Milacron Inc. is back in the global game for extruders, with a beefed-up staff.
``We are pushing very hard into the international side,'' said Dave Bertke, vice president and general manager of Milacron Extrusion Systems, at NPE 2006 in Chicago.
The plastics machinery maker has promoted from within, hired a European sales head from another extruder maker, opened a regional headquarters in China and hired veterans of major extrusion companies Crane Plastics Manufacturing Ltd. and Deceuninck North America LLC.
Milacron had been hamstrung from selling outside its home base of North America since late 1999, when the company sold its Vienna, Austria-based extruder business to SMS AG, the German conglomerate that makes extruders under the Battenfeld and American Maplan brand names, as well as injection molding machines and blown film lines.
Under terms of the sale, Milacron and SMS signed a five-year noncompete agreement that kept each company out of the other's way. The noncompete expired at the end of 2004, and now both are openly clashing for the same customers, worldwide.
An odd twist adds a bit of market confusion. The SMS extruder business bears the brand name from its days under Milacron ownership - Cincinnati Extrusion GmbH - even though it's headquartered in Vienna. And Milacron is based in ... Cincinnati.
The extruder company in the real Cincinnati claims to be doing well as a new global player. Bertke said that, in the first quarter of this year, 25 percent of all its extruder sales came from outside the United States. Milacron has sold extrusion equipment in Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and the Far East.
In May, Milacron Extrusion opened an office in Shanghai, headed by general sales manager Werner Liu, who was a regional sales manager for Asia for a Canadian electronics firm.
Milacron also plans to resume extruder production in Europe at the plant of sister company Uniloy Milacron, based in Magenta, Italy, with some assembly to begin this fall.
Herb Hutchison, the director of international business development, said the sales have been broad-based. ``We've sold everything from single-screw systems for medical tubing to twin-screw systems for rigid PVC pipe, window profiles and wood-natural- fiber composite products,'' he said. ``The sales include multiple machine lines and systems.''
Milacron officials claim the firm makes the industry's broadest range of large, high-output twin-screw extruders, widely used for pipe and other construction products, including parallel twins and conical twins. Milacron makes what it claims are the world's largest conical twin-screw extruders, which are well-suited for extruding wood-plastic composite products like decking.
Milacron recently sold its 275th machine for running plastic decking and profiles from wood flour and other natural fibers, to an unidentified French customer. Wood flour remains the dominant material, but the global growth won't all come from wood additives, Bertke said at NPE 2006 in June. Processors in countries like China, where wood is scarce, are turning to natural fibers such as rice hulls, corn stalks and the husks of coffee beans, he said.
Milacron also makes single-screw extruders and sheet lines.
But as important as gearboxes, steel and screw technology, Milacron has strengthened its human capital:
* Bertke, a 33-year Milacron veteran, was promoted to the top spot in extrusion. He worked for about 20 years in Milacron's former machine tool business, then moved to the plastics equipment side in 1994.
* Milacron hired Hutchison late last year from Crane Plastics, where he had worked for 32 years. He was responsible for Crane's first TimberTech wood composite plant to make decking and railing. His last position at the Columbus, Ohio-based company was president of CPC Tooling Technologies.
* Another new hire with a strong processing background is Don Schmidt, who is sales project engineer supporting Milacron Extrusion's international business. Schmidt came from Deceuninck North America LLC, where he led a team that designed and started up that firm's wood composites plant in Monroe, Ohio, to extrude decking and railing.
* Milacron Extrusion named Steve Jones its European technical sales and marketing manager, just before NPE 2006. He works out of Uttoxeter, England. Jones has more than 20 years of compounding experience, most recently at Entek Extruders, where he was European sales manager. His extrusion career started at Rapra Technology Ltd., a polymer research and technology company in Shawbury, England. He later owned Vega Scientific Compounding Ltd. in Stoke-on-Trent, England, and worked at Wolverhampton-based masterbatch maker Douglas Baker Ltd., before going to Entek.