Injection press maker Battenfeld Kunststoffmaschinen GmbH should end its money-losing streak next year, said an executive of a German investment group that bought the company a year ago.
Adcuram Industriekapital AG has cut some management positions and other jobs in areas such as finance. At the same time, Adcuram is spending money to expand Battenfeld's sales force and research and development, said Alexander Muller, managing director of the machinery company in Kottingbrunn, Austria.
Battenfeld also now uses a single platform for both the two-platen HM and the TM toggle press.
``So we're much more efficient now in our production. We can use the synergies from the common platform,'' Muller said at K 2007, held Oct. 24-31 in Dusseldorf.
At 34, Muller is one of the youngest top executives in the plastics machinery industry. He leads a team of seven people from Adcuram at Battenfeld. Before joining Adcuram, Muller worked in finance and operations posts for automaker BMW AG and PET preform maker Schmalbach-Lubeca AG.
Muller said Adcuram takes a very hands-on approach to helping its companies improve day-to-day operations, unlike the classic model of private equity investment.
``We've basically done our homework and now we're ready to invest and look forward. So we're now really getting ready for the next period of growth,'' Muller said.
Officials of Adcuram and Battenfeld also are investing in a return - albeit a modest one - to large-tonnage injection molding machines. At Battenfeld's K booth was the first example: an HM machine with 800 metric tons of clamping force, molding an ABS frame for a flat-screen television set.
In October 2006, Adcuram of Munich bought the Battenfeld injection press business from SMS GmbH, an industrial conglomerate owned by Heinrich Weiss and his family. Weiss wanted Dusseldorf-based SMS to focus on its core business of equipment for steel mills.
For several years, SMS had complained that Battenfeld was losing money. Then in late 2005, SMS closed Battenfeld's large-tonnage press plant in Meinerzhagen, Germany. The factory could build presses with clamping forces of more than 2,000 tonnes - including some exotic machines Battenfeld pioneered to mold polycarbonate car windows.
SMS shuttered Meinerzhagen before Adcuram bought the company. The only remaining factory, in Kottingbrunn, topped out at 650 tonnes. But Muller said Adcuram is moving into bigger iron. The company has taken some orders for the 800-tonne models. In early 2008, the Austrian plant will begin producing HMs with clamping forces of 1,000 and 1,300 tonnes.
Kottingbrunn cannot make machines larger than that, however. That leaves out a return to the car-window presses that dramatically graced Battenfeld booths at major trade shows of the past, including K and NPE. But Muller said it will happen down the road, adding the owners are happy with the product mix.
``I would say, `Never say never.' For 2008, it's not our plan to go that big again,'' Muller said. However, he added: ``If we can do this profitably, we'd think about extending the range.''
Presses bigger than 1,300 tonnes would require a new building.
For now, management thinks Battenfeld will reach break-even status by the end of 2008. For 2007, the company will achieve a 10 percent increase in sales, to 110 million euros (US$150 million).
Muller credited Battenfeld's customers for staying loyal ``even during the difficult transition period'' of the ownership change. Customer requests are why Adcuram has approved a return to big presses, he said.
``We have a lot of customers that have depended on Battenfeld large machines, and kept asking us to go back. So we looked into it, and we think that we can do this profitably in Kottingbrunn,'' he said. ``This completed our range, and so we can serve those customers again.''