Autojectors Inc. — acquired in late May by Cincinnati Milacron Inc. — makes for an interesting case study.
From its modest roots as a small Midwestern machine shop, the firm 30 years ago built its first vertical-clamp injection molding machine and developed into one of the world's leading designers and producers of this specialized machinery for insert molding. Autojectors today employs about 130 in two Indiana factories and generates annual sales of about $20 million.
But it's the firm's interest in global markets that distinguishes it. For its size, Autojectors has done a surprising amount of exploring overseas markets. Autojectors officials have participated in a trade mission to China, exhibited at trade shows in Mexico, Singapore, Indonesia and Brazil, and attended plastics fairs in France, Germany and elsewhere.
Of course, this makes sense for a growth-minded company with a fairly dominant U.S. market position, which was only strengthened when Autojectors agreed five years ago to make private-brand, vertical-clamp presses for Milacron.
Autojectors' translation of overseas market knowledge into international business success, however, has not always been smooth. As reported last week, the company recently severed its formal, two-year sales and service alliance with Brazilian machine maker Oriente M quinas e Equipmentos Ltda., after Oriente filed for protection under Brazilian law to reorganize its debts. Oriente sold all of two Autojectors presses in two years — and still owes the U.S. company $60,000 for one of those sales, made more than a year ago.
But Autojectors President Bill Carteaux always has understood that doing business abroad carries with it an element of risk. The key is to invest the time and effort to learn the local markets, players and business customs well enough to maximize opportunities while minimizing downside exposure.
Autojectors has done more of that type of research than most. Since its global push started about four years ago, the firm's percentage of sales outside the United States has risen to 15-20 percent and will continue to grow, according to Carteaux.
Now, under the wing of multinational Cincinnati Milacron, Autojectors will be better placed to realize some of its global ambitions. The 38-year-old Carteaux, who has led Autojectors for the past eight years and who will continue to do so, points out that the new deal gives his Avilla, Ind.-based firm access to Milacron's technical, manufacturing and international distribution resources, as well as additional capital. One can see that the transaction makes sense for Autojectors.
Milacron, meanwhile, stands to gain access to Autojectors' increasingly popular, low-end vertical-press line, known as its BA series, which was not included under the previous private-label pact, Carteaux said. Two years ago, Milacron archrival Van Dorn Demag Corp. purchased Ohio's Newbury Industries, another independent vertical-press maker.
If nothing else, its new equity position in Autojectors gives Milacron bragging rights for having broadened its in-house product portfolio. Now the market will be watching to see if and how Milacron can translate that position into increased global market share.