Toothbrush manufacturing seems like an odd platform on which to build a global automation business that includes a significant two-component mold design and production component.
But that’s exactly what a family-owned company called ZAHORANSKY in the Black Forest has done. In 1902, Anton Zahoransky started to make the first machines for automating the brush making process in a small garage in Todtnau, Germany. You can see a photo of the garage in a corporate video posted on YouTube.
Machinery made by the company is said to produce half of the toothbrushes used worldwide. In 1964, ZAHORANSKY Formenbau was formed to produce injection molds and in 1988, the company developed the first two-component mold for toothbrush handles. Since then, the company says it has shipped more than 1,000 multicomponent molds and two years ago installed its 200 mold makers in a larger plant in Freiberg, Germany. It has three other moldbuilding locations.
Its innovations include molds with integrated functionality, rotating cores and plates, and even a mold with a chain drive.
One interesting recently announced innovation is a platform mold that allows easy changes.
Each master mold is structured in individually centered blocks with four cavities per block. The inserts are slide-mounted on the master mold in axial direction for different injection points. The mold inserts are top-mounted and include a complete ejector package. It allows for building new exchangeable inserts that match new products, without having to return the mold for adjustments. When changing to a new product, production is only briefly interrupted.
ZAHORANSKY, of course, has operations in China because that’s the fastest growing area of the world. But its old world tool makers in the Black Forest can rest comfortably at night knowing their craft has a future.
And the reason why is a big difference between Germany and America. German companies like ZAHORANSKY made a big commitment to employee training. Trainees consist of fully 10% of the current workforce at ZAHORANSKY. It helps that ZAHORANSKY is a family company and does not have to report to ravenous Wall Street investors. Up the road in Lossburg, Arburg has a similar family tradition and commitment to quality and craftsmanship.
A recent press release from ZAHORANSKY shows the mentality I’m talking about.
The company developed a disposable toothbrush with a handle molded from a bioplastic (such as PLA or PHA) reinforced with a cardboard type of material. These kinds of announcements are becoming commonplace, but what’s interesting is that one of the research partners was West Saxony High School Zwickau. A high school! High schools in the United States are trying to escape the burdens of meeting minimal math and reading achievement standards.
The Black Forest approach is a different mindset. We can do it too.