The young management team running French injection press maker Billion SA doesn't want Billion to try and be all things to all molders.
``We want to be different. We want to be not the volume maker, but we prefer to stay in the niche market,'' said Olivier Crave, general sales manager.
Billion officials hammered home the theme of specialization during the firm's K 2007 news conference Oct. 29.
The company ran three injection molding machines to demonstrate two-component molding of a housewares storage box and a garage-door opener, plus a two-shot engine oil cover of glass-reinforced nylon with an integral rubber gasket.
One of Billion's new all-electric Select presses molded the two-component garage-door opener, with a housing of polybutylene terephthalate, and buttons of soft thermoplastic elastomer.
British housewares molder Thumbs Up (Bury) Ltd. bought the twin-shot Billion press, with 600 metric tons of clamping force, to mold the polypropylene storage box, with molded-in TPE handle grips. The cycle time was 19.2 seconds.
Crave said about 30 percent of Billion's machines have multicomponent technology. Markets include packaging, cosmetics, automotive and medical.
``We are not the biggest company. We make about 200 machines per year. So we have to provide real added value,'' said Korbinian Kiesl, president and chief executive officer.
In 2006, Kiesl, a German executive, bought Billion from the machinery conglomerate Mannesmann Plastics Machinery GmbH. The purchase happened just a few months before Chicago investment firm Madison Capital Partners bought the rest of MPM from New York powerhouse Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.
Focused mainly on its home market of France, Billion was small fry under MPM, which generated sales of more than $1 billion a year from big plastics machinery names like Krauss Maffei, Netstal and Demag Plastics Machinery.
At the K show, held Oct. 24-31, Kiesl called Billion ``a little fish in a big pond with all the sharks.'' But Kiesl said one big advantage is that he doesn't have to fear paying back investors.
Billion, of Oyonnax, France, generated sales of 32.6 million euros ($43.4 million) in the fiscal year ended Sept. 28. Kiesl said net profit was 900,000 euros ($1.2 million). The company paid a 200,000 euro ($294,000) bonus to its 190 employees.
Kiesl said Billion made 1.6 million euros ($2.13 million) in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization in fiscal 2007.
At age 43, Kiesl is the oldest person on the management team.
``My young team is developing things more quickly than any company I have ever worked with,'' he said.
One example is work to develop the Select all-electric press. Dudu Cosgun, research and development manager, said the company will use Siemens drives, driven by belts made of polyurethane, not rubber. Ejection and injection are powered by ball screws. For clamping, Billion uses roller screws.
Cosgun said the Select cuts energy use by 30-50 percent, compared with a similar-size hydraulic machine.
Billion will offer Select presses in clamping forces from 75-150 metric tons.
A prototype all-electric is running at an unidentified automotive molder. The company is an existing Billion customer, but Kiesl said it looked at other brands of all-electric presses.
Cosgun said Billion's R&D team also has developed a plug-and-play injection unit. ``This can move from one machine to another machine,'' she said.
With its independent ownership, Billion is working to sell machines outside of its core French market. Kiesl said technology for the automotive business is a key to cracking Germany's plastics industry. Two-shot molding is important in Italy.
In North America, Billion is concentrating on Ontario and Montreal in Canada; and in the United States, the Northeast and Detroit.
``Especially in the Detroit auto industry, there's a deep need for innovation,'' Kiesl said.