With lower labor costs, Eastern Europe is luring investment for new plastics factories from Western Europe and Japan, machinery company officials said at the Fakuma trade show, held Oct. 14-18 in Friedrichshafen.
``We are putting more and more of our sales force in southeastern Europe,'' said Fritz Dorner, a managing director of Battenfeld GmbH, which makes injection molding machines in Meinerzhagen, Germany. Growing markets include Hungary, Poland, Russia, Turkey and Estonia.
Eastern Europe still is a very small market compared with the west, pointed out Hans Steupert, sales manager for Western Europe at Ferromatik Milacron Maschinenbau GmbH, based in Malterdingen, Germany. But there are several interesting markets, he said.
``Poland is the upcoming market now, with 40 million people,'' he said at Ferromatik Milacron's booth.
Several machinery manufacturers said Russia is an intriguing market, as the giant country evolves from the center of the Communist bloc to a market-oriented economy. Steupert said Russia needs to develop the production of cars and household appliances - a ``fertilizer sector'' that fosters spinoff plastics processors.
``The financial situation in Russia is very, very complicated,'' Steupert said.
Reinhardt Ruhmer, a managing director of Krauss-Maffei Kunststofftechnik GmbH, said the main spotlight for investment for plastics processing shines on Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Some of KM's customers are looking at Romania.
Munich, Germany-based Krauss-Maffei is part of Mannesmann Plastics Machinery GmbH. The giant machinery group that owns five machinery companies made its own Eastern Europe news in Friedrichshafen, at an Oct. 15 news conference.
Chief Executive Officer Pepyn Dinandt announced that MPM plans to open a factory in Eastern Europe in 2005 to produce components for MPM member assembly plants, cutting costs.
Dinandt said MPM officials are centering their search on the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Asked about a time line, Dinandt said MPM would like to choose a plant site by the end of this year, buy the land and build the factory in 2004 and begin production in 2005.
The announcement was the most dramatic example yet of the much-talked-about ``synergies'' among MPM member companies, which make injection molding machines, extruders and other types of equipment under the Krauss-Maffei, Demag Ergotech, Berstorff, Netstal, Van Dorn and Billion brand names.
New York buyout firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. owns MPM, which is based in Munich.