by Brittany Willes, contributing writer
The American Mold Builder

With more than 50 years of experience as a moldmaker, Joseph Genc, Jr. has acquired a wealth of moldmaking and general business knowledge. In fact, it is one of the first things people notice about him – quickly followed by his generosity when it comes to sharing that knowledge. As noted by longtime colleague Don Smith, president and general manager of Graphic Tool Corporation, “I first had the opportunity to work with Joe in the late 1980s, and his dedication to our industry was immediately apparent.”

Smith remembered that he was “greatly surprised with the quantity of moldmaking and general business knowledge Joe had acquired during his career. He seemed to have a solution – or, at least, a potential solution – to just about every situation. More importantly, I was impressed with his enthusiasm for sharing that knowledge with his professional peers.”

According to Smith, Genc’s capacity for sharing is a rarity in the business, given that most manufacturers are more likely to want to keep their competitive advantages to themselves. By contrast, “Joe sees this as our opportunity to grow our industry,” Smith explained.

Genc’s devotion to growing the industry and his passion for helping to mold the next generation of manufacturers made him a natural choice to receive the AMBA Mold Builder of the Year award, presented by Progressive Components during the 2017 AMBA Annual Conference. Earmarked for active members of the AMBA, the Mold Builder of the Year is designed to recognize those who serve as outstanding business leaders dedicated to the industry.

Genc began his career in the late 1960s when, shortly after high school, he went to work for his father’s business – Actron Tool Company. According to Genc’s son, Bill Genc, “My father became the moldmaker he is in part from my grandfather, Joe Genc Sr., and because of his love of manufacturing and his thirst for knowledge in his field.”

Genc would transfer his love of manufacturing and the desire to learn and find solutions to complex problems to his own son. When Bill Genc graduated high school, he admitted he was “a bit lost.” At his father’s suggestion, he joined Actron, spending many months and enormous amounts of time learning the ins and outs of the various machines in the shop. “It was like someone turned on a fountain and I couldn’t get enough,” he said. “I spent time working with everyone and anyone I could pull knowledge from. I was addicted.”

However, it wasn’t just the machines he found inspiring. “My father was such an excellent teacher,” Bill said. “He’s not the kind of teacher that automatically gives you the answers either. I always had ideas that I wanted to try – different ways of machining something or using a fixture in a crazy way. In many cases, I crashed and burned. My dad would always check what I was doing and make sure I was being safe. Beyond that, he really empowered me to experiment and learn on my own, but always with that gentle guidance.”

Genc’s brand of encouragement and guidance would serve him, and the industry, well for decades. For instance, he has spent more than 20 years teaching moldmaking theory for the Technology & Manufacturing Association (TMA). According to Patrick Osborne, vice president of training and education, “Joe’s teaching style and classroom management techniques are second to none. Students leave his year-long class armed with a massive binder of valuable content, as well as the confidence needed to succeed in the mold building industry.”

In addition to his work with TMA, Genc also worked to create the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) standards for moldmaking. This required a two-year commitment from participants and brought together shops from all over the country. Along with Smith, Genc served as a representative of TMA for the duration of the project.

“Once again, Joe’s strong desire to share his knowledge about our profession came to the forefront,” said Smith. “He led discussions based upon his experiences in the workshop, along with his teaching methodologies.” Due in large part to Genc’s wisdom, the NIMS standards remain in place today. In fact, they are being considered for incorporation into TMA’s moldmaking curriculum.

When Actron Tool was sold in the late ’90s, Genc took his passion and knowledge to PM Mold in Schaumburg, Illinois. He stayed with PM for 10 years and, during that time, he continued to cement his reputation as a man of passion and dedication. “Joe was probably the most dedicated employee that we have ever had,” remarked President Larry Hauck. “He took on every task given to him and seemed to enjoy each project more than the previous one. He had a great relationship with the employees of PM, all of whom respected his experience and knowledge. He is a great asset to the industry.”

In 2009, Genc moved from PM Mold to Rexam Mold Manufacturing, Buffalo Grove, Illinois. At Rexam, he worked as a technical assistant alongside Don Smith, who worked as a global tooling engineering manager. Genc’s ability to research and uncover solutions for global tooling issues allowed the business to solve major problems while satisfying customers.

“Once Joe has direction, he becomes fully engaged to find the accurate results,” Smith stated. “His determination to find the solution is inspiring. I had the utmost confidence that he would not stop until he found the best solution to any problem. He became my ‘go-to’ person.” Genc performed the role so well he eventually became a global tooling engineer in his own right.

Along with his responsibilities at Rexam and teaching TMA Moldmaking classes, Genc still found time to structure the apprentice training program at Rexam when the opportunity presented itself. He continued to manage the program after Rexam was purchased by Berry Plastics and then sold to Flextronics.

In 2016, Genc left Flextronics to again join Don Smith – who had left Rexam a few years earlier – at Graphic Tool Corporation in Itasca, Illinois. “I needed experienced help with quoting and program management as we strive to build a global business, and Joe fits that role perfectly,” said Smith.

To complement his devotion to teaching the TMA course and apprentice training programs for individual businesses, Genc has been an active member of the Chicago chapter of AMBA for several years. Naturally, he brings his enthusiasm for the pursuit of knowledge and sharing to the AMBA. Heavily involved in the Chicago Chapter Education Steering Committee, Genc uses his experiences as an instructor to direct the committee as to what students of mold manufacturing currently need and will need going forward.

“He preaches that as technology changes so will the way we teach it, and we best be prepared,” affirmed Francine Petrucci, president of B A Die Mold, Inc. “Joe really went above and beyond when he approached his employer and gained their approval to share his teaching syllabus and materials – not just with our committee, but with any interested teachers.”

According to Petrucci, Genc’s impact on moldmaking apprentices is unparalleled. “Chances are that if you have an apprentice in the Chicago area, he is learning from Joe,” she stated. A man of infinite passion, Genc also is a man of infinite patience, Petrucci noted. He is never too busy to spend extra time with a struggling student. As a result, “his students gain practical, real life knowledge from a man who is excited to be passing it along – not just someone who may only be in it for the extra pay.” In an industry where the more senior employees on the floor may not be as inclined to give the younger guy an advantage, Genc is more than happy to guide an apprentice toward success.

“Joe’s passion is infectious!” said Petrucci. “With more than 50 years of experience, admirable work ethic, great attitude and constant drive to pass along our profession to the next generation, Joe is not a bystander in this awesome career we all know and love.” According to Petrucci, in the 20-plus years she has known him, Genc has never stopped serving the industry. “He still is teaching our youth to be the best mold manufacturers and craftsmen that they can be. He still is thinking and dreaming large and embracing new technology. He keeps our education committee/chapter on its toes and pushes us to develop two-, three- and five-year plans for training and education. He is our Chicago Chapter Renaissance man, and we are lucky to have him!”

“Education, for me, has been a path to knowledge,” Genc affirmed during his acceptance speech. “Too many of us think of the word ‘education’ as a substitute for ‘college.’ It’s not. The word education is simply an application, referring to our own paths of knowledge. I have had the privilege to have met some of the finest minds in moldmaking, and they have convinced me that knowledge can be gained in many wonderful ways – for instance, through apprenticeship programs and through one’s own passion for what you do. It’s an amazing thing we do. We don’t just build molds; we put our hearts into it.

“It has been truly amazing to be recognized by the National AMBA for this great honor,” Genc continued. “Since this association represents a very large portion of the finest mold companies and moldmaking professionals in the United States, it means that I have been recognized by a peer group that I greatly admire and esteem. I feel that there are many fine men and women in our industry who are even more deserving of this honor than I am. I hope that I can continue to be of service to AMBA and to this profession as I continue to contribute to the education and mentoring of our future professional moldmakers.”