ITASCA, ILL. — Japan's Niigata Engineering Co. Ltd. wants to double North American sales, as Niigata pushes its all-electric injection molding machines, a company executive said at an open house.
``Niigata dreams of more than 300 units per year by 2000,'' said Jun Imai, general manager of Niigata's international operations department.
Niigata currently sells about 150 presses annually in North America, where it is represented by Daiichi Jitsugyo (America) Inc.
Imai, based in Japan, attended a May 7 open house at the new, 20,000-square-foot U.S. headquarters of Daiichi/Niigata in Itasca. He addressed Niigata's embrace of electric technology and organizational moves in Asia. It has consolidated production in its main plant in Niigata, Japan, and moved some small-press assembly to Thailand.
Although Niigata claims to be an electric-press pioneer—it began manufacturing the machines in the mid-1980s—the firm did not show one in North America until NPE 1997. At the Itasca open house, three of the five presses running were MD-series electrics.
Robert Columbus, general manager of the Itasca facility, is confident that Niigata's all-electrics can take off in the U.S. market.
``I believe the market demand is going to be very high, and the supply of the machines is going to be very difficult,'' he said.
According to Imai, all-electrics account for about 20 percent of all presses Niigata sells worldwide. Niigata wants to push that to 50 percent by 2000, he said.
Niigata offers North American buyers six sizes of MD machines, in clamping forces of 35, 55, 85, 110, 200 and 385 tons. The firm makes much bigger electrics in Japan — topping out at 935 tons. Imai said Niigata believes the 935-tonner, now sold only in Asia, is the largest all-electric made.
Cincinnati Milacron Inc.'s biggest all-electric machine available is 725 tons, although the company is working on higher-tonnage machines. Milacron introduced its Elektra line at the 1994 NPE.
Located just 10 miles from O'Hare International Airport, Niigata's new Itasca headquarters is nearly twice as big as the former facility in Elk Grove Village, Ill. It sports a bright, three-story showroom with a glass facade.
The newly constructed, leased building has an expanded classroom area and a large area for machine preparation. Columbus said Niigata tries to stock 50 machines; the headquarters can hold 20-25 machines. Employees install screws, barrels, core pulls and other components before the machines are shipped.
Niigata also has made some key moves in Asia:
Late last year, the company shut down its injection press assembly plant in Nagaoka, Japan, and moved production to a much larger machine tool factory 40 miles away in Niigata city.
Niigata has five factories, all in Niigata city: the machine tool and injection press plant, a foundry, an engine plant, a factory making passenger trains and one turning out gas turbines. The company also runs its own shipyard.
Prompted by the Asian economic situation, Niigata last fall moved production of some small-tonnage toggle machines from Japan to a joint venture in Bangkok, Thailand, called Shinco Machinery. The machines, with clamping forces of 55-110 tons, are sold in Thailand as VN machines and as CN presses in other Asian nations.