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Auto Tooling Industry Improves, Still Faces Challenges

Bill Koenig
By Bill Koenig Senior Editor, SME Media

The automotive tool and die industry improved financially in 2021 while continuing to face supply chain and employment challenges, a consulting firm said.

Harbour Results Inc. said tooling companies saw year-over-year revenue increases of 10 percent in 2021. Both mold and die shops saw utilization rates of 81 percent to 89 percent last year.

The Southfield, Mich.-based firm said 2022 got off to a slower start. However, Harbour said it expects utilization to reach 90 percent for mold shops and 82 percent for die operations by the fourth quarter of this year.

“I’m very bullish for the toolmakers,” Laurie Harbour, president and CEO of Harbour Results, said in an interview.

Automakers, the customers for tool and die makers, are “printing money, they’re not going to cut vehicle programs,” she said.

Automakers have had to cut production because of a global shortage of computer chips. That has enabled those companies to boost vehicle prices and reduce customer incentives.

At the same time, tool and die makers are confronting supply chain problems and employment issues. For example, Harbour said, there are often problems with supply of steel and resins. Also, the workforce for making tools and dies is aging.

“The need to be flexible is more important than ever before,” Harbour said. “Every day is a different day.”

Harbour Results forecasts the North American automotive tooling market to be $7 billion this year, up from $5.4 billion in 2021.

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