MONTERREY, MEXICO - Japanese blow molding equipment supplier Aoki Technical Laboratory Inc. plans to triple sales in the United States, from 10 to 30 machines a year. ``The U.S. market is so huge that we need to tackle it very carefully,'' said Setsuyuki Takeuchi, president of the firm's recently formed North American subsidiary Aoki America SA de CV.
Takeuchi spoke through an interpreter at the opening March 19 of the new division in Monterrey.
The US$300,000 service and maintenance center is designed to support Aoki's strengthened network of sales agents in the North American Free Trade Agreement countries of Mexico, Canada and the United States. Five of its eight employees are service engineers.
Aoki, based in Nagano, Japan, also announced that it expects to open a similar subsidiary later this year to serve the growing South American machinery market.
The unit is likely to be located in SÃo Paulo, Brazil, according to sales director Teruo Sakai.
Sakai said Aoki, which has four sales agents in Brazil and Colombia, already has sold 35 machines in the region. Another 97 machines have been sold in Mexico and Central America through its Mexico City representative, Jatec Latinoamericana SA de CV.
Takeuchi said Monterrey was selected as the site for Aoki's North American division because of its central location.
Aoki recently signed up four new agents to cover western, northeastern, northern midwest and southeastern U.S. states. They are, respectively: Alba Enterprise Inc. of Torrance, Calif.; FGH System Inc. of Denville, N.J.; Johnson Plastic Equipment Inc. of Rolling Meadows, Ill.; and Tomen America Inc., based in Charlotte, N.C.
For eastern and midwestern Canada, Aoki uses an existing agent, BKI of Toronto.
Responding to criticism that Aoki's North American after-sales service has been poor, Takeuchi said the company had just one agent, Formex Inc. in Dayton, Ohio, until mid-1995, and only a single service engineer to cover the United States.
That was inadequate, Takeuchi said.
Formex, however, said it represented Aoki for 10 years, and for eight years had three technicians serving Aoki customers, which it said was sufficient.
``We did have adequate technicians for the most part, and I cannot recall at any time having any criticism from our customers. Quite honestly, these machines tended to run very well,'' said Formex regional sales manager Scott Drees-bach.
``Very seldom did our technicians have to go out on an emergency.''
He estimated that Aoki had more than 70 machines in the United States up to last year, and that Formex kept a large stock of spare parts.
With the four new agents, service staff and parts stocks, plus backup service in Monterrey and Japan, Takeuchi said things will improve.
He said service staff in Japan has been added to help cover the United States.
The company said some spare parts will be stocked by agents, while Aoki America in Monterrey will maintain the main parts stock for direct customer service.
Aoki plans to set up a computer network linking its subsidiaries, agents and Japan, to locate parts more quickly. The network should be operating within a year, according to the firm.
Aoki estimates that the 30 machines it expects to sell in the United States will represent 15 percent of its 1996 worldwide sales, estimated to be 200 machines this year.