SMS Group plans to close Battenfeld's poorly performing injection molding machinery plant in Meinerzhagen, Germany, and concentrate all production at its other facility, in Kottingbrunn, Austria.
The German factory, where Battenfeld first began building injection presses more than 50 years ago, is due to shut down in June with a loss of some 470 jobs, according to the company's plastics division, SMS Plastics Technology.
Battenfeld Injection Molding Technology is not pulling out of bigger-tonnage injection press production, according to the company. Following the Meinerzhagen shutdown, it will build presses with clamping forces up to 1,400 tons in Kottingbrunn.
At first, though, bigger machines will be constructed outside the Austrian facility, either with subsuppliers under Battenfeld supervision or by the company itself, according to Wilhelm SchrÃ¶der, managing director of SMS. He admitted that Kottingbrunn is a marginally smaller plant than its German counterpart and the next year will be a ``complex'' period of transition.
SMS, which last year switched the Battenfeld injection molding machine sales and administration organization to Austria, expects to make a decision on future investment and development of the Kottingbrunn site in the next six to nine months, SchrÃ¶der said in a telephone interview.
To date, the German plant has built Battenfeld's larger presses, while Kottingbrunn has handled production of lower-tonnage machines.
SchrÃ¶der strongly denied speculation that Battenfeld will discontinue the manufacture of larger presses required for automotive plastics glazing. That is a promising area of the market and ``we will not step back from that,'' he stressed. Earlier this year, Meinerzhagen supplied its largest machine so far, a 2,700-ton press for automotive polycarbonate glazing.
It was Heinrich Weiss, SMS Group chairman, who announced the closure when he addressed a meeting of site employees Nov. 14.
``The Meinerzhagen facility has caused high losses for many years in a row. All our attempts to make the plant competitive have proved unsuccessful,'' he said. ``We must consider the future of the group as a whole and therefore cannot continue to subsidize this facility.
``Concentrating on one production site, reviewing the product portfolio and further developing the traditional strengths of the Battenfeld program will further enhance the company's market position,'' he said.
Weiss stressed Battenfeld is one of the pioneers in injection molding technology and ``this company will become a synonym for innovative technology once again.''
The closure is part of a major, ongoing restructuring of the SMS plastics machinery division, SMS Plastics Technology, ordered after poor divisional results dragged the group into the red in 2003.
Barely two months ago, when SchrÃ¶der spoke at a news conference in Chicago, he said there was no plan to halt production at Meinerzhagen.
The final decision was made only a week before the Nov. 14 announcement, he said. Back in September, the company was considering other options, such as making major capacity cuts or shifting parts from Meinerzhagen to Kottingbrunn.