Building on a rich heritage: Francine Petrucci of B A Die Mold
If there’s anything close to a Technology & Manufacturing Association royal lineage, it would be found in B A Die Mold Inc.’s Petrucci Family.
The TMA bloodline starts today with Francine Petrucci, goes back through her father Alan Petrucci to Alan’s uncles, who helped found the Tool & Die Institute in 1925.
Francine’s father, now 78, started B A Die Mold in 1968. Alan says he was “talked into starting the business” by a co-worker and eventual business partner.
“I didn’t have the money to buy machinery, but he did,” Alan said. The two bought a couple of used machines and rented a spot in a molding company where they stayed until they were financially able to move to a bigger location.
Alan Petrucci’s father, Henry Petrucci (or “Ozzie”), started his own shop, Mir-O-Brite Mold Polishing, as a mold polisher, and encouraged his son to learn mold making.
Alan’s grandfather, John Bachner, started the highly successful company, Chicago Molded Products. When he passed away suddenly at age 36, John Bachner’s brothers migrated from Canada to assume leadership over Chicago Molded Products.
Those Bachner brothers – Edward, Louis and Morey – built Chicago Molded Products to be one of the world’s largest custom molders and were integral in establishing the Tool & Die Institute (now the Technology & Manufacturing Association).
Building On A Rich Manufacturing Heritage
Francine, one of Alan Petrucci’s three children, says she was fortunate to have an early introduction to manufacturing and as a child was captivated by it.
“I really liked it – the smells, the sights, the thought of people rolling up their sleeves and getting into it,” Francine told TMA News Bulletin. “When I was 7 or 8, my dad was always working. He started a molding company, and he’d come home from one job and we’d all go to Broadview to help with getting his new company off the ground.”
With an older sister, Cynthia, who helped in the shop, Francine and her brother Michael, played on the shop floor.
“I learned to love the smell of thermoset plastic. That’s the smell that brings good memories of childhood – not warm chocolate chip cookies baking like others remember,” she said.
Being in a family with a small business made a stark impression on Francine, she says. “We were making something together as a family,” and that, she knew, was unique.
Francine studied business and engineering at Northern Illinois University, and worked as much as possible at the shop while going to school.
“I’ve done it all,” Francine said. “I’ve cleaned bathrooms. I did paperwork. I got to know the customers and asked questions. At that time, most of our customers were fairly close by and they were loyal, so I’d get to know them pretty well.”
When Francine finished her education to work fulltime at B A Die Mold in 1994, American mold making was at historically high levels. Business was good. The future was bright.
However, it wasn’t too long before US manufacturers faced federal trade policies that swept away one longtime customer after another. All the repercussions hit American manufacturing just as B A Die Mold Inc.’s landlord sold the building they had leased for years, forcing the Petruccis to invest in building a larger facility.
The timing couldn’t have been more challenging.
“Those were really tough years for the plastics industry. Customers flocked overseas. There were some Chinese manufacturer quotes that made it clear we couldn’t buy the steel to make molds for what the Chinese were selling molds for,” she said. “So, we had to try to set ourselves apart from others. B A Die Mold was good at unscrewing and mold making, so we started focusing on building molds for threaded parts.”
Their team’s expertise allowed B A Die Mold to be awarded the patent for PERC™, which stands for Programmable Electric Rotating Core. It is a compact, high speed, high torque and high precision system utilizing programmable servo motors in place of hydraulics for unscrewing
applications. Leading product designers and OEMs use the system designed by Alan Petrucci for its many advantages versus conventional hydraulic unscrewing systems.
U.S. Manufacturing’s Bright Future
Francine is seeing indications that Americans are waking up to the importance of manufacturing for the country’s economic health and the promising careers awaiting the next generation in manufacturing.
“I’m optimistic about five years down the road for B A,” she
said. “There has been enough talk about manufacturing and the trades to make people at least think about how imbalanced things are when it comes to China. Maybe the larger OEMs are thinking about bringing the work back here. If the prices are close to those coming from China, more and more are
going to stay here and that will benefit our industry.”
In light of those industry changes – along with the high cost of college degrees – the importance of manufacturing careers is beginning to
rebound. With more awareness of things being made in America, more
parents will encourage their kids to consider the trades, she surmised.
“At least now U.S. schools have STEM and STEAM classes where making
things is appreciated. That creates a little bridge to our world and is working to our industry’s advantage,” she said.
“Young people like to feel like they’re part of something, and making a
difference,” she said. “The plastics industry does make a difference. We make medical devices, filtration devices for clean water, and parts for cars that keep us safe. That’s good for all of us.”
B A Die Mold is located at 3685 Prairie Lake Court in Aurora, Illinois. For more information, go to: www.badiemold.com
From TMA’s September/October 2019 News Bulletin . By Fran Eaton. Used by permission.