding few new suppliers and moldmakers are finding it very difficult to acquire new customers. In other words, a classic stalemate situation is emerging.
When I became aware of this situation, I decided to create a solution with TOOLPLACE that will close exactly this emerging gap.
Are the current efficiency efforts in the injection molding industry in Germany sufficient to compete with the increasing quality in Asia?
I think efficiency efforts are very important for both plastics processors and moldmakers. After all, you can only compete in the high-wage country, such as Germany, if you are highly efficient. But efficient processes are not exclusively the key to sustainable success.
Let’s look at toolmakers, for example: In many places, efficiency is primarily focused on internal, value-adding processes. However, it is not enough if I can produce a tool very efficiently. Because if I don’t have enough orders in the pipeline that I can then handle with the very efficient processes, then the company is not helped either. This means that the sales activity in particular must also be included in this efficiency effort. And the necessary investments in the area of marketing and sales are unfortunately difficult for many of the very small companies.
Let’s take a look at the toolmakers: From your experience, what do you currently wish for most?
I would like to see moldmakers appreciated and perceived more for their performance. After all, the injection mold is one of the crucial, if not the crucial, means of production that is decisive for the success of the plastics processor. In addition, many moldmakers are currently struggling with the declining number of orders from the automotive industry, so there is a desire to win new customers and enter new markets.
But since I’ve learned that the best way to make the changes you want is to make them yourself, I’m creating TOOLPLACE as a solution to create more visibility for toolmakers and make it easier to win new customers. My wish for this project is, of course, to get it flying as soon as possible so that our toolmakers can benefit from it as soon as possible.
To take a look at the processors: What would help injection molders in Germany the most?
Plastics processors are in a very tough competitive environment. Many are still operating with a large component in the automotive environment. This industry has had to contend with a decline in new projects in recent years. The Corona pandemic and the current supply bottlenecks due to the Ukraine war have also left their mark. The focus of plastics processors is therefore currently on stabilizing their production figures so that ongoing business can be financed. In addition, winning new projects and reducing their current cost situation is high on the agenda.
And what is currently driving the end customers?
For end customers, the biggest challenge at the moment is probably the supply problem with materials, semi-finished products and other components. In addition, the issue of recycling and reusability of raw materials and components is more important than ever. In the automotive industry, the shift to electromobility is still the trend that dominates in my view. And with all these issues, of course, we can’t lose sight of the economics, which puts enormous pressure on supply chains to innovate.
How can Toolplace help in the current situation?
Since TOOLPLACE’s mission is to close the existing gap between toolmakers and plastics processors, TOOLPLACE’s first step is to help these two parties and can create a classic win-win situation, since TOOLPLACE actively canvasses in the direction of both plastics processors and toolmakers:
TOOLPLACE helps plastics processors win more projects and become even more profitable.
Thanks to the pre-qualified pool of toolmakers, TOOLPLACE can directly suggest additional, technically suitable suppliers to the plastics processors, which means that the technological and economic targets of the end customers can be met. This increases the chance of winning new projects.
In addition, the platform’s functionality will automate various manual steps, such as bid comparison, which will enable a significant reduction in the tool procurement process. This can improve the cost-effectiveness of the purchasing process.
TOOLPLACE helps toolmakers by enabling them to acquire new customers without having to be active in sales themselves.
The matching algorithm of TOOLPLACE automatically assigns requests to the toolmakers that directly match their stored competence profile. Thus, no additional effort for sales and marketing is necessary anymore.
How do you generally rate the world of online manufacturers like InstaWerk or the platform business like you do at Toolplace?
I see the world of “online manufacturers” and/or the platform business in general as a very useful model for a wide range of industries. Classically, it’s the customers and the smaller suppliers who benefit the most, as they become more visible to each other and can network better as a result.
I think this is a smart way of combining digital and analog sales. The digital channel is used to initiate contact and then analog contact between people is still allowed if the business model allows it, such as with TOOLPLACE. This means that it is also possible to use these functionalities for products that require explanation.