Cindy Crouse has spent decades working in the diecutting industry. Currently, she serves as the CEO of the International Association of Diecutting and Diemaking (IADD) providing executive management, substantive guidance, support and direction to the IADD leadership. Having grown up in the industry, Crouse brings many years of experience and insight to the world of dies, assisting in identifying substantive issues and stimulating and encouraging projects and activities that benefit IADD members and the industry as a whole.
What drew you to the industry as a career?
I grew up knowing about the converting industry because my father was a diemaker for 50 years and was a member of the IADD since its inception in 1972. My brothers and I were those odd kids who deconstructed the boxes our presents came in and inspected the diecutting, foil stamping and embossing on our birthday cards. But, as I progressed through the workforce, I ultimately became an association manager for two different legal organizations.
One day, in 1995, my two worlds collided – the IADD needed a CEO, and the search committee mistook a letter I had written to my dad about options for finding one as my application for the position. It dawned on me that it would be a privilege to be associated with the decent and hard-working people of this industry. What continues to attract me is that our industry impacts and improves so many facets of our everyday lives.
What important changes have you witnessed in the industry during your time with IADD?
Advanced automation of industry processes has been a key change in the past 20 years. Simple lasers, CAD and automatic bending and routing systems became much more sophisticated, while presses simultaneously got smaller and grew in size/speed. Similar to the printing industry, affordable technology fueled a perception away from “distinctive craft” and a shift to “self-make,” blurring the lines between supplier and customer. The latest disruptive technologies, such as digital (dieless) cutting, robotics and 3D printing (additive manufacturing), pose similar challenges and opportunities.
The increased number of mergers and acquisitions has changed the market landscape and balance of power, as the number of individual players decreases and certain companies become powerhouses able to insist on lower prices from their suppliers. In response, we’re seeing a greater number of strategic alliances forming between smaller companies who wish to capitalize on leveraging their strengths to better serve customers.
Other changes include the decrease in job run sizes, commoditization of products and the erosion of customer loyalty, all of which negatively impact profitability.
What will be the biggest challenges faced by those in the industry in the next few years? How will IADD continue to advocate and provide services for those individuals?
Attracting, developing and retaining enough people with the skills and talents to keep growing their businesses and ensuring their company’s success will be huge challenges. Fueled in part by the retirement of the baby boomer generation, expected economic expansion, the decline of technical education programs and a negative image of manufacturing among younger generations, this skills gap needs to be addressed by many different stakeholders.
IADD hopes to assist members by participating in a number of carefully chosen programs – such as alliances with technical schools, apprenticeship programs and career fairs – while also building online training courses and introductions to the industry to improve the overall image of our type of manufacturing.
Small and mid-sized companies have been the lifeblood of our industry, but many are worried that they can’t compete with global companies with greater financial and other resources. IADD will continue to educate its members about operational efficiencies, affordable technologies and better informational management systems, as well as promote the value of strategic alliances and provide opportunities for networking.
What trends do you see for the industry in the next few years?
Fueled by online sales, we’ve become accustomed to purchasing products on demand, with items delivered almost instantly to our doors. This purchasing style has raised our delivery expectations and has begun migrating toward all businesses. This may lead more of our industry companies to develop products closer to where they will be sold, either by opening smaller regional plants and shops or by partnering with companies in strategic geographic locations.
More of our members will embrace the use of advanced analytical software to improve their decision-making, streamline their day-to-day plant operations and to identify business opportunities. With mobile apps providing access to data on the go, managers will react in real time, and the more predictive software will help them create new competitive advantages and better meet customer needs.
How will the IADD continue to serve and influence the industry?
IADD realizes that we live in quickly changing, disruptive and challenging times, and the only way to serve and influence the industry is to gather, analyze, distill and communicate useful knowledge that impacts our members. We will continue to work to help them understand how to apply this information and new technologies to their own operations. We will continue to provide them with opportunities to meet influential industry experts and to form relationships and alliances to maximize their success.