The financial beating the plastics machinery markets have taken around the world has hardly touched Ferromatik Milacron Maschinenbau GmbH's India factory. The operation is planning an expansion during the next two years that will boost capacity by 20 percent.
Company executives said the Indian market for its equipment did slow down in late 2008, as the world economy shook. But the slowdown thus far has been more like a hesitation, said Jay Woerner, chairman of Ferromatik Milacron India Ltd.
The hesitation took place in the fourth quarter and it is already showing signs of returning, Woerner said, though he added that sales remain lower than they were before the financial crisis.
The plant, a joint venture in Ahmedabad with India's Mahendra N. Patel family group, currently makes more than 500 machines a year mainly injection presses and last year finished a series of upgrades to its assembly and painting operations, as well as manufacturing of extrusion blow molding machines.
Our experience is that the way things are moving, by September [the market] will be back, said Ferromatik Milacron India President N.K. Balgi. Both executives were interviewed at the PlastIndia show, held Feb. 4-9 in New Delhi.
FMI which is part of U.S. machinery maker Milacron Inc. of Batavia, Ohio is seeing more demand in India for its large-tonnage injection presses, those over 500 tons. The Indian operation also is taking on more research and design work.
In the past two years, the company has standardized some of its product platforms in India and China, and India now develops the software for controllers used in the Chinese presses, Woerner said.
It is significant to China because it means the dominant technology in China had come from the U.S. and Germany, but now it comes from India, said Woerner, who also serves as Milacron's vice president of Asian operations. This group has clearly shown the ability to take care of all the design requirements of the technology.
The changes can help produce machines better suited to those two developing economies, he said.
I am now building an Asian-spec version that is 10-15 percent lower in cost, that is more competitive in Asia, he said.
The largest export market for the India factory is Africa, which has received a total of 580 FMI presses since the venture began in 1995. About 250 of those have been shipped to Nigeria, with Kenya and Tanzania each getting about 90.
In a presentation to a New Delhi conference related to PlastIndia, Woerner said that while the India operation is working well now, Milacron underestimated what it would take to make it profitable. It took four years to break even, and FMI underestimated the amount of supplier development needed to achieve and maintain Milacron's quality standards, he said.
It is not very easy to take global technology into an emerging market and make it fit, Woerner said.
New FMI technology introduced at the show included a 64-cavity mold for making mineral water caps and an 8-by-8 stack mold for medical products. That mold formerly was made in Germany or Italy. The company also introduced, for the first time in India, a two-layer extrusion blow molding machine, the UMS100 LSD, and an upgrade to its Indian-built all-electric injection press, the Elektron 110.