SOUTH LEBANON, OHIO - Siemens Energy & Automation Inc. stands to benefit from the move toward all-electric injection molding machines, as a company official said Siemens' status as a major producer of servo-electric drives and motors should help the company gain new business with machinery makers.
All-electric presses pose a ``huge opportunity for Siemens,'' said Manfred Graeter, manager of sales and marketing for controllers aimed at the plastics machinery market. ``We definitely want to target the all-electric drives.''
The parent company, German engineering and telecommunications giant Siemens AG, has years of expertise as a worldwide supplier of electric drives and motors for machine tools - a market that changed from hydraulic to electric power during the 1980s. Now many manufacturers of injection presses are adopting electric technology, either all-electric machines or hybrid machines that blend hydraulic and electric power.
Siemens officials are ready to tout their electric knowledge to gain U.S. market share for machine controllers and drives and motors. With controllers, Siemens is competing with entrenched U.S. players such as Barber-Colman Co. and Allen Bradley Co.
Siemens is making its moves from a bucolic hilltop location in southwestern Ohio. Siemens took a big stride into the U.S. market in January 2000, when it bought Vickers Electronic Systems in South Lebanon, north of Cincinnati. Vickers originally was part of Milacron Inc., which sold it in 1995. The controls unit passed through several ownership changes before Siemens acquired it.
Siemens Energy & Automation quickly named the South Lebanon facility as the center of activity for controllers designed for plastics machinery and machine tools. The company combined the Vickers operation with its existing unit in Alpharetta, Ga.
Graeter and two other Siemens staff members made the move from Georgia to Ohio. A total of 18 employees in South Lebanon are dedicated to plastics, working in sales and marketing and applications engineering positions.
Graeter said the move to South Lebanon made sense. Although most of the U.S. production for plastics machines, such as the Simatic controller, are made in Johnson City, Tenn., the Ohio operation is loaded with technical talent from 60 motion-control engineers, he said. Ohio also is home to three machinery manufacturers: Milacron, Van Dorn Demag Corp. and HPM Corp. Just across the Ohio River in northern Kentucky are three others: Krauss-Maffei Corp., Berstorff Corp. and Klockner Desma, which goes by the name KDE Sales & Service Inc.
Siemens is a dominant control supplier for plastics equipment in Europe. In North America, Graeter said, Milacron is a customer for controllers, as is Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd.
Siemens is not just about injection molding. The company makes controls and components for all sectors of machinery, including blow molding, extrusion and thermoforming.
Len Wedig, business manager for plastics, pointed out that Siemens is a major supplier of a range of machinery components, including drives, motors, temperature controls and related process-control software.
``We do some level of business with virtually all of the major [machinery original equipment manufacturers],'' Wedig said.
The company also is banking on speed. Chris Vaniglia, plastics-market development manager, said the company can build a control panel within a week of getting an order.
Officials in South Lebanon declined to provide sales or market-share information for plastics machine controllers.
Siemens uses the term ``mechatronic'' to describe how its engineers can simulate a machine's performance before it is completely designed by developing the electrical aspects of a design before the mechanical system is created.
Meanwhile, Americans will be hearing the word ``Siemens'' more often. The company began trading its stock, in the form of American depositary receipts, on the New York Stock Exchange in March. Siemens also launched a major campaign to raise the U.S. profile of its cellular phone offerings. That cell phone business makes Siemens a major plastics processor - and buyer of injection molding machines.