Plastic injection machinery manufacturers expect to report record sales for 1993 and, if the economy proceeds as expected, they anticipate 1994 will be even better. While they toted up record sales, machinery manufacturers also saw significant changes in the structure of their industry, with the sales of Van Dorn Plastic Machinery Co. and Newbury Industries Inc., and Cincinnati Milacron Inc.'s purchase of Klockner Ferromatik, the injection molding machinery unit of Klockner Werke AG of Duisburg, Germany.
Machinery manufacturers based in North America enjoyed sales boosted by the relative weakness of the U.S. dollar to many foreign currencies, while the recovering U.S. economy even boosted sales for foreign machinery makers.
Further, the relative weakness of the dollar, coupled with efficiencies North American manufacturers put in place during the past few years, are giving domestic machine producers a significant competitive edge. Japanese and European manufacturers have been scrambling in the past year to retain market share, as their profit levels decline.
``All sales are up. In terms of dollars or in terms of units, we are expecting to have a 25-30 percent increase in sales in 1993 compared to 1992,'' Bruce Kozak said in a recent telephone interview from his office in Batavia, Ohio. Kozak is vice president and general manager for the plastics injection molding machinery business for the U.S. Plastics Machinery Division of Cincinnati Milacron Inc.
Kozak's experience at Cincinnati Milacron is not unique.
Machinery makers ranging from Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. in Bolton, Ontario, to JSW Plastics Machinery Inc. in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., reported increased sales for 1993.
Michael Urquhart, vice president for sales and marketing for Husky, said his company had a 50 percent increase in sales for the year. Meanwhile, William Roebuck, national sales manager for JSW, said his company's sales rose 20 percent. Husky reported the largest sales increase among the manufacturers of injection molding equipment.
Unfortunately, corroborating data on machinery sales and imports of injection molding machines is not available.
Because of staffing changes and questionable information from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. has not updated its monthly report on machinery since October. The information supplied by the Census Bureau has been called into question because it is suspected of including machines that have nothing to do with plastics processing, and no one in the industry has been able to produce for publication accurate sales numbers.
Nonetheless, machinery manufacturers said they are enjoying a period of strong sales, led by demands for more production equipment from the automotive, appliance, housewares and electrical/electronics industries.
Also, U.S. machinery makers say they believe they have recaptured a large portion of the market share they lost to foreign producers, and that the imported machinery share of the market is far below the 45 percent level reported several years ago. That level was based on the Census Bureau information that now is considered inaccurate. Again, corroborating data is not available.
Through the first six months of 1993, machinery manufacturers saw increased demand for large-tonnage machines, especially from the automotive industry.
In the latter part of the year, the demand for mid-range injection molding machines-with clamping forces of 300-750-tons-has risen.
Based on bookings through December, machinery manufacturers said they expect the trend toward mid-sized machines to continue.
Because of the significant increases in orders, several machinery makers are completing or launching expansion projects:
Heico Acquisitions, the Chicago holding company that purchased Newbury Industries in late June, upgraded computer and crane equipment and streamlined production.
George Dallas, Newbury's vice president for marketing, said those steps allowed the vertical-clamp machinery manufacturer to add staff for assembly work, and to increase production.
Kozak said Cincinnati Milacron continues to add new equipment at its facilities, where it doubled its production capacity about four years ago.
Further, Kozak noted, Cincinnati Milacron's venture with Autojectors Inc. has provided new opportunities and business for his company. Autojectors of Albion, Ind., began building a line of vertical injection molding machines for Cincinnati Milacron in August.
With an infusion of capital from its new parent, Mannesmann Demag AG of Schwaig, Germany, Van Dorn Demag is launching its most ambitious expansion program in five years, said Sid Rains, Van Dorn Demag vice president for sales and marketing.
While injection machinery importers reported machinery sales increased for 1993, they said the current low value of the U.S. dollar to foreign currencies continues to make profitability an elusive goal.
Kozak and Rains said they believe their Japanese competitors-who seemed to gain market share in North America so easily 10 years ago-are having further difficulties because Cincinnati Milacron and Van Dorn dramatically improved manufacturing techniques and equipment in the past five years. Also, both companies' additions of smaller machines have opened new doors for them to compete against other machinery makers.
Machinery importers who represent Japanese producers reported several price increases during 1993, and said they hope the Japanese yen-and their prices-has stabilized.
``We had a decent year in 1993,'' said JSW's Roebuck.
``We had one price increase in September, and we hope there will be no more price increases. We don't expect a change in the exchange rate between the yen and the dollar for the next three years,'' he said.
Rich McGranahan, western regional sales manager for Nissei America Inc., said his prices also are stable after two increases in 1993.
McGranahan said he expected a 5 percent decline in sales for 1993, but later said he expects Nissei's sales would increase nearly 20 percent by March 31, when its fiscal year ends. McGranahan added that he expects Nissei's sales to increase 10 percent in 1994.
Tim Glassburn, general manager of the Plastic Machinery Division of Toshiba Machine Co. America of Elk Grove Village, Ill., said Toshiba's sales increased nearly 25 percent in 1993 over 1992. Further, Glassburn said he expects a 20 percent rise in sales in 1994.
However, he noted that profits have been elusive because of the currency exchange rates. Toshiba made three price increases to its line of machines during the year.
Joe Sweeney, who joined Tomen America Inc. of Buffalo Grove, Ill., on Nov. 15, said he expects sales of Kawaguchi machinery to improve in 1994 after a disappointing year in 1993.
Sweeney would not comment on Tomen's difficulties with Child Safety Science Inc., a company that announced in late 1992 that it would buy 120 Kawaguchi injection presses from Tomen, but whose production facility was padlocked by Internal Revenue Service agents in November. There were 32 Kawaguchi presses at Child Safety Science's Elkhart, Ind., facility when the IRS closed it, and a Kawaguchi spokesman said then that Tomen expected to get those machines back.
Executives of HPM Corp. of Mt. Gilead, Ohio, John Brown Inc. of South Attleboro, Mass., Battenfeld of America Inc. of West Warwick, R.I., and Engel North America of Guelph, Ontario, could not be reached for comment.