The two biggest plastics machinery stories of 2007 - the move by Demag Plastics Group to stop producing injection molding presses in Strongsville, Ohio, and the sale of Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. to a private-equity owner - illustrate two major trends in the business.
Closing the old Van Dorn assembly operation was a harsh reminder that building plastics machinery in the U.S., for the weak domestic injection press market, is tough. When the curtain closes on 2007, industry officials say, U.S. shipments could end up around 3,000 - less than half the number of the glory days of the mid- to late-1990s, when shipments regularly topped 6,000.
There are many reasons the Strongsville plant closed. A big problem facing DPG, and every other player, is the steady supply of used machinery pushed onto the market by auctions as U.S. molding has shrunk. The largest auction came in November, when more than 70 injection presses were auctioned off in a single day from the closed-down Hoover vacuum cleaner plant in Ohio.
The Husky news was different, but still symbolic of our time. In late September, private-equity giant Onex Corp. of Toronto - which, ironically, is publicly traded - announced it would buy Husky. Yes Husky, built from nothing by entrepreneur Robert Schad, who has retired.
Plastics News has documented private equity's march into plastics machinery. This year marked SMS Group's exit from the plastics side, selling its American Maplan, Cincinnati Extrusion and Battenfeld extruder businesses to a European private-equity group, and more recently, film equipment supplier Battenfeld Gloucester Engineering Co. Inc. to a smaller U.S. equity firm.
Everybody knows private equity buys in order to sell later on. So this year, Kautex Maschinenbau GmbH and Coperion Group changed hands, to their second private-equity owners.
At Milacron Inc., Bayside Capital Inc., a Miami-based investment firm, bought the ownership stake of Glencore Finance AG to take a controlling interest.
The sector also saw the usual shake-up of top executives, as some moved around and a few left the industry - at least for now.
Just when all the financial news and private-equity speak seemed to overwhelm the industry, along came the K show to comfort tech-lovers. Attendance hit around 242,000 for K 2007, held Oct. 24-31 in Dusseldorf, Germany. For the record, that's nearly 5 percent more than the last K, in 2004.
Here's a look back at major events of 2007:
Bruckner Maschinenbau GmbH bought fellow German company Kiefel AG, to bring together Kiefel's blown film and thermoforming machinery with Bruckner's cast film stretching equipment, cast film lines and sheet production equipment.
After 38 years of building sheet extrusion lines in Blue Bell, Pa., Welex Inc. moved its manufacturing to a new factory in Greenville, N.C. Welex's headquarters remains in the Philadelphia suburb.
Karlheinz Bourdon, a top executive and 15-year veteran of Milacron Inc., left the company after Milacron hired an outsider to the machinery maker, Bob Simpson, to replace Bourdon as president of global plastics machinery.
Shareholders approved a management-led buyout of Farrel Corp. that took the supplier of extruders and mixers private.
German industrial conglomerate SMS GmbH sold its three extruder businesses, makers of the Battenfeld, American Maplan and Cincinnati Extrusion brands. The buyer was Triton, a European private-equity firm.
Mannesmann Plastics Machinery GmbH, owned by Chicago investment firm Madison Capital Partners, announced a restructuring to create a ``newly integrated, flat organizational structure'' and named Dietmar Straub its chairman and chief executive officer. MPM owns the brands Krauss Maffei, Netstal, Berstorff and Demag Plastics Group - although DPG was left out of the new structure.
Kautex Maschinenbau GmbH got a new owner, German private-equity firm Steadfast Capital GmbH. Steadfast bought the blow molding machinery firm from Adcuram Industriekapital AG.
Japanese injection press maker Ube Machinery Corp. Ltd. and Hong Kong's Cosmos Machinery Ltd. announced they will build a joint factory in Wuxi, China.
Coperion Group changed hands, moving from London-based Lyceum Capital Partners LP to Deutsche Beteiligungs AG, a German buyout firm. Coperion makes compounding extruders.
Engel Holding GmbH opened its first injection press factory in China, in Shanghai.
Demag Plastics Group signaled the end of 60 years of U.S. injection press assembly when officials announced DPG was closing the former Van Dorn factory in Strongsville, Ohio. DPG continues to run parts and service out of the building.
Negri Bossi USA Inc. announced it was building a larger U.S. headquarters building in New Castle, Del., so it can show larger-tonnage injection molding machines.
Husky bought the Manufacturing Solutions Division of Moldflow Corp., including hot-runner temperature controllers and software for production and process monitoring.
Josef MÃ¤rtl, the top executive, left Krauss Maffei GmbH after 34 years at the German injection press giant.
Leaders of Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. said the firm will be bought by Canadian private-equity giant Onex Corp. Husky shareholders are expected to approve the deal Dec. 6.
French injection press builder Billion SA bid for Sandretto Industrie srl, the struggling injection press maker now run by the Italian government.
Extruder supplier American Kuhne Inc. joined Rhode Island government officials to break ground on a 26,000-square-foot factory in Hopkinton, R.I.
K 2007 drew about 242,000 visitors to Dusseldorf, Germany.
In a deal announced at K 2007, SMS sold Battenfeld Gloucester Engineering Co. Inc., a film equipment maker, to Mousam Ventures LLC, a private-equity firm started by two former owners of EGS Gauging Inc., John Sharood and Dick Murphy. Their first move: returning the original name of Gloucester Engineering Co. Inc.
Milacron Inc. said Oct. 3 that Bayside Capital Inc., a Miami-based investment firm, bought the ownership stake of Glencore Finance AG to take a controlling interest.
Brian Bishop departed as the president of Demag Plastics Group's U.S. operations in Strongsville. He resurfaced a month later at Milacron, as vice president of marketing for global plastics machinery.
Arburg GmbH + Co. KG opened a technology center in Elgin, Ill.
Michigan compounding extruder maker Century Extrusion purchased China's Nanjing Ruiya Polymer Processing Equipment Co. Ltd.