COLUMBUS, OHIO — PH Group Inc.'s Charles T. Sherman wants better market data about vertical-clamp injection molding equipment, and he thinks the Washington-based Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. should provide it.
The issue — whether SPI's Machinery Division should break out shipment numbers for vertical presses — could come to a vote at the division's spring meeting next year.
Sherman is contacting other companies that build vertical machines, urging them to lobby SPI for the change.
``We definitely intend to be pushing very strongly for the breakout of the vertical- vs. horizontal-clamp machines,'' Sherman said.
In its statistical reports, which track North American shipments, SPI's Machinery Division historically has lumped all injection presses together. Vertical machines, a niche market that includes insert molding machines, are combined together with the big horizontal-clamp segment.
That does not help much at PH Group, which manufactures the Trueblood line of vertical machines in Columbus.
Sherman's campaign faces a major roadblock, however, from the two largest vertical suppliers, Autojectors Inc. and Van Dorn Demag Corp., which makes Newbury verticals.
``The dilemma is, it's not a very good deal for Van Dorn and Autojectors, because we have a very high percentage of the market,'' said Sid Rains, vice president of sales and marketing at Van Dorn Demag in Strongsville, Ohio. ``With us dominating that market as we do, it's almost like an automatic disclosure.''
Although the firm has not decided its position formally, Rains said Van Dorn Demag probably will vote against breaking out the data.
Autojectors President William Carteaux opposes the change.
``Autojectors' position is that there are too few domestic suppliers that report to maintain the confidentiality of the numbers,'' he said. ``Our fear is that, by disclosing, our respective numbers would be disclosed to our competitors.''
Walt Bishop, the Machinery Division's executive vice president, said the issue first was aired at the 1997 spring conference.
``While the response was not overly enthusiastic, it was not fatal,'' he said.
Bishop said he thinks division members could vote at next year's spring meeting.
``There are some disclosure problems. There are some confidentialities that have to be worked out,'' he said.
Vertical machines are used to encapsulate inserts, commonly made of metal, inside plastic parts for markets such as electronic connectors and automotive and computer parts.
Several other vertical press makers support splitting out the categories.
``That data's critical. We use that data to forecast out our marketing, our inventory levels, our manufacturing,'' said Michael Santa, vice president of injection molding machines at Krauss-Maffei Corp. in Florence, Ky.
The company imports machines from its German parent, then ``Americanizes'' them with shuttle and rotary tables for sale here.
The rising number of new vertical machine suppliers weakens the fear-of-disclosure argument, said Keith Larson, sales manager at Wabash MPI in Wabash, Ind.
``Where there were only two or three before, now there's eight or nine,'' he said.
``I think it ought to be split,'' Larson said. ``The vertical injection market is large enough. There's a couple of studies showing it's growing slightly faster than horizontal machines.''
Another supporter is Robert Columbus, general manager of Niigata Engineering Co. Ltd. of Itasca, Ill. Niigata's parent company has built vertical machines for years in Japan, but the firm only started marketing them to North America at NPE 1997, he said.
``I don't know how it can be reported — horizontal and vertical together. It's ridiculous to me,'' Columbus said. ``They're totally different machines. It's as different between vertical and horizontal as it is blow molding and extrusion.''
But Ron DeMaet, sales manager at Gluco Inc., a small maker of vertical presses in Jenison, Mich., does not agree. If it came down to a vote, ``I would be opposed to it,'' he said, noting that the vertical market is fairly small.
``It's not hard for me to come up with that information on my own,'' he said.