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The War on Inertia


Injection Molding Magazine
April 2005

The Hommer family has refused to roll over in hard times, choosing instead to pursue growth strategies through product development and process reinvention.

J.R. Hommer, VP of Hommer Tool, has revised the company's marketing strategy to promote growth, which includes a focus on increasing productivity. Here he shows us the efficiency of one of the company's CNC machines.

Instability in its markets and customer base might spell bad news for some companies, but Hommer Tool & Mfg. Inc. (Arlington Heights, IL) has made instability its strategy for longterm stability and growth. Recognizing that nothing stays the same for long, this maker of custom round mold components has remade itself over the past 20 years to meet changing market and customer needs.

Founded in 1983 by moldmaker Jim Hommer, the company began specializing in custom-made, round mold components, something Hommer figured might give him an edge (see "Moldmaking Specialist Exploits Niche," May 2001 IMM, p. 76). Hommer Tool now produces all the round components found in a mold, including ejector sleeves, unwinding cores, cavities, cores, strippers, and even complete stackups composed of all the preceding components.

In 1999, Hommer hired a marketing specialist to develop a growth strategy that included a marketing plan. This plan provided the company with a course of action that included aggressively pursuing new customers in new markets with the same products sold to current customers. That strategy worked well for the first four years, but changes in the molding and moldmaking industry–including a downturn in the economy and increased competitive pressure from offshore sources–meant that Hommer Tool had to change its strategy as well.

Hommer Tool broke ground in September on a 21,000-sq-ft expansion. J.R. says planning is under way for filling the space with productive capital equipment.

J.R. Hommer, vice president of Hommer Tool and also Jim's son, began revising the marketing strategy to promote new growth. Seeing that domestic business with his company's current product mix was expected to decline steadily with no reversal in sight, Hommer began to look for another domestic strategy that could jump-start revenues fairly quickly while providing a foundation for longterm growth. J.R. found such a tactic in product development. This called for Hommer either to improve its products or to develop new ones for its current markets. J.R. decided to do both.

To improve his products, J.R. analyzes life cycles. "What is unique about this analysis is that we look at the life cycles of machining processes, not products," he says. "We look to reinvent processes in order to increase manufacturing productivity. The life of a process should be between one and a half and three years long in order to maintain this edge in manufacturing efficiency."

In other words, it's certain death to get stuck using the same processes for many years without examining them for possible improvement. Hommer reviewed its machining process and discovered that, even when it reduced the number of CNC lathes from six to four, with a corresponding 30% reduction in spindles, it still doubled the amount of work going through that department, thanks to improved efficiencies.


The company built itself on the success of round tooling components, and has reinvented itself over the years as market needs have shifted. It recently acquired the assets and customers of moldmaker Romar Mold, which added rectangular cavities and cores to its stable.

Now, Hommer Tool has added more manufacturing capabilities with the purchase of the assets and ongoing business concerns of Romar Mold, an Arlington Heights, IL mold manufacturing company. The acquisition gives Hommer EDM capabilities to manufacture rectangular cavities and cores, and to add new products for its customers.

This expanded array of products and capabilities means that customers can have all their manufacturing needs met at Hommer, for round and rectangular molds. Additionally, Hommer added an engineering staff that works with customers in need of product design assistance.

In September, the company broke ground for an addition that will double the size of its production floor to 21,000 sq ft. "We're already looking ahead as to how we will fill these additional square feet with productive capital equipment," J.R. Hommer says.

"Any company in this business can't stand still and expect to expand and grow its markets," he notes. "We have a proactive management team that is continually looking at itself critically with the objective of shaking things up in order to both serve our current customers better and win new ones."–Clare Goldsberry

Contact information
Hommer Tool & Mfg. Inc.
Arlington Heights, IL
J.R. Hommer
(847) 394-3355

Reprinted from Injection Molding, April 2005
Copyright © 2005 Canon Communications LLC

For more information contact Susan Menn (Marketing Manager) at Hommer Tool & Manufacturing, Inc. (Arlington Heights) at 847-394-3355.

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