MMI invests in its largest molding machine

By Bill Bregar
Senior Staff Reporter

Published: December 6, 2013 8:53 am ET
Updated: December 6, 2013 9:01 am ET

Image By: Bill Bregar Workers at MMI Engineered Solutions Inc. finish parts for a material handling system, molded in a new 2,000 metric ton Bi-Power press at an open house and technical seminar hosted by MMI and press supplier, Negri Bossi North America.

Related to this story

Topics Automotive, Injection Molding

SALINE, MICH. — Officials of MMI Engineered Solutions Inc. showed off a large new Negri Bossi Bi-Power injection molding press at an open house Dec. 4 — part of an expansion by the automotive molder that signals the robust auto sector will keep investing in machinery.

MMI bought the press — its 14th molding machine and, with 2,000-metric tons of clamping force, its largest molding machine — to keep up with demand for its specialized returnable packaging for automotive and custom molded car and truck parts like fan shrouds, bezels and fender extensions.

“We needed the equipment because we’re growing,” said Doug Callahan, MMI’s president and chief operating officer. “We grew about 30 percent this year and will continue to grow next year.”

MMI will generate $19 million in sales for 2013, he said.

The company invested $2 million overall, for the big Bi-Power, another 400-tonne Negri Bossi and an 85-tonne Nissei. All three injection molding machines make up a second manufacturing bay in the 80,000-square-foot headquarters plant in Saline. MMI also installed a new Thoreson-McCosh material handling system in the last two months. The large-tonnage Bi-Power began molding parts about six weeks ago, Callahan said.

For Negri Bossi, MMI gives the Italian machinery supplier an important showcase in North America for large-tonnage machines, and the automotive market. The Dec. 4 event started out with technical presentations at a hotel meeting room, then moved to MMI for lunch and plant tour.

Automakers and suppliers have made major investments in new technology coming out of the recession, lifting the U.S. injection molding machine market out of the doldrums to a respectable level of more than 3,000 presses a year.

Negri Bossi SpA began making large-tonnage injection molding machines around 2000. That made it a relative newcomer in that market, dominated by well-established nameplates like KraussMaffei and Engel.

“There is obviously a gestation period between starting from zero and achieving significant market penetration,” said Tony Firth, vice president and general manager of Negri Bossi North America, in New Castle, Del.

Firth said it wasn’t easy to break into the big-tonnage market.

“Particularly with large machines, there is a natural tendency to go with what you know — or go with what you think you know. So our challenge has been to knock down those barriers and develop an identity in large machines, from scratch,” he said.

Negri Bossi has an installed base of large-tonnage injection presses in North America, mainly in automotive plants, but many of those customers keep manufacturing information close to the vest, Firth said. So the partnership with MMI is important.

“You’ve got to build one brick at a time, and what we lacked here, really, was a place where we could showcase machines,” he said. Negri Bossi can bring customers to the MMI factory to see the Bi-Power in action. Saline is close to the industrial Midwest, a major U.S. region for injection molding machines for processors in Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Indiana.

Negri Bossi makes Bi-Powers in clamping force sizes from 1,000 tonnes to a whopping 7,000 tonnes. The machinery company also makes large-tonnage, toggle presses under the Vector nameplate.

MMI was founded 40 years ago, as a maker of material handling bins to hold parts for auto manufacturing. Tom Connaughton, who is retired, has owned the company for the past 30 years.

Callahan said MMI’s material handling products hold critical parts like crankshafts, cam shafts, intake manifolds, pistons and connector rods, all of them “things that need a significant amount of protection, that you don’t want jostled around.” The company also makes “kitting trays” to hold parts in an exact position so robots can remove them on an automated assembly line.

Today, about half of MMI’s sales come from material handling, and half from custom molding of fairly low-volume components for heavy truck and cars. The company does not try to compete with the high-volume molders, Callahan said.

MMI builds and designs its own molds. Through its ACT process (Adaptive Container Technology), MMI uses mold insert blocks to quickly customize returnable containers. Customers purchase an ACT mold base for parts for a general size. MMI machines the inserts, customized to hold specific auto parts, delivering them to the assembly plant.

“We’ve made their tooling investment low and their piece part low. Sol it’s really allowed us to grow our business from that standpoint,” Callahan said.

Auto production rebounded sharply after the Great Recession in 2009 in North America. And the good times should keep rolling, said Mike Wall, director of automotive analysis for IHS Automotive. “We’re still in the early innings of this recovery story that we’re going through,” Wall said in a presentation at the seminar and open house.

North American plants should turn out 16.2 million cars and light trucks in 2013. That number should reach 18.1 million by 2019, he said. U.S. car sales are holding up, at about 15.6 units, after a steady recovery since a low of 10.4 million in 2009. Wall thinks sales could reach 16.5 — depending on the degree of political budget-ceiling gamesmanship in Washington.

“We need there to be some sort of a resolution one way or another to have consumers say, ‘I’m willing to drop 25 or 30 grand on a new vehicle,’” Wall said. Reasonable gas prices, and a rejuvenated construction and energy sector, are creating demand for pickup trucks.

The United States and Mexico are now exporting more cars than ever before, many of them assembled at transplant factories from Asian and European automakers.

And Wall said 36 new vehicle launches are scheduled for North America in 2014, more than twice the 16 this year. He said launches won’t hit that peak in years after 2014, but they will remain at a pretty high level. That’s good news for injection molding machinery makers, since new model launches are a major driver of capital investment in machinery and molds.

Firth said most of the new large-tonnage injection presses have already been installed for the 2014 new models, since for big machines, it takes at least a year from order to delivery. So he thinks large-tonnage press sales could dip a bit in the New Year. But small- and medium-tonnage machines should sell well, he said.

“For every large component, you’ve got a myriad of gidgets and gadgets. So the medium and small machines, because the lead time is shorter, the purchasing decisions for those machines tends to be much closer to the time of the vehicle launch,” he said.


Comments

MMI invests in its largest molding machine

By Bill Bregar
Senior Staff Reporter

Published: December 6, 2013 8:53 am ET
Updated: December 6, 2013 9:01 am ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

New medical firm buys Clairson Plastics

September 19, 2014 4:33 pm ET

Custom injection molder Clairson Plastics is being sold to a new start-up that plans to dive into the medical market with a new dialyzer, a key...    More

Image

Dunkin' Donuts looking at PP to replace foam cups

September 19, 2014 3:22 pm ET

Dunkin' Donuts is testing a new polypropylene coffee cup that the company believes could help boost recycling.    More

Image

Plasan investing in capacity, jobs to supply auto market with carbon fiber

September 19, 2014 3:05 pm ET

Growth in the emerging automotive market for carbon-fiber composites has spurred a $29 million investment in a Walker, Mich., factory    More

Image

Hong Kong's TK eyes expansion, may buy Nypro Tool operation

September 19, 2014 2:49 pm ET

Hong Kong-based mold maker and plastics processor TK Group (Holdings) Ltd. said it's reached a tentative agreement to buy a tooling factory in...    More

Image

Toyoda Gosei expanding in Mexico

September 19, 2014 2:33 pm ET

Toyoda Gosei North America Corp. is investing $67 million in a 398,000-square-foot plant in central Mexico to supply the automotive industry with plas...    More

Market Reports

Plastics Caps & Closures Market Report

The annual recap of top trends and future outlook for the plastics caps & closures market features interviews with industry thought leaders and Bill Wood’s economic forecast of trends in growing end markets. You will also gain insight on trends in caps design, materials, machinery, molds & tooling and reviews of mergers & acquisitions.

Learn more

Shale Gas Market - Analysis of North American Region

This report highlights the impact of shale-based natural gas on the North American plastics market and features an in-depth analysis of production trends in the United States during 2013 and a forecast for 2014 and beyond.

Learn more

Thermoformed Packaging 2014 Market Review & Outlook – North America

This in-depth report analyzes economic and market trends, legislative/regulatory activity impacting supply and demand, business opportunities and threats, materials pricing, manufacturing technology, as well as growth strategies being implemented by thermoformed packaging companies.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

January 14, 2015 - January 14, 2015Plastics in Automotive

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

More Events