Reed, Romi unite to make machines

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BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA (April 6, 11:25 a.m. EDT) — Reed-Prentice Ltd. plans to re-enter the market for horizontal-clamp injection molding machines with the help of an old friend from Brazil — Indústrias Romi SA, according to officials of both companies.

The first Brazilian-made Reed will be on display at NPE 2000, a 330-ton toggle machine. Under the agreement, Reed becomes the exclusive distributor of the press in the United States and Canada. Reed also will sell the machines in northern Mexico, including the maquiladora region, under a nonexclusive deal.

Romi, the largest injection press maker in Latin America, will build machines for Reed at its manufacturing operations in Santa Barbara d'Oeste, Brazil. Nearly 30 years ago, in 1972, it was Reed, then a major U.S. press maker, that licensed its technology to Romi, helping to set up the Brazilian maker of metalworking machines in the plastics equipment business.

Reed once was the dominant U.S. machine maker. But in 1990, the company closed its factory in Massachusetts after more than 50 years as an injection press manufacturer. Reed was an old-line U.S. company cut down by a decade of fierce import pressure from low-priced Japanese presses.

In Brazil, Romi pressed on, using its own engineers to keep upgrading the machines.

"The machine is precisely, in the year 2000, what a Reed would be if Reed had continued building them through the 1990s. It's an evolution," said Ted Newsome, vice president of Reed-Prentice in West Springfield, Mass.

Exhibiting at Argenplas 2000, held April 3-8 in in Buenos Aires, Romi officials barely could contain their excitement.

"They have the name; they have the market," said Giordano Romi Jr., director of marketing and sales for injection molding machines. "We have the expertise, we have the engineering, we have the cost-effective organization and we can build a high-quality machine at a competitive price."

Romi long has been a major Brazilian exporter of machine tools to more than 60 countries, including the United States and Europe. But it has shied away from shipping injection presses to the United States because it would mean competing with established brand names, he said.

The Reed-Romi machine at NPE will mark the first Romi injection press to hit U.S. shores, he said. Romi claims to have produced about 4,000 of the machines since 1972, sold to Latin America. Romi licensed everything from Reed — from the drawings to the method of machining parts all the way down to the factory layout.

Today, Romi employs a total of 2,000 people — 140 of them are engineers — at its seven-plant complex. Giordano Romi said the company generates about $200 million in sales from machine tools such as computer numerically controlled lathes and turning and machining centers, and from plastic injection molding machines with clamping forces up to 2,200 tons.

Large parts on the presses come from castings made at Romi's own foundry, one of the largest in Brazil.

For Reed, the partnership with Romi continues its comeback, led by new owners — including Katherine E. Putnam, the great-granddaughter of the founder of Package Machinery Co., which bought Reed in 1951. Package Machinery made some 11,000 Reeds from 1951 through 1990.

In Buenos Aires, Giordano Romi waxed poetic about the brand: "It's like a legend, like a Rolls Royce. Reed had the reputation as the Cadillac of injection molding machines."

Two years ago, Reed introduced a vertical-clamp press for insert molding, under the Duplimatic brand name. Jon Wai Machinery Works Co. Ltd. of Taiwan supplies the machine base to Reed's plant in West Springfield, where technicians do final assembly. Newsome said that agreement will continue for vertical machines.

Back in 1972, it was Katherine Putnam's uncle, Roger Putnam, who initiated the contact with Romi. This time around, Romi contacted Reed, through an e-mail to Reed's Web site — after Reed had unsuccessfully searched the globe for a year and a half, visiting potential partners in Europe and Asia.

For Romi, North America represents a key export market. Over the past few years, Giordano Romi said, the company's strategy has been to reduce costs by boosting production to 400 machines annually, up from 260-300 presses.

Romi invested $15 million to develop two machines for export outside of Latin America — the Primax-R series for making technical parts and the Velox high-speed machine for molding packaging.

The Brazilian-made machine that Reed will show at NPE will be called a TR press, which stands for toggle Reed-Romi. Newsome said Romi should begin shipping the machines to Massachusetts after NPE, for delivery starting in July.

"The machines that are coming here will be particularly tailored for the U.S. market," Newsome said. Machine guarding will comply with current standards of ANSI and the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. Platens will have a full number of holes for part-knockout pins. Smaller-tonnage machines will use Rexroth pumps and valves; Vickers components will come on larger machines. More information on the machine controller will be released at NPE.

The Brazilians can't wait.

"Now we are ready to conquer new markets," Giordano Romi said. "We have the capacity. We have the markets. At the same time, we learned that Reed-Prentice was back on its feet."