MUNICH, GERMANY — Workers used to cluster around injection presses at Krauss-Maffei Kunststofftechnik GmbH's Munich factory.
Now, machines come to the workers.
The result is a more-efficient operation for making smaller and midsized machines, Krauss-Maffei officials said at a tour of the Munich plant prior to the K'98 show in Dusseldorf, Germany.
A few years ago, the company invested $35 million to convert a foundry into production space for the C range of machines. KM has created an assembly line system. Machines on rollers move down the line. Components have been moved to racks next to the assembly area.
Assembly-line production is replacing ``construction site'' assembly, in which the machine remains in one place while workers bring parts to it. Krauss-Maffei still uses that method to make the large MC presses, and in older parts of the plant.
Krauss-Maffei had to boost its output to meet demand for the C presses.
``For about two or three years, we have been working close to our capacity,'' said Wilhelm Schroder, chairman of Krauss-Maffei's managing board, during a pre-K summer news conference. The company boosted employment by 6 percent last year.
Krauss-Maffei's sales grew 27 percent in 1997, to $472 million.
Injection molding accounts for 75 percent of the company's business. Krauss-Maffei sold 1,200 machines last year, led by higher sales in large injection presses and multicomponent machines.
Sales of turnkey compact-disc production lines to Southeast Asia also were hot last year. Schroder said new products, such as digital versatile discs, should offset declining demand for conventional CD lines.
This year, business remained strong in small machines, but has slowed in big machines. Krauss-Maffei has reached its goal of selling 800-900 machines a year, he said.
Competition is fierce for the big-ticket large machines, Schroder said. But he isn't complaining: ``We actually reached our capacity in large machines and we couldn't have made more.''
Krauss-Maffei employs about 1,800 in Munich and a small component plant in Treuchtlingen, Germany. The company makes all major components in-house, including platens, screws, cylinders and tie bars.
The U.S. and European markets are stable because plastic has become a favored material. The car industry also is growing in the United States and Brazil.
``We think the market for plastic processing machines has reached a high and stable level,'' he said.
Krauss-Maffei also makes extruders for pipe, profiles and sheet, and polyurethane equipment. Extruder sales dropped by 5 percent in 1997, to $123 million. Schroder said extrusion sales should increase during the next few years.