Westminster Tool President, Ray Coombs, is the proud recipient of the AMBA Mold Builder of the Year award, a prestigious recognition of achievements made by an individual who has gone above and beyond for their company, industry, and community. (Photo Courtesy of Creative Technology Corp.)
We are honored to announce that our very own founder and president, Ray Coombs, is the proud recipient of the American Mold Builders Association 2021 Mold Builder of the Year Award. This award, sponsored by Progressive Components, includes a $5,000 scholarship grant to be given to an industry-related educational program of the recipient’s choice. After a year of extreme uncertainty, Ray Coombs is honored to be recognized by one of the industry’s most prestigious awards.
This lifetime achievement award recognizes an individual who goes above and beyond not only for their business but makes major strides for the moldmaking industry as a whole. Nominations consider that individual’s contributions to community outreach, technical education, talent development and advocacy for the advancement of the moldmaking industry.
After our company earned the title of Trailblazer of the Year in 2017, one of AMBA’s highest honors presented to a company that has made outstanding contributions to moldmaking education, Westminster Tool had reached a peak point in its cultural transformation. What happened over the years since is a continuation of that mission: to help people recognize and reach their greatest potential.
Ray Coombs worked tirelessly over the years to secure $20 million in funding for the first ever Manufacturing Pipeline Initiative in Connecticut, a program dedicated to educating, training and placing graduates who are entirely new to the manufacturing industry. Working alongside EAMA (Eastern Advanced Manufacturing Alliance) and EWIB (Eastern Workforce Investment Board), Coombs helped to develop the curriculum and develop several pipeline programs ranging from machine operation to plastics.
“We’re well known for our community outreach, but like a lot of companies, we’ve also had to improvise and change the way we connect with people,” he says. Without open houses, company tours, workshops and job fairs, we sought other digital and virtual ways to connect. This included launching a virtual company tour event and career overview campaign that used live video to showcase several of the meaningful career pathways we have to offer. Using video, we spotlighted several of its rising stars to talk personally about their own skills and career paths.
Community outreach also took a new direction as Coombs became inspired by the mission of NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “In today’s environment, more people than ever are struggling with mental health, so I wanted to do something about it,” he says. Coombs led the company to team up with EAMA to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month to collect donations and host its own NAMIWalks event. Together, the community raised over $10,000 in a single month.
Another avenue of improvement came with Coombs’ direction in advancing training opportunities within the company and specifically with the hard milling department. Building off of Westminster Tool’s equipment investment plan, we recently purchased a new 3-axis mill and a new continuous high-speed 5-axis mill, all with the main goal of reducing process bottlenecks and opening the door for technical training opportunities.
“Cross-training has always been a major part of our culture here, but we’ve gotten busier over time. And that’s a good thing,” Coombs says. “These new machines not only let us keep spindles running, but it’s been a game changer for training, giving our team more access to new technology for learning purposes.”
Industry leaders from around the country gathered in Grand Rapids, Michigan for the AMBA Conference where this year’s theme focused on “Connections Reimagined.” In addition to being one of the first in-person industry events held since the pandemics’ beginning, this theme also captured how much has changed since this group last met. Like many of the AMBA members present, the pandemic has changed how companies do business.
“This conference is usually an opportunity to learn about each other’s challenges, to network, and connect, and there was a lot of that this year,” Coombs says. “But my biggest takeaway this year was the solidarity in realizing that you’re not alone, that everyone is dealing with the same problems. Rapidly changing rules and regulations, working from home, the sense of urgency with manufacturing medical products. We all experienced that and had to overcome it.”
As we look to the future, Westminster Tool continues to incorporate lessons learned from the last year: lessons on how to connect with the community, how to foster transparency and trust, and how to adapt quickly to the industry’s most unpredictable obstacles.
Winner of the Mold Builder of the Year Award, Ray Coombs, joins Amanda Wiriya from Wepco, recipient of this year’s Trailblazer of the Year Award and Progressive Components, sponsors of the AMBA awards ceremony. (Photo Courtesy of Creative Technology Corp.)