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Keywords of this article:  injection molding 
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The booth of Arburg at Fakuma 2018.
The booth of Arburg at Fakuma 2018.

According to the latest sales performance reported by leading injection molding machine (IMM) manufacturers at Fakuma 2018, the IMM market is in an upswing trend. Despite positive results on the cards, these manufacturers are cautiously optimistic about further growth due to uncertainty from trade policy, and target to boost business with development strategies and organizational restructures.

Arburg stays on the track of high growth

In 2018, Arburg has still continued to chart a course based on high growth, as the result of incoming order levels is satisfactory. In the first half of 2018, the value of incoming orders on books for machines and peripherals was more than 10% higher than in the previous year.

Overall, Arburg expects good levels of sales revenue for the rest of this year, and anticipates another very pleasing further increase in group sales revenues in 2018. In 2017, the company recorded sales revenues of €698 million.

Germany still remains as Arburg’s largest market, exceeding defined targets. The trend in this market still consistently favours technologically challenging turnkey solutions. The situation of whole of Europe is also consistently positive, and the company has managed to outperform the very good levels achieved in the previous year.

At present, a recent sharp upturn in the fortunes of the ASEAN countries and a Chinese market at a good level are the defining features of the Asian markets. For America, the region is growing in overall terms.

Electrical machines contributed in large measure to the success in 2018, with an significant increase of 18%. “Electrical machines are therefore set to increase again in 2018, in terms of their proportion of sales and of their significance! Moreover, this is being accomplished despite the massive rise already recorded last year,” said Jürgen Boll, Managing Director Finance, Controlling and IT, at the press conference held during Fakuma 2018.

According to the company, demand has been good for the hybrid machines that combine electrical speed and precision at the closing end with hydraulic power and dynamic characteristics at the injection end. “These remain an important cornerstone for many customer-specific, high-performance system solutions right around the world,” remarked Jürgen Boll.

There has been a disproportionate rise in the value of incoming orders for the big Allrounders from size 630, that is, from a clamping force of 2,500 kN. Accounting for 25% of sales, they have made a very important contribution to the high growth rates in the value of incoming orders.

In relation to “punitive tariffs” are emerging that could have an impact, Gerhard Böhm, Managing Director Sales, reported that uncertainties are beginning to come to light in certain markets. For example, a few projects and/or decisions about production locations are encountering slight delays, although none of which are time-critical in nature.

However, any ramifications have been very slight until now, not indicating any substantial changes on the business conducted in the company’s most important markets, he emphasized.

Right now, we are observing market developments with increased care and attention, and we are well prepared for any potential changes that may occur,” he added. “In 2019, the ASEAN countries could be the ones who benefit most from the prevailing tariff dispute, enabling them to remain on a growth course.”

ENGEL expects 6% increase in turnover

ENGEL is expected to experience further moderate growth for the current fiscal year, with Asia and German-speaking Europe continuing to evolve in a positive direction.

The company is expecting to close out the fiscal year 2018/2019 with a group turnover of around €1.6 billion at the end of March 2019, representing a 6% increase over the previous year.
 The booth of ENGEL at Fakuma 2018.
In the 2017/2018 fiscal year, ENGEL boosted its turnover world-wide by 11% to €1.51 billion. In the latest revenue breakdown, Europe accounts for 53%, while America currently amounts to 24% and Asia to 22%.

The revenue growth in Asia is by far the biggest in the ENGEL Group, and Asia is continuing to develop very dynamically,” reported Dr. Christoph Steger, CSO of ENGEL Holding, at Fakuma 2018. “Meanwhile, there has been no sign of a downturn in European exports. Alongside Asia, ENGEL reports further growth in the German-speaking nations of Europe, also known as the DACH countries.”

According to Dr. Christoph Steger, China is the strongest driver of growth in Asia, while the momentum of recent years has slowed somewhat in South East Asia. He also pinpointed that medical and packaging industries are driving the growth in Asia.

Both industries are subject to rising quality requirements, which are leading to increased demand for innovative technologies and demanding production solutions,” he explained.

Germany remains the market with the highest turnover and continues to be the main engine of innovation for ENGEL. The company has managed to increase its sales by 50% over the past five years.

On the other hand, the latest developments in North America are not as encouraging as buyers waited on negotiations for a new North American Free Trade Agreement. For ENGEL, following several years of strong growth, the region is below last year’s level, as of the end of fiscal year 2018/19’s second quarter.

In order to shorten the decision-making processes and intensifying the ongoing development of local expert know-how, ENGEL has consolidated its 30 subsidiaries and more than 60 representations worldwide into 7 regions.

A Regional Sales President was appointed to each region for the further development of its worldwide sales structure. They decide any sales-related matters locally and independently. This prevents any delays based on time-zone differences. The geographic and cultural proximity simplifies and speeds up the sales processes.

In technological terms, ENGEL is adopting simplicity-based strategy to improve the already very mature injection moulding process.

The improvements are aimed at performance, stability and availability, with our attention always focused on the systems’ user-friendliness,” highlighted Dr. Stefan Engleder, CEO of ENGEL Holding. “We make it simple for our customers!”

KraussMaffei’s listing procedure nearing completion

At the press conference during Fukama 2018, Dr. Frank Stieler, CEO of the KraussMaffei Group, unveiled that the planned listing on the Shanghai Stock Exchange is due to be approved this year.

As said, the Chinese authorities are currently reviewing the application from KraussMaffei's parent company China National Chemical Corporation.
Dr. Frank Stieler, CEO (right) and Nadine Despineux, President DSS of the KraussMaffei Group.
The listing process is going according to plan. We expect the China Securities Regulatory Commission to give the green light in the coming weeks,” mentioned Dr. Frank Stieler.

KraussMaffei Group echoed other leading injection molding machine manufacturers in anticipating a positive development for the current financial year. In the first three quarters, incoming orders amounted to €1.05 billion, corresponding to an increase of 2.5% compared with the same period in the previous year. Meanwhile, sales amounted to €973 million, representing an increase of 1.6%.

In order to expand its business model as well as digital services and products, KraussMaffei Group is repositioning itself. Under the name “Compass”, the Group has developed a two pillar strategy.

In addition to classic plastics machinery construction, this new strategy aims at intensifying and accelerating the development of digital services and products, as well as new business models.

To this end, the new Digital Service Solutions (DSS) business unit was established in July, and is expected to make a substantial contribution to the Group’s sales in the future. The new strategy is initially designed for a period of five years until 2023.

This means that in future we will not only sell our customers high-quality machines as usual, but also create added value around the machine. We want to provide our customers with excellent service around the globe and around the clock – and make them attractive offers,” explained Dr. Frank Stieler.

According to Nadine Despineux, President DSS, “Customer Care”, “Customer Value” and “Digital Solutions” make up the three strong pillars of DSS which was also on display at Fakuma.

The best example of Customer Care is the new e-service platform with new features, which can be accessed at any time, from any location. Customer Value includes new business models such as “Rent it – don't buy it” introduced in 2017, and the Gindumac platform for used machinery which KraussMaffei holds a stake.

Under the keyword of Digital Solutions, APC Plus could be viewed at the fairgrounds as well as the DataXplorer and AnalytiX tools and interfaces. Among them, AnalytiX is an evaluation tool for the customer to keep its machines in view, anytime and anywhere, and benefit from automated evaluations of processes and machine statuses.

In addition, KraussMaffei Group has recently launched the new Speed-to-Market program which ensures shortest delivery times of standard injection molding machines. This new European stock machine program includes machines of the CX, GX and PX series.

Sumitomo (SHI) Demag to focus on all-electric machines

Sumitomo (SHI) Demag expects its sales will increase to €289 million in 2018, a 10% gain when compared to last year. The main driving forces come from IntElect all-electric series and El-Exis SP hybrid series.
Gerd Liebig, CEO of Sumitomo (SHI) Demag Plastics Machinery GmbH.
As explained by Gerd Liebig, CEO of Sumitomo (SHI) Demag Plastics Machinery GmbH, the growth is the result of established business developments and strengthened customer service.

Sumitomo (SHI) Demag has been improving its strategic positioning in three ways, said Gerd Liebig. Firstly, the company has been positioning itself as the market leader in packaging sector with focus on thin-wall parts since last year. Secondly, it established BD Medical in this year. Lastly, it continues to maximize its manufacturing capability in all-electric injection molding machines.

Sumitomo (SHI) Demag has now built about 60,000 all-electric machines. Indeed, earlier this year, the company announced the consolidation of product portfolio with increased focus on all-electric machines, due to the increasing demand for all-electric machines and the continued reduction in price difference between hydraulic and all-electric machines.

From Fakuma 2018 on, the company’s investment in the clamp force range up to 1,200kN will shift entirely to the IntElect series.

At the same time, the company is shifting focus to hybrid drive technology for packaging machines and servo-hydraulic toggle technology for medium and large machines.

For fast applications, the El-Exis SP series with its clamp force range of 1,500-7,500kN rounds off the portfolio. For universal applications, the modular Systec Servo remains available for the clamp force range of 1,600-15,000kN.

In other words, the IntElect precision machine will be Sumitomo (SHI) Demag’s lead product in the future. In the clamp force range of 500-4,500kN, an exceptionally wide range of applications are offered.

To facilitate the growth, an extensive investment program has been launched at the company’s German locations. At Wiehe plant, a global competence center for electric injection molding machines, cutting-edge conveyor belt production lines have raised output by 30%. It is expected to optimize the entire production flow and increase annual manufacturing capacity to 1,000 all-electric machines. For Schwaig plant, capacity is almost doubled for platen processing by the end of the year thanks to its new processing centers.

In order to further improve customer satisfaction, Sumitomo (SHI) Demag has also launched the myConnect online service platform which opens up access to a full range of online services from the injection moulding machinery manufacturer.

Wittmann Group invests in MES startup

So far in this year, Wittmann Group's order income remains at a high level but a bit lower than last year by 5%. The company started the year extremely strong with a very big backlog, and the order income in August and September decreased. For the year of 2018, revenue is expected to increase by 6.7%, reaching €430 million.

Wittmann Group has planned production expansion at its Kottingbrunn site. For Wittmann Group, sales of robots and automation are at a very high level, while SmartPower, MicroPower and multi-component machines are selling good to very good, and auxiliary equipment varies (stand-alone very good, central systems weak).

When analyzing the geographical business outlook, Wittmann Kunststoffgeräte GmbH General Manager Michael Wittmann explained: “Europe in total is a bit lower, North/South America is higher than last year, and Asia has fallen back.”

At the press conference, Michael Wittmann also unveiled more details on the company’s recent investment in Italian manufacturing execution system (MES) startup ICE-Flex.

Wittmann Group did not simply acquire 100% ownership of ICE-Flex, as the company wanted the young Italian founders to continue to own their startup, mentioned Michael Wittmann. He did not disclose what percentage of an ownership stake the company acquired, but remarked that ICE-Flex sells MES to other companies, and not exclusive to Wittmann Group.

Wittmann Group has extended ICE-Flex’s MES software TEMI with Wittmann 4.0 specific functionalities, and rolled out the new TEMI+. As introduced, TEMI+ can support the injection molding machines and the auxiliary equipment around them.

For planned expansion of production facilities, Wittmann Group will build a fully automatic logistics center and an assembly hall for vertical and rotary table machines as well as special machines at its site in Kottingbrunn, Austria. Construction will start at 2020.

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