It's a blast from the past: Negri Bossi SpA is back in North America.
Negri Bossi America closed its Ohio distribution center in 1991. That ended the active marketing of the Italian-made injection molding machines in North America.
Now, backed by new owners and selling digital, wireless machine technology, Milan, Italy-based Negri Bossi SpA has opened a 14,000-square-foot sales and service operation in Concord, Ontario.
The facility will sell the full line of Negri Bossi machines: toggle-clamp presses with clamping forces of 44-1,540 tons. Negri Bossi America will stock about 20 injection presses in its showroom, near Toronto's Pearson International Airport. The company also plans to exhibit at Plast-Ex 2001, set for April 30-May 3 in Toronto.
The 54-year-old Negri Bossi has remained active in Europe and other parts of the world. But in the United States and Canada, the new Negri Bossi America Inc. faces challenges of a start-up company.
"It's been a very interesting experience," said Larry Pascucci, director of sales and marketing. "We're building a new company in North America, and we want to build that based on reliability and quality of the machines, and based on service, service, service."
Negri Bossi's North American headquarters used to be in Fremont, Ohio, at equipment remanufacturer Epco Machinery LLC, which assembled the presses. The two firms used to be sister companies under John Brown Plastics Machinery Inc. A 1991 story in Plastics News said Brown closed Negri Bossi America and would start selling direct from Italy. Company officials blamed a strong dollar that made it too expensive for U.S. assembly.
Selling from Italy, Negri Bossi never made a mark in the North American market. Epco has continued to sell spare parts and service the machines.
Since the new Negri Bossi America opened quietly last September, the company has sold about 25 injection presses, all in Canada, Pascucci said.
Pascucci and President Willy Hauer are looking to hire service technicians and manufacturers' representatives.
"We're launching this company from the launch pad," Pascucci said in a Jan. 11 telephone interview.
Hauer's background is in wire and cable machinery. Pascucci has extensive plastics machinery experience. Most recently, he worked at Engel Canada from 1988-2000. His last position was sales manager at the Guelph, Ontario, injection press maker.
Negri Bossi has gone through several ownership changes. In 1989, its owner, John Brown, was acquired by England's Trafalgar House plc. The company changed hands again in 1996, when Kvaerner ASA of Norway bought Trafalgar. Just two years later, Kvaerner put Brown up for sale.
Chicago-based Madison Capital Partners bought five of six Brown units — but passed on Negri Bossi. In early 1999, a group of financial buyers led by an Italian investment group, Private Equity Partners, spent $51 million for Negri Bossi.
The injection press market already is crowded, and right now, faces a slowdown that began in the second half of 2000, machinery officials say. Pascucci said Negri Bossi has something unique to sell — wireless communication. The Italian machines use wireless technology to link the press with a personal computer. Through a program called Amico Teleservice, the presses are linked to a Negri Bossi help center via a wireless local area network and the Internet. An alarm on the machine automatically triggers an e-mail to the help center.
Negri Bossi technicians can go into the machine and examine all functions, change controls or even recalibrate devices on the machine.
Negri Bossi includes the technology on its Canbio line of presses with 44-580 tons of clamping force and the Canbimat multi-injection molding machines of 95-350 tons.
The machines use Canbus control technology, which uses a single cable to link "smart" digital devices such as a Bosch Smart-Pump and position sensors. There is no need to convert from digital to analog.
Pascucci said the company plans to add Amico Teleservice to its larger-tonnage press line, the Vector machines that come in clamping forces of 635-1,540 tons.