By: Bill Bregar
May 21, 2013
TORRINGTON, CONN. — Wittmann Battenfeld GmbH is investing $2.4 million on a 20,200-square-foot expansion in Torrington — as the Austrian machinery maker needs more space to house larger-tonnage injection molding machines and put together turnkey systems of presses, robots and auxiliaries at its main U.S. operation.
Wittmann Group General Manager Michael Wittmann visited Torrington on May 17 to meet with the builder and sign off on the project. It includes high-bay plant addition of 18,900 square feet, with a 34-foot ceilings and larger, 30-ton cranes. The ceiling is 25 feet high in the current main plant area, where technicians assemble Wittmann robots and prepare the company's auxiliary equipment for shipment.
The U.S. headquarters, Wittmann Battenfeld Inc., also wants to hire more people. Part of the expansion is additional office space, bigger customer training areas and a larger lunch room.
"All areas of our business have seen dramatic growth. We've never stopped hiring," said David Preusse, president of Wittmann Battenfeld Inc. Currently 125 people work in Torrington.
Wittmann Battenfeld has expanded its headquarters factory in Kottingbrunn, Austria, with a 17,200-square-foot addition to make injection presses as large as 1,600 metric tons, up from the previous high of 1,100 tonnes.
The Torrington addition will not house injection molding machines that big. But it will easily handle presses up to 850 metric tons, Preusse said. Larger presses will be shipped to U.S. customers directly from Austria.
"It's just uncommon for the industry to stock such a large machine," Preusse said in an interview in Torrington.
The goal is to have enough space to house as many as 45 injection molding machines in Torrington and another 15 machines in the Midwest tech center in Elgin, Ill., Preusse said.
More space and a higher ceiling will help improve efficient handling of presses in-stock, since the crane can lift a smaller machine and carry it over the other equipment to the loading area.
But the big advantage, according to company officials, is the improved ability to showcase the full-service aspect of Wittmann Battenfeld in the United States. In 2008, robot and auxiliary equipment maker Wittmann Kunststoffgeräte GmbH bought the Battenfeld injection molding business. Wittmann Battenfeld promotes its ability to deliver complete work cells.
Now Torrington will be big enough to assemble complete packages of the larger machines, auxiliary equipment, and robots with end-of-arm tooling.
"We're integrating the whole turnkey work cell. We have a huge installed customer base, at Fortune 100 companies on up," Preusse said. "Companies like the idea of single-sourcing the whole work cell. So we can imagine in the future one of these molding machines being set up with the robot and the downstream automation as a turnkey cell that they could debug. Run it off, and then we drop it at the customer's plant."
Wittmann said Torrington can do that now, but only for smaller-tonnage machines. The company's auxiliary equipment includes material handling systems, dryers, blenders, granulators and mold temperature controllers.
Customers can do mold trials in Torrington. Wittmann Battenfeld also have more room to switch out screws, based on customer requests.
Preusse said the company is looking to add employees, as it expands its offerings of injection press sizes and sells more turnkey systems. "We're hiring project management people to put the whole project together," he said. "We're hiring an additional process engineer and trainer, so we can do more of the mold trials and classes." The machinery firm also is beefing up its sales staff and adding another accounting person.
The Austria-based Wittmann Battenfeld will hold a June 13 open house at its new robot factory in Feucht, Germany, near Nuremberg. The company also has opened a factory in Kunshan, China, and officials plan to expand the operation and begin making all-electric machines for 2014.
Wittmann Battenfeld also is adding onto its facility in Taichung, Taiwan, and is adding a showroom at its Mexico headquarters in Querétaro.