Created in the Corridor: MSI Mold Builders
Governor Kim Reynolds is praising the state legislature for passing the Future Ready Iowa Act, legislation to help Iowans learn high-demand skills beyond high school. And that doesn’t necessarily mean a four-year degree with mounds of student loan debt. Fact is, the future is happening right now at a company that broke the mold on career opportunities Created in the Corridor.
“We can’t even buy (a machine) this size here in America,” said Dale Larsen, Human Resources Director at MSI Mold Builders, as he described one of the largest tool machines on the company’s factory floor. “We had to go to Italy to find this and ship it over.”
This is not your grandfather’s factory. Clean and computer-driven, Cedar Rapids-based MSI has a workforce trained in critical thinking and decision making. “Our employees are college capable but not college focused,” said President and CEO, Roger Klouda. “Everything we do is high-tech. It’s programming, it’s running million dollar-plus machines. It takes a very intelligent person to do what it is that we do.”
What they do is design and build custom, precision molds for customers in the computer, sporting goods, transportation, lawn and garden and medical diagnostics industries.
“Everything we do is one-of-a-kind. It’s custom manufacturing. We never do the same thing twice.”
Klouda’s father founded MSI Mold Builders in Swisher 47 years ago with innovation part of the company’s DNA.
“Our customers really come to us to solve problems more than anything,” explained Director of Sales, Toby Bral. “We’ve been around long enough (and have) a lot of expertise. The challenging part is kind of our niche.”
And to stay competitive, they have to be fast which means employing lean manufacturing processes. Up until just three months ago, operators programmed their own machines to build their molds. Now, MSI has seven programmers who design the workflow for the entire factory. “That’s allowed the operators, rather than run one machine, run anywhere from two to three to four machines at a time,” explained Larsen.
MSI’s biggest challenge? Properly developing employees in CNC, Advanced Manufacturing, CAD Design and Tool Making skills. So they created an internship program for high school seniors who then attend a two-year program at Kirkwood Community College.
“As long as they maintain a “B” or above in their classes and attend at least 90-percent of their classes and work for us 15 hours a week minimum, we’re going to pay 100-percent of their tuition,” Larsen said.
That includes fees and books. So that’s zero student debt with a starting annual salary of between $40,000 and $50,000 dollars. That’s a pretty good head start with a Corridor company that competes with China and Canada and generates up to $20M a year.
“We have an amazing workforce,” said Klouda proudly. “We run 24 hours a day, 5 days, 6 days, 7 days depending on what the load is. And these folks are incredible. They make it happen every day.”
MSI also has a plant in South Carolina and you can learn a lot more about the company by clicking HERE.