ARTUR NOGUEIRA, BRAZIL — Autojectors Inc.'s new Latin American partner, Oriente M quinas e Equipamentos Ltda., builds injection molding machines at a plant in Artur Nogueira, a sun-washed orange grove 80 miles north of SÃo Paulo, Brazil.
After lengthy negotiations, Autojectors signed an agreement with Oriente in mid-1996. Oriente now handles sales and service for Autojectors machines in Latin America — but that could be expanded to include assembling the vertical-clamp machines at the plant.
``Long-term, that's what we're both looking at,'' said Mark Garrison, sales and marketing manager of Autojectors. ``But we're still trying to find out the size and the scope of the vertical market down here. As we grow in this marketplace, our goal is to form a joint venture with Oriente and actually manufacture machinery at the local level.''
So far, Oriente has sold two Autojectors machines. The first went to a SÃo Paulo molder of appliance electrical plugs, Perfil. The second, a 35-ton machine with a shuttle table, was sold on the first day of Brasilplast to Brascabos, which molds appliance parts in SÃo Paulo, said M rcio Ribaldo, Oriente's director of commercial sales, administration, finance and service.
Autojectors, with plants in Avilla and Albion, Ind., has become more global in recent years. But the company has not been active in South America, selling just one machine, to an Argentine molder, Garrison said.
Brazil, with its booming automotive industry, new computer factories and a growing middle class hungry for appliances, appears to be ripe for vertical-clamp machines, used for insert molding. But vertical machines are still a rare sight, said Ribaldo.
``In Brazil, the people don't know much about vertical machines,'' he said.
Only two small Brazilian companies make the machines.
Garrison said both companies need to educate local molders about vertical presses.
``The problem down here is, a lot of people are doing insert molding on horizontal injection molding machines. So they haven't been exposed to this technology,'' he said in an interview at the show.
Autojectors President Bill Carteaux also attended Brasilplast to meet with Oriente executives.
Autojectors officials said they have no specific timetable to begin producing machines in Brazil.
One problem, echoed by other U.S. and European machinery officials, is getting solid market data to decide whether Brazilian manufacturing makes sense. Brazil's plastics machinery association, DNMAIP, says 1,300-1,400 injection molding machines are sold annually in Brazil. But several machinery officials said the number could be much lower, under 1,000. DNMAIP does not break out statistics for vertical machines.
Autojectors also wants to see how Oriente handles its sales and service before proceeding with manufacturing.
``We have to make sure that we can provide a quality product at basically an economic price,'' Garrison said.
Oriente has several regional service facilities, plus a main sales office in SÃo Paulo.
Oriente makes toggle-clamp horizontal presses with clamping forces of 67-450 tons. Ribaldo said annual sales are about $18 million to $20 million.
The firms has 26,500 square feet of manufacturing space and another 33,000 square feet of offices in Artur Nogueira, said Walter Stein, technical director of manufacturing and engineering. Three families own Oriente.
Stein, giving a plant tour, joked about free orange juice every morning. The Oriente owners also run the orange grove, which boasts 40,000 trees. That type of arrangement is common in Brazil, where many family firms dabble in several industries.
Stein said Orient does its own machining, making its screws and barrels, manifolds and other components. The company does its own sheet metal forming. The company uses Moog and Barber-Colman controllers.
Machines are fully tested before shipment.
``Machines work one day to flush hydraulic systems and two days injecting plastics,'' Stein said.
About 220 people work at the Artur Nogueira facility. Stein said the firm buses some employees from nearby cities to the plant.