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Bekum's new leader looks east for growth

By: By David Eldridge
EUROPEAN PLASTICS NEWS

October 28, 2013

DÜSSELDORF, GERMANY — Some careers take a direct linear route, while others follow a zig-zag path. For Andreas Kandt, the new managing director of Bekum Maschinenfabriken GmbH, the shape is a circle.

When he finished his mechanical engineering degree in Berlin, the first company he joined was Bekum, an extrusion blow molding technology group.

He stayed at the Berlin-based company for 15 years, but eventually decided to move on. Following long spells at Kautex and Hassia, he has for the last five years been Davis-Standard's managing director for Europe, Middle East and Asia.

In all that time, he stayed in touch with Gottfried Mehnert, Bekum's founder and long-serving CEO, who is now stepping back from day-to-day operations after running the company for five decades.

"I had continuous contact with Mr. Mehnert. He finally convinced me to come back and help find an even better direction for the company than before," said Kandt in an interview at Bekum's K 2013 stand.

Bekum is having one of its best years ever and is set to make 80 million euros, up from 76 million euros in 2012. Order intake is at record highs in its established regions of Europe, North and South America, where it has manufacturing facilities.

Yet, Kandt is firm in his intention to focus on Bekum's sales.

"The next goal will be to reach 100 million euros. If we can achieve that in the next 24 months, it will be a good goal for the company," he said.

The sales drive will focus especially on Asia and other promising regions such as Eastern Europe and Russia.

"We will emphasize and optimize the Asian market," Kandt said.

Bekum's structure gives a large degree of independence to the sales and manufacturing operations in Williamston, Mich., and São Paulo, Brazil.

"It's a set-up that works pretty well," Kandt said. "But one of my key aims is to intensify communication between all these individual entities."

In Europe, Bekum has a manufacturing facility in Traismauer, Austria, that complements the headquarters facility in Berlin, where development of the group's core technology takes place.

And Asia?

"There's nothing yet in Asia. So it's something we will look at in the next six months," Kandt said.

Kandt would not be drawn out on whether Bekum's move into the region would be in a greenfield investment or through co-operation with a local partner. Whatever it is, China is the most likely location.

"It's clear we have to do something in Asia. It's too difficult to cover the region from Europe," he said.

Bekum is an established supplier of blow molding equipment to automotive companies, so this gives the company a platform to launch in China, where the automotive market is growing quickly.

Its bottle and container expertise also makes China's packaging market attractive. Those markets are also growing in India.

"From the technology standpoint, we have the capability to be successful there [India]," Kandt said.

Bekum's wide range of blow molding technology makes it a major supplier, but it can't stand still, said Kandt.

"We will continue to invest a significant amount of money in R&D for new products," he said. "There is only one way to keep our technology on top. That's to continuously invest and stay a step ahead of competitors."

At its K 2013 stand, Bekum demonstrated an all-electric EBLOW 407D extrusion blow molder that uses the group's C-Frame clamp design.

It is equipped with a triple-spiral mandrel extrusion head and is producing a cosmetic bottle in highly transparent polypropylene.

Bekum's 07 series is based on a standard platform and can be ordered with electric or hydraulic drive systems.

According to the company, the precise repeatability of the EBLOW 407D sets a high standard. This contributes to a long service life, especially with regard to blow mold cutting edges, which has a direct impact on product quality.

The C-Frame clamping system was launched at K 2010. Its design has clamping platens that move along precise, low-friction linear guides, which enables symmetrical clamp force distribution over the entire mold area, while maintaining high clamping platen parallelism.

Bekum said the EBLOW 407D is a very fast machine, with a dry cycle time of 2.5 seconds.