Japanese-made injection molding machines remain a tough sell in Europe, according to the head of Nissei Plastics Industrial Co. Ltd., which has replaced its European direct-sales operation in Belgium with a smaller, three-person office.
``The local customer in Europe is still very difficult for a Japanese supplier to sell to,'' said Nissei President Hozumi Yoda. ``But on the other side, there are many [Japanese] automotive-related companies coming to Europe.''
Nissei closed its wholly owned facility and scaled back in Belgium because of high taxes in that country and its slow European sales, Yoda said.
The emerging popularity of Japanese car brands in Europe has led their makers to open factories there, and the transplants like to buy Japanese presses, he said in an interview at K 2004, held Oct. 20-27 in Dusseldorf.
In other news, Yoda said Nissei will open a technical center in Shenzhen, China, by mid-2005 - but he said Nissei still does not plan to establish an operation to assemble injection presses in China. The site in Shenzhen, near Hong Kong, will do mold trials and employee training for customers. Nissei also runs a subsidiary in Shanghai to handle spare parts and service. Its main sales operation for China will remain in Hong Kong, Yoda said.
Nissei buys some components from China, such as castings, but the company remains strongly committed to Japanese assembly. Yoda said Nissei officials are cautious about diving headlong into China. He noted uncertainties such as China's electricity shortages, and moves by the government to slow investment and cool off the economy.
``So to depend on China so much is a little bit dangerous,'' Yoda said.
Yoda reported that the Nagano, Japan-based machinery maker expects to sell about 3,200 injection molding machines in 2004, about the same as 2003. In 2002, Nissei sold about 2,800 presses.
At K 2004, Nissei showed four injection presses, including a tiny hydraulic press, the Mini, with just 7 tons of clamping force. The other three were the all-electric Elject NEX presses. One new feature is the NEX2000 clamping force feedback control. As the mold heats during production, and the metal expands, the machine automatically increases clamping force, said Masahiro Ueno, exports general manager.
Nissei has expanded the size of its all-electric presses to 500 tons. On the larger NEX machines, 180 tons and up, Nissei uses a new type of lubrication to replace grease for the ball screw. The ``liquid lubrication'' uses a pump and tank, with a flow meter so the oil reaches every corner of the screw. Ueno said the new system eliminates problems of grease, which can solidify if the machine sits idle.
Smaller NEX presses still use grease, he said.
Nissei also promoted its PQ Manager, a factory monitoring system that connects a personal computer with injection presses through a local area network. Nissei customers in Japan have used PQ Manager for some time, but the company now has translated it into English for export markets.