Ending 25 years of American Maplan extruder manufacturing in McPherson, Kan., SMS Plastics Technology is moving the assembly operation to Battenfeld Gloucester Engineering Co. Inc. in Gloucester, Mass.
SMS, based in Dusseldorf, Germany, announced the news Feb. 8.
Maplan's McPherson factory will continue to make screws, and design and service the extruders, SMS said.
Helmut Eschwey, chairman of SMS Plastics Technology, said the move was in response to the economic downturn. Battenfeld Gloucester, which builds equipment for making film, now becomes the U.S. ``competence center'' for extrusion, he said.
The plastics machinery business has been bad for 18 months, forcing several companies to lay off workers. ``Business was down 40-50 percent over a couple of quarters,'' Eschwey said. He added that SMS is seeing some signs of improvement in extruder demand. ``In the pipe market for the first time, we see light at the end of the tunnel,'' he said.
McPherson made extruders for pipe, siding, window profiles and other construction applications.
It was unclear how many jobs would be lost in McPherson because of the move. Before the assembly work moved to Gloucester, American Maplan employed about 80 - down from a high of 140 several years ago, Eschwey said.
Moving the assembly operations will cost only a few jobs, said Norris Bohm, Maplan's chief operating officer.
Battenfeld GmbH - owned by SMS - bought Maplan in 1995. In Europe, SMS makes extruders in Bad Oeynhausen, Germany, and in Vienna, Austria. SMS also makes extruders in Shunde, China, under a joint venture with Chen Hsong Machinery Co. Ltd.
Eschwey said SMS will maintain separate extruder manufacturing in Europe, North America and Asia. ``You need to have machining, or manufacturing, in each of these continents,'' he said.
He said SMS will invest money in screw making in McPherson as soon as demand picks up.
Maplan began to machine its own screws in 1996, at a 23,000-square-foot addition. Before that, it bought screws from Germany.
Three extrusion machinery sources said Maplan has been losing market share, but Eschwey disputed that. ``I don't think we are losing any market share,'' he said. ``I don't think we are gaining market share at this juncture. But we keep in close contact to our customers and most of them are not investing right now."