Injection press maker Arburg GmbH + Co. KG expects to suffer a 14 percent decline in 2008 sales to 350 million euros ($515 million), following a record year in 2007, according to managing partner Michael Hehl. About 49 percent of its machine orders for the year came from customers in Germany, Hehl said.
All-electric injection molding machines rose to 17 percent of 2008 total orders, from 12 percent the year before, leading sales director Helmut Heinson to claim that Arburg is now the largest supplier of all-electric machines among European producers. Other major electric injection molding machine suppliers in Europe include Ferromatik Milacron Maschinenbau GmbH, Demag Plastics Group and Netstal AG.
Multicomponent machine orders rose 2 percent in 2008, representing an 11 percent share of incoming order value in 2008.
The limited-option Golden Edition series, which is priced to sell, suffered a decline in its share of order value, dropping from 27 to 23 percent. Orders for large Allrounder 630S to 920S machines also fell, including Golden Edition Allrounders down 2 percent to a 12 percent share of the total.
Arburg has been affected by the auto industry slowdown, but less so in medical, packaging and specialty areas such as powder ceramic and metal molding, Hehl said during the machinery maker's recent Technology Days open house at its Lossburg headquarters.
The sales decline has been widespread, with no geographical differences observed, according to Hehl.
While Hehl admitted the fourth quarter of 2008 was not good, Heinson looked ahead into 2009.
There has been a significant decline of over 50 percent in incoming orders in the first-quarter 2009 compared with the same quarter in 2008, Heinson said.
Heinson said that because of the decline in the level of incoming machine orders, Arburg will experience a sales dip of more than the 20 percent this year the same percentage loss that the German Engineering Federation, VDMA, predicated for the country's plastics and rubber machinery overall.
Meanwhile, VDMA is revising its industrywide prediction downward on the basis of an overall 40 percent drop in incoming orders for the first quarter, according to Arburg's technical director, Herbert Kraibuhler.
At Arburg, the situation has meant fewer work hours in all departments except sales and service, Hehl said. Arburg is fortunately very strong; it does not fall over with every storm, he said. We have been investing out of profits and can live a while from substance.
As for its employees, Hehl said the firm wants to avoid layoffs for as long as possible even if we get into a position of no longer being in the black.
We have put a lot into our staff and they into the company. This severe crisis will end and we will come out of it stronger, he said.
About 3,300 international visitors attended the Lossburg event which also involved the official opening of a new customer center down slightly from more than 4,000 in 2008.
Arburg's investment in the customer center, which Hehl referred to as double-digit millions of euros, was planned well before any signs of an economic recession.
Kraibuhler said that one production advantage the firm enjoys is a high degree of vertical integration.
We have stocks of materials and components, so we can react quickly in the short term, Kraibuhler said.
Despite the crisis, many competitors can't deliver promptly. We can do so, also when there is no crisis.