For plastics machinery manufacturers, 2008 brought new global alliances, a strategic shift by one major player and an assembly plant closing in Canada even as the U.S. capital equipment, like the economy, ends the year on a whimper.
Two major producers of injection molding machines changed hands this year. Sumitomo Heavy Industries Ltd. of Chiba City, Japan, bought Schwaig, Germany-based Demag Plastics Group. Then Austrian robot and auxiliary equipment company Wittmann KunststoffgerÃ¤te GmbH made a big move into injection molding equipment, picking up the Battenfeld injection press business.
Many industry observers see more consolidation as financial pressures intensify in 2009, which is shaping up to be a year where victory will be survival. Expect to see more Japanese-European linkups either Sumitomo-DPG purchase deals or technology-sharing agreements like the new all-electric press developed jointly by KraussMaffei AG of Munich, Germany, and Toshiba Machine Co. Ltd. of Tokyo.
The Japanese have an ace in the hole: Their expertise in all-electric injection machines that sip energy and mold with precision.
Meanwhile, Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. of Bolton, Ontario, caused a ruckus when officials later confirmed the company was getting out of large-tonnage machines to focus on its strongest area of high-speed presses to mold PET preforms and packaging. Husky put its big Detroit Technical Center on the selling block just one of many vacant buildings in Detroit these days.
Private equity deals slowed down in 2008. Spell Capital Partners LLC of Minneapolis bought Brown Machine LLC of Beaverton, Mich., and Epco Machinery LLC of Fremont, Ohio, but 2008 lacked the private-equity drama of recent years. Going into 2009? Debt and leverage? Nahhh!
Engel Machinery Inc. of Guelph, Ontario, closed its factory in Canada idling 220 workers and centered all North American production at its plant in York, Pa. There were some layoffs in 2008, but after several years of cuts, most machinery makers are pretty lean people-wise.
Things heated up in Asia and not just economically. In April, India charged China with dumping injection presses on India. Some observers think the friction could spark tit-for-tat trade disputes between the two countries.
Engel Machinery Inc. closed its long-time factory in Guelph that makes small and mid-sized injection molding machines, cutting about 220 jobs.
German steel specialist Salzgitter AG bought the SIG Corpoplast PET bottle blow molding machinery business, and the Plasmax barrier technology, from SIG Holding AG. The business was renamed KHS Corpoplast.
Spell Capital Partners bought thermoforming machinery maker Brown Machine LLC and Epco Machinery LLC, an equipment remanufacturer.
Karlheinz Bourdon, former president of global plastics machinery at Milacron Inc., resurfaced at KraussMaffei AG in Germany as director of KM's injection molding machinery division.
KraussMaffei and Japan's Toshiba Machine Co. Ltd. announced they will cooperate to develop leading-edge injection presses. The resulting AX all-electric machine debuted in October at the Fakuma show in Germany.
Dutch injection press maker Stork Plastics Machinery BV launched its first effort to sell machines in the United States and Canada, opening an office in Shirley, Mass.
Japanese injection press maker Sumitomo Heavy Industries Ltd. bought Demag Plastics Group, based in Germany.
Alpha Marathon Film Extrusion Technologies Inc. opened after a group of employees bought the assets of the bankrupt Alpha Marathon Technologies Group Inc. in Woodbridge, Ontario.
Wittmann KunststoffgerÃ¤te GmbH, an Austrian robot and auxiliary equipment maker, bought the Battenfeld injection press business, and renamed the company Wittmann Battenfeld GmbH.
India's Ministry of Commerce and Industry launched an investigation of whether Chinese companies are dumping injection molding machines on the Indian market.
Tony Lutarewych, who sold some of the first Milacron injection presses in the late 1960s, died after a battle with cancer. He was 72. Lutarewych was national sales manager when he retired in 1999.
Morrow County, Ohio, filed a foreclosure action in court against Taylor's Property Management LLC, over more than $900,000 in unpaid taxes for HPM, the factory in Mount Gilead, Ohio, that makes injection molding machines, sheet lines, die-casting equipment and components for wind turbines. In late October, the state of Ohio pledged $4 million in low-interest loans to help HPM expand in wind power, once Taylor's begins making payments to the makes payments to the county.
In a major strategic change, Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. stopped actively building large-tonnage injection presses, to focus on its core strength of machines to mold PET preforms and thin-wall packaging. Husky had put its big Detroit Technical Center up for sale in late May.
Italian auxiliary equipment maker Piovan SpA bought Universal Dynamics Inc. of Woodbridge, Va., in a major move into the U.S. market.
Wolfgang Studener took over the top executive spot at sister extruder makers Battenfeld Extrusionstechnik GmbH, Cincinnati Extrusion GmbH and American Maplan, as the companies, all owned by a European private equity firm, moved to integrate back-office functions.
Two plastics machinery companies held open houses: extruder-maker American Kuhne Inc. opened a new headquarters in Rhode Island, and injection press supplier Negri Bossi USA Inc. in Delaware.
Germany-based KraussMaffei AG and Toshiba Machine Co. Ltd. of Japan introduced their jointly developed AX all-electric injection press, at the Fakuma 2008 trade show, held in October in Friedrichshafen, Germany.
Japan Steel Works Ltd. announced plans to invest 122 million yen ($1.23 million) in a fellow Japanese injection press builder, Meiki Co. Ltd.
The two Kiefel sister machinery companies moved in together, as blown film equipment maker Kiefel Inc. relocated from Wrentham, Mass., and moved to Hampton, N.H., the home of thermoforming machinery builder Kiefel Technologies Inc.
Century Extrusion purchased bought Nanjing Ruiya Polymer Processing Equipment Co. Ltd., a chinese extruder manufacturer. The two companies had a technology and marketing partnership since 2004.
Alessandro Macchi, managing director of Italian film equipment maker Macchi SpA was shot dead in his villa. Police arrested his long-time companion, Johanna Malgorzata Lohninger, on suspicion of murder.
David Lawrence, who ran Milacron's D-M-E mold components business, became the top executive at Milacron, replacing Ronald Brown, who is retiring from the company.