China's price-sensitive press buyers have taught U.S. machine maker Milacron Inc. a few tough lessons, but the company hopes a series of firsts for its China operations can give its efforts there a boost.
Milacron's China joint venture factory in Jiangyin started making its first all-electric Elektron presses there this year, and has sold its first structural foam injection molding machine in China, company officials said at Chinaplas, held May 18-21 in Guangzhou.
The Batavia, Ohio-based firm also said it sold its first wood-plastic extruder, model TC86, to Nanjing Jufeng Advanced Materials Co. Ltd. in Nanjing, one of China's largest makers of wood-composite profiles for products like decking, railing and pallets a market that Milacron has been targeting in China.
The company launched production of its Chinese-made all-electric injection press in January and rolled it out at Chinaplas, paralleling the rollout of the same model from its Indian subsidiary at the PlastIndia trade fair in February, said Jay Woerner, vice president of Asian operations.
Company officials sold their show floor model, an Elektron 110, to Taizhou Yinshan Manufacturing Brushes Co. Ltd., in Huangyan.
The company is trying to position the Chinese-made electrics as less expensive than its Japanese-made models, but in the same price range as Toshiba Corp.'s made-in-China electrics, although Woerner acknowledged it's a close competition.
Milacron had been making the Evolution-brand electric presses in Germany and tried to take the same model to Asia four years ago, but found it was too expensive for local preferences. So it redesigned controls and other features to reduce costs by 30-40 percent, Woerner said.
We came in with a Western [specification] and a Western product, he said. But we needed to lean out the product. [Asians] all yearn for the technology [but] they aren't willing to spend for it yet.
In China, the company is making the Electron in four sizes of 50-155 tons of clamping force.
Milacron officials said their recent Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in the United States has been difficult to explain to the Chinese market, where people do not understand that it means the company will go through restructuring and refinancing without ceasing operations, he said.
Company officials said they met with Chinese staff, customers and suppliers, and held employee and customer meetings there within an hour of the bankruptcy's announcement in the U.S.