CHICAGO (Sept. 29, 9:45 a.m. EDT) — China is luring injection molding machinery makers from Japan, South Korea and North America to set up shop there, both as a low-cost production center and a vast market for machines.
Officials from machinery makers talked about their China plans during NPE 2003 in Chicago. Some are moving forward aggressively, while others are just exploring Chinese production.
Press makers in Taiwan and Hong Kong were the first to open production in China. One example is Victor Taichung Machinery Works Co. Ltd. of Taichung, Taiwan, which sells Fortune-brand presses in North America. The company runs three factories in China, two for milling machines and one for injection presses, according to Patrick Rice, sales manager for Fortune International Inc. in Somerset, N.J.
Japanese suppliers have followed, since China now dominates the Asian region's demand for injection molding machines.
A new plant in Shanghai marks Toshiba Machine Co. Ltd.'s first factory anywhere outside of Japan, said Hiroshi Azuma, manager of injection presses exported to Europe and North America. Production of all-electric presses began in Shanghai in late 2002. Already, the company is building an addition to handle increased production, Azuma said.
The China operation is wholly owned by Toshiba. The plant supplies China, Thailand, Malaysia and other countries in the region.
Starting next year, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. will begin making castings for platens and bearing housings at a plant in Hangzhou, China, according to Kiyoshi Ikuta, corporate secretary for the U.S. operation in Addison, Ill., called MHI Injection Molding Machinery Inc.
That China operation, Hangzhou Jinnong Machinery Manufacturing Co., will ship the parts to Mitsubishi's assembly factory in Nagoya, Japan. Press reports out of Japan said Hangzhou Jinnong will produce subassemblies such as injection units and clamping units for Mitsubishi — or even complete injection presses — but Ikuta said the company has not made a final decision.
“We are not sure about actual production in the future,” he said. “But first, we are making castings.”
Ube Machinery Corp. Ltd. of Nagoya, Japan, is working with Cosmos Machinery Enterprises Ltd., the Hong Kong-based industrial machinery conglomerate, to supply the Chinese and Southeast Asia market from a Cosmos factory in Shanghai, an Ube official said.
The plant makes injection molding presses and die-casting machines, said Daniel O'Keefe, general manager of injection molding sales for Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Ube Machinery Inc., the U.S. unit. Ube machine supplies the drawings and design, and Cosmos is building the machines.
A company spokesman confirmed Sumitomo Heavy Industries Ltd. has started making some press components at a factory in Ningbo, China, which are then shipped to Sumitomo's assembly factory in Chiba, Japan. Hideaki Yoshimori said Sumitomo is expanding the component production, but he declined to give any details until the firm makes an official announcement in Japan.
China also has grabbed the attention of the two biggest North American machinery producers, Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. and Milacron Inc. Husky is further along the road to China production. The company in Bolton, Ontario, is building a $20 million, 120,000-square-foot technical center in Shanghai, which will become its Asian headquarters and center for future manufacturing.
Early next year, the Shanghai operation will begin making hot runners and refurbishing existing PET preforms. Husky officials said the company is studying when to start assembling injection presses there.
Milacron is still in the exploratory stages in China, but company officials say the Cincinnati-based company wants a piece of the pie. Earlier this year, Milacron named Jay Woener to the new position of vice president of global manufacturing and sourcing. At a China panel discussion during NPE 2003, Woerner said there is no timetable for Chinese manufacturing.
But Woerner added: “Having a manufacturing presence there seems integral to our success there.”
Milacron has been selling machines to China for nearly two decades, he said.
China is not a one-way street when it comes to injection molding machines. One Chinese press maker, Haitian Machinery Co. Ltd., is going in the other direction: selling China-made machines in North America. Haitian, in Ningbo, built 8,000 injection presses last year — about 70 percent sold to Pacific Rim countries and 30 percent to the rest of the world, according to Kinglsey Qi Qin, president and chief executive officer of the North American division in Mississauga, Ontario.
The company opened Haitian Machinery Canada Co. Ltd. in 2001. The company is planning a U.S. facility, but the plans have not been finalized yet, Qi Qin said.
“Our company has a commitment to the market,” Qi Qin said at NPE 2003. He declined to say how many presses Haitian has sold so far in North America.
In 1998, Haitian formed a joint venture with German press maker Demag Ergotech GmbH in Ningbo, to serve Asia. Qi Qin said that operation is housed in its own factory, not at the Haitian headquarters, and is run as a separate company.
Another German machinery maker, Battenfeld GmbH, makes extruders in Shunde, China, under a joint venture with Hong Kong-based Chen Hsong Machinery Co. Ltd.
Several companies are looking at China manufacturing, but have not yet pulled the trigger.
“We are considering manufacturing a line in China, either a joint venture or a straight, 100 percent ownership,” said Phillip Kim, chief executive officer of Dima Inc. Dima, which is based in Paramount, Calif., is the U.S. subsidiary of Dongshin Hydraulics Co. Ltd. of Pusan, South Korea.
Despite the allure, a few Japanese injection press manufacturers have resisted Chinese production.
Japan Steel Works Ltd. will continue to keep all production in Hiroshima, Japan, Fumio Hirayama said at NPE 2003. The company does have several support offices in China, said Hirayama, who is president of JSW Plastics Machinery Inc. of Corona, Calif.
Nissei Plastic Industrial Co. Ltd. also is dedicated to manufacturing entirely in its home nation. Interviewed at the Chicago show, President Hozumi Yoda said Nissei can control quality better that way.
Yoda said that Nissei has started to source some parts from China, such as castings. But for the moment, the Nagano-based Nissei will continue to serve China with machines built in Japan, he said.