Milacron Inc. announced Nov. 8 that it is moving assembly of Uniloy blow molding machines and structural foam molding machines from Manchester, Mich., to Milacron's main assembly plant in southwestern Ohio. The move follows months of rumors and a steady stream of layoffs at Manchester.
Ninety production workers at the Uniloy-Milacron plant will lose their jobs. Milacron said it plans to add 75 jobs to its Batavia, Ohio, factory.
Manchester is not closing down. Milacron will create a ``center of excellence'' there, retaining 200 people involved in product design, engineering and sales and service for blow molding machines and structural foam presses. Milacron also will leave its major tooling operation at Manchester. Sources said about 100 people work in the mold shop, which is one of the largest U.S. suppliers of blow molds for milk jugs.
Milacron spent $210 million in 1998 to buy the Uniloy business from Johnson Controls Inc. Milacron had made only accumulator-head blow molding machines before that deal, but Uniloy brought the company a diverse range of machines to blow mold consumer packaging, such as polyethylene detergent bottles, milk jugs and PET bottles.
At peak levels the Manchester factory employed more than 400. But Uniloy got hit hard by consolidation among U.S. dairy companies that began in the late 1990s. The new, larger national dairies took time to sort out their production and delayed buying machines.
Milacron made several layoffs in Manchester, and production employment dwindled to the current 90 from a range of 150-250. The plant is nonunion.
In 1999, Milacron also made major changes to Uniloy's European operations, closing several plants.
Martin Lakes was named Uniloy-Milacron president two years ago, but he left the company earlier this year.
The Nov. 8 announcement also said Milacron's D-M-E mold-base unit will close its factory in Monterey Park, Calif., and move production to four other D-M-E plants. The company plans to open a new West Coast distribution center.
Milacron said the Uniloy announcement means the largest U.S. plastics machinery maker has established Batavia as the single integrated center of North American manufacturing for its entire product line: injection molding machines, extruders and now container blow molding machines and structural foam presses.
Batavia now is Milacron's beachhead against the brutal U.S. machinery market - described by industry leaders as the worst in recent memory.
The Uniloy and D-M-E announcement came a day after Milacron reported its third-quarter financial results. Plastics machinery sales of $149 million were down $3 million from the same quarter of 2001. New orders were flat.
Shipments of injection presses held steady while Milacron reported declines in blow molding machines and mold bases.
Meanwhile, Cincinnati-based Milacron continues to recast itself as a plastics-only player, getting rid of metal-fabricating-related products. This summer the company sold its Valenite, Widia and Werko metal-cutting-products operations, using the money to pay down debt by about $300 million.
Milacron has announced it is treating its grinding wheel and round tool operations as discontinued operations, as it studies what to do with those metals-related businesses. Milacron is retaining its industrial fluids business.
Milacron will lose money for the full-year 2002. Company officials have lowered their predictions for 2003, now saying they expect Milacron to break even next year, assuming no strong economic recovery in the near term.
The break-even point could come in the fourth quarter, thanks to cost-cutting and a move to lean manufacturing, officials said.
But executives remained cautious in a Nov. 7 conference call to stock analysts.
``We have yet to see convincing signs of a recovery in our markets,'' said Ronald Brown, chairman and chief executive officer. ``On the other hand, there has been no further deterioration either, as order rates have generally stabilized for the past several quarters.''
Harold Faig, president and chief operating officer, told analysts that plastics machinery ``is generally much better than it has been for the past year or so, but even so, breaking orders loose is still difficult to come by.''
In personnel news, Milacron named Dale Werle president of Ferromatik Milacron North America, where he will oversee the company's Batavia-based injection molding machinery business. Milacron also named David Bertke vice president of manufacturing for its Ohio factories, which include the Batavia assembly plant and a machining factory in nearby Mount Orab.
The top post at Ferromatik Milacron has been open for more than a year since Bill Gruber moved to head a new consulting company that Milacron launched called Concentric Custom Services Inc.
In his new position Werle has direct responsibility for the unit's profit and loss, including rebuilt and remanufactured products, the company said. Werle is an 18-year veteran of Milacron, serving as vice president and general manager since 1999.
Bertke, another veteran employee, joined Milacron in 1973, working in its former machine tool business. He moved to the plastics equipment side in 1994. Most recently he was general manager of the ExtrusionTek business.
Both Werle and Bertke will play key roles in Milacron's Six Sigma and lean manufacturing efforts.