(June 26, 4:55 p.m. EDT) — Helmut Heinson joined Arburg GmbH + Co. KG at the beginning of 2005 as managing sales director of the injection press maker in Lossburg, Germany.
An electrical engineer, Heinson has a background working at German makers of automation equipment and packaging machinery.
“My major background is in global businesses,” he said.
Arburg is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, marked by its new Allrounder Golden Edition press.
The company makes presses with clamping forces up to 440 tons. Arburg showed nine injection molding machines at NPE 2006. The focus was on all-electric technology, which is now a significant part of the U.S. market.
Heinson outlined Arburg's strategy for North America in a June 7 telephone interview from Lossburg. He said that, globally, Arburg wants to be a leader in supplying turnkey systems. Also, Heinson said, high resin pricing has affected commodity molding more than complex-parts molding — so it has hit machinery buyers in Asia more than the West.
Q: First, what are your thoughts about NPE?
Heinson: For us at Arburg, it's becoming more and more important that the NPE is not only covering North America — this is for sure the most interesting part of it — but we also experience a strong strategy with the customers from South America. This makes the NPE more important for us. … It's the key event for all of America, not only North America but also South America.
Q: Tell us about what Arburg will show.
Heinson: Specifically at this NPE, we are trying to concentrate on our all-electric machines. As one of the very special highlights, we will display a two-component, all-electric machine, an 88-ton Allrounder. We think this is the first time that somebody will present a two-component, all-electric machine.
Q: What are some other highlights?
Heinson: We will mold a thin-wall plastic cup running on a 2.3-second cycle, on a 110-ton press. We expect it to be the fastest machine at the show. Also, we will have for the first time our new vertical machine. This is the first version that we offer now, a 14-ton vertical machine for insert molding.”
Q: Is that vertical press the same press you showed at the Fakuma show last fall in Germany?
Heinson: Yes that's exactly the one. At that point in time it was a prototype machine. We are expecting big business with this machine. And there will be another machine, with double the tonnage, but it will be available, at the earliest, around August or September. The machine is following a brand-new design, with a C-clamp design, so this allows wide access from the front. In the past, all our verticals were based on four tie bars.
Q: What about the Golden machine?
Heinson: Absolutely, we will have a Golden Edition machine at the show, a 150-ton machine.
Q: Most of the machines Arburg is showing at McCormick Place are all-electric. According to statistics from the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., in 2005, all-electric injection presses accounted for about 40 percent of the U.S. market, measured by units, a big jump from about 30 percent in 2004.
Heinson: We have to address this, and we are, by bringing our version of the electric machine into the market. We are very confident that our electric is one of the best on the market. America, for Aburg, is the biggest market for electric machines worldwide.
Q: We've also reported that the U.S. is Arburg's biggest overall export market.
Heinson: That's very true. The U.S. and North America.
Q: At Arburg's Technology Days 2005 in April, the company reported strong U.S. demand for its larger-tonnage presses, plus orders for electric and multicomponent machines. This seems to be hitting all the bases of what is pretty strong in the U.S. market right now. What's your outlook? Are molders in the United States investing in new technologies?
Heinson: Our impression looking from the headquarters is that the American market, in terms of applications, is getting more and more sophisticated. These high-sophistication applications, which have a large emphasis on technology, remain in the United States. For that reason, we are delivering more and more high-technology machines into the United States.
Q: Resin prices should be a big topic of conversation at NPE. Have high resin prices caused molders to hold-off on ordering machines? Has Arburg experienced this?
Heinson: There's a very straight answer to this: Yes. We feel this is especially in the Asian market, for example — every place where we are talking about mass production, this is where we feel it. As soon as you go into the sophisticated applications like multicomponent, or automotive, it's not [had] as much of an impact.
Q: It seems like what the industry wants is stable pricing, even when prices are at a high level.
Heinson: Look at the world market. Everybody wants to have stable pricing, so you have a reliable situation for your production costs. But unfortunately, this is now the real situation in the world today.
Just look at the paper: The global prices are changing and most of the time increasing. We even hope it will decline, but I'm afraid this is not reality.
Q: Arburg is family-owned, by the Hehl family. Your factory in Lossburg is set up almost for “mass customization,” with its ability to produce large numbers of injection presses in a customized fashion. These seem to be Arburg's main strengths.
Heinson: This really reflects our flexibility and it's also the strategy that Arburg has followed for the past years. We will maintain our sole production here in Lossburg.
Q: Let's look at some trends. First, multicomponent molding. We constantly hear that this is more widespread in Europe than the United States. We also hear that in Europe, they “use the time wisely” with rotating, two-shot molds, to take advantage of the technology to do in-mold assembly, in-mold decorating or painting, those types of things.
Heinson: Yes, it's a significantly growing business over the past few years, as a result of low-performance applications moving into low-cost countries.
Q: But multicomponent molding is still relatively rare in the United States, right? Is there more interest as molders here try to compete with offshore competitors?
Heinson: I have seen some of these high-level applications also in the United States, specifically for some applications in cars, like dashboards. [Using multishot and in-mold assembly] is a tendency that we see in the high-cost countries, Europe, Western Europe as well as the United States.
Q: You see more and more self-contained work cells at U.S. plastics plants. Why is the work cell important?
Heinson: What we experienced here at Arburg is, the number of projects is also increasing significantly, and by “projects,” what we mean is turnkey systems. This includes peripheral equipment, robots and material handling. We assemble it at the customer's site and turn it over to the customer. The demand for this service is growing significantly worldwide. And we're positioning Arburg to be a leader in this field.
Q: Let's end with a question about China. Arburg has a subsidiary in Shanghai and has said it is committed to that market. Can you share any thoughts about China, and Asia in general?
Heinson: The demand for high-tech solutions is even growing in China and low-cost countries. I went to a factory in Malaysia, and they were using two-component technology to make power tools. It's high-sophistication technology there.