After a whirlwind debut on the Chinese market more than a decade ago, Italian bottle machinery company Sipa SpA has gained a name. With the help of a new Chinese-made injection press and increased marketing efforts, it's a reputation Sipa is looking to grow.
``The China market in the past knew us mainly for our one-step integrated [blow molding] system,'' said Ruggero Apolloni, operations director at Sipa Machinery Hangzhou Co. Ltd. ``We see a big potential for our entire portfolio blowing machines, injection machines, molds and [air-recovery systems].''
Vittorio Veneto, Italy-based Sipa entered the Chinese market in 1996 when a handful of large orders came from China-based manufacturers.
``There were two or three customers that placed repetitive orders from 10-20 machines at a time,'' Apolloni said. ``Ten years ago, that was a big task for Sipa.''
When Sipa opened an operation in Hangzhou, China, its first priority was to support the firm's customers in China. In this capacity, the firm grew quickly and now supports more than 200 machines in the nation with around 30 full-time technicians.
The next step, Apolloni said, was to start making molds. For many years, the firm's 75,000-square-foot Hangzhou factory has worked at creating molds compatible with a range of machines, not just the Sipa brand. The site also can provide customers with prototype bottles.
Apolloni said Chinese customers need equipment that can accommodate bottle shape and design changes.
``Two-stage [blow molding] concepts are giving higher flexibility in shape changeovers,'' he said.
To address a growing demand for flexibility and to build its name outside of the one-step machines, Sipa recently introduced the PPS 48 preform injection press to its Hangzhou factory. The horizontal press is Sipa's first machine completely assembled in China.
While the preform production press helps address the changing needs of Chinese beverage companies, Sipa still is marketing the machine to domestic customers.
For example, Apolloni said energy savings is a new topic in the country. Many customers think mainly about a machine's cost. The trick is to change their thinking to consider the total cost of each bottle produced, he said.
The PPS 48 uses a water-based cooling system reather than a traditional air-based system, saving time and energy, Apolloni said.
He sees a bright future for Sipa in China. Beverage companies are growing in cities across the country, making it impractical to ship bottle preforms long distances and driving a need for more machines in more locations.
As cities grow in western China, more opportunities will arise, he said.