Demag Plastics Group's injection molding machines no longer will carry the Van Dorn or Ergotech brands, instead using just the Demag name. The move marks an end to the 59-year-old Van Dorn name.
In a Jan. 20 news conference, company executives also announced an agreement with a Russian company to build Demag presses in that country.
Demag Plastics Group was formed in November 2002, when sister machinery makers Demag Ergotech GmbH of Schwaig, Germany, and Van Dorn Demag Corp. of Strongsville, Ohio, merged. The two companies had a close working relationship for 10 years.
One goal was to create a single, common machinery line in time for the K 2004 show this fall in Dusseldorf, Germany. At last year's NPE in Chicago, the DPG logo went on all injection presses, but they still retained the Van Dorn or Ergotech names.
Machine assembly in Strongsville remains a key part of DPG, said Bill Carteaux, co-executive managing director and the person in charge of the Strongsville operation. Carteaux and the other executive managing director, Helmar Franz, stressed the long relationship between the sister firms.
``We're not abandoning our customers,'' Carteaux said, calling the single brand name part of the ``natural progression'' of DPG. ``We have now gotten married. This is going to last a lot longer than Britney Spears' recent wedding,'' he quipped.
DPG launched a common Internet site in mid-December.
DPG reported companywide sales of 316 million euros ($342 million) for fiscal 2003, ended Sept. 30. That is a slight decline of 1.3 percent from 320 million euros in 2002. Sales for the U.S. operation in Strongsville were 76.2 million euros ($82.6 million) in 2003, down 18 percent from 90 million euros the year before. Carteaux said exchange rates accounted for much of that decline.
In the plastics industry, the Van Dorn brand name dates to 1945, when Cleveland-based Van Dorn Co. introduced its first injection molding machine.
The Demag and Van Dorn companies first got together in 1992. That year, after a failed hostile takeover attempt, Van Dorn Co. sold its injection press-making unit, Van Dorn Plastics Machinery Co., to Mannesmann AG. At the time, the German industrial giant teamed Van Dorn with what then was called Mannesmann Demag Kunststofftechnik of Schwaig, and the two sold each other's machines and worked on some common designs.
Today, Demag Plastics Group is part of Mannesmann Plastics Machinery GmbH, based in Munich, Germany.
The U.S. side of DPG has seen some consolidation recently, as Van Dorn closed two component plants in South Carolina and moved some of that work into its main Strongsville factory. It also has closed a separate aftermarket parts facility in Strongsville and moved that work into the main plant.
DPG said in November it would invest several million dollars in capital improvements at the U.S. headquarters plant.
Carteaux said he is not afraid that taking away the Van Dorn name will spark a negative reaction from U.S. customers. ``This has been a 10-year transition,'' he said.
Meanwhile, Franz outlined DPG's move into Russia. The company has contracted with a firm in Chistopol: PKF Betar, a unit of industrial holding company Vostok. Betar started building the Demag Bars brand of injection presses this month. The presses will debut at the Interplastica trade show, Feb. 24-27 in Moscow.
Russia is a promising market for about 900 injection presses a year, but new machines account for only 42 percent of the total, Franz said. Asian machines hold 62 percent of that new-press segment, and have been gaining market share, he said.
Russian molders still run about 8,000 of the old, hard-to-maintain Kuasy-brand machines made in the former East Germany. ``Sometimes they fall apart and you need new equipment,'' Franz said. Money to buy machines remains tight, however, so the Demag presses built by Betar are designed to be competitively priced. Franz said he thinks the company can sell 100 of the Demag Bar presses in a year.
Demag Plastics Group has not taken an ownership stake in the Russian company, he said.
Franz has firsthand experience in Russia. His father sold textile machinery, and he moved to Moscow at age 13, spending nine years there. When Franz joined Mannesmann Demag in 1991, he was put in charge of the Moscow office.
Franz also said DPG has named product managers: Frank Schuster for packaging and El-Exis presses; Christoph Mehler covering automotive; Armin Distler for medical; Klaus RahnhÃ¶fer for multicomponent molding; Glenn Frohring covering vertical machines; Jens LÃ¶we for IntElect all-electric presses; Andreas Schramm and Mike Uhrain for big systems; and Uta Sachtleben and Dave Williams for small machines.
DPG also is creating closer ties with key mold makers and automation suppliers, as it offers complete molding systems instead of one-off presses, Franz said. One example is a Feb. 11 open house at the Auburn Hills, Mich., facility of PGAM Advanced Technologies AG, a German mold maker. The companies will demonstrate textile overmolding for the automotive industry.