Toolmakers Set New Program for Success

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Twenty-one years ago the Rietsma brothers, Tim and Mike, started a mold-and-die shop in Zeeland, Michigan, aiming to contribute to the long tradition of toolmaking. But machine tool technology and the toolmaking profession have changed dramatically since then, and with the changes have come new ways of doing things. The changes have challenged their business and their ideals. Qualified toolmakers have become scarce, and though the standards of the trade have always been maintained by developing skilled and well-rounded toolmakers, trade schools were preparing candidates for jobs in basic machine operation. Recently, Tim Rietsma observed, “When we started our company, I had 15 years of experience building molds and my brother had 20 years’ experience building stamping dies. The toolmaker that we had in the 1990s, I don’t think we’ll ever see that type of person again.”

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