In an economic climate that has been absolutely brutal to the auxiliary equipment manufacturing market to the tune of a 40-50 percent freefall in sales Motan Inc. officials soldier on with the same goal they have always had: continuous improvement.
The focus is not so much on the now as on the later.
Coming out the back end [of this economic downturn], companies that have a strategic view of the future are going to come out different, President Mark McKibbin said in an interview at NPE2009, held June 22-26 in Chicago. There are going to be winners and losers in market share.
Plainwell, Mich.-based Motan Inc. is the North American unit of Motan GmbH in Isny, Germany, which is coming off its best-ever sales figures in 2008. Officials are not expecting a repeat.
In the 2001 recession, plastics manufacturers continued to make capital investments in their facilities, adding automation and energy-efficient equipment. That is not happening now, officials said.
There is not so much investing in the future, because for many of these companies, the future is so uncertain. There is a lot of capacity out there, machine-wise. It's going to be a while before [North American plastics manufacturers] expand or consolidate, said Scott Harris, Motan vice president of sales. The survivors are the ones who are able to do more with less. It's our job to be there for those customers.
Motan has spent the recession cutting costs where possible, concentrating on customer service and retention, and developing new products.
It would be wrong to characterize the company's near-term view as bullish, but not so to characterize it as optimistic.
The firm's global view and diversity help in that regard. About 60 percent of its sales are in Europe, with the remaining sales split almost evenly between North America and Asia. Motan has made a concerted effort to grow its market share in North America and has successfully snagged a couple points of share since NPE2006, officials said.
Asia, too, is a priority for Motan, a place the company has operated for a decade. It has operations in Taicang, Shanghai and Beijing. But the region is a particularly difficult market because the majority of processors about 70 percent concentrate exclusively on high-volume, low-cost production and are less likely to invest in Motan's higher-end automation equipment than the companies operating in Asia with European or U.S. ties, said Motan GmbH CEO Ulrich Eberhardt.
At NPE, the firm's exhibit includes new innovations in beside-the-press dryers for processors unwilling or unable to invest in a central materials-handling system, a new regrind hopper loader with an 8-inch discharge flap designed to ease the flow of post-consumer scrap, and an automated manifold that the firm said takes much time and labor out of materials changes for plants with central systems.
Research and development remain at the same level they always have, officials said, and they expect that to give them an edge moving forward. We believe we'll come out of the crisis stronger than before, Eberhardt said.
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