German machinery maker Brückner Group has opened a new headquarters in China that will roughly double its production capacity there, as the firm said it expects continued solid demand in the market.
The 65,000-square-foot factory in Suzhou will improve efficiency by combining several offices into one location. The company will expand its workforce in China from 80 last year to about 150 by the end of this year, said Christoph Mayer, managing director of Brückner Technology (Suzhou).
Mirroring a new corporate office it opened in the United States last year, the Suzhou facility brings the local offices from several of its units under one roof, including its Brückner Maschinenbau GmbH division, which makes film and sheet equipment; its Kiefel GmbH subsidiary, which makes thermoforming and other equipment; and its PackSys Global (Switzerland) Ltd., which supplies equipment for aluminum, plastic and laminate tubes and other specialty packaging lines.
The company, based in Siegsdorf, Germany, has seen very little impact from the slowdown in the Chinese economy, Mayer said. China is a very significant market for some of its units.
There is a possibility demand for more commodity-oriented equipment in the film industry could see a slowdown in China in the near future, but that has been offset by strong demand for more specialty lines such as industrial films or films for lithium-ion battery separators, said Brückner spokesman Karlheinz Weinmann.
“Demand for value-added films is still there,” he said. “We have some brand-new solutions for that.”
The company has had a 41,000-square-foot factory in Jiangyin, China, for about a decade, where it assembles one part of its machinery, the transverse direction orientation unit. The TDO units stretch plastic film and are large and difficult to ship.
“[TDO manufacturing] will continue but in much bigger volume” with the Suzhou facility, Mayer said.
The company does not plan to start manufacturing other parts of its equipment in China and will keep its manufacturing focused on Europe because customers want the quality from its factories there, Weinmann said. Globally, the company has 1,500 employees.
Mayer said the Suzhou factory will let the Kiefel and PackSys units start to produce “some minor equipment” for their lines in China.
The company declined to disclose the size of the investment in Suzhou or sales figures for China.
The Suzhou facility includes 2,400 square feet of office space in addition to the 66,000 square feet of workshop space. The company can add 2,200 square feet of factory space in a second phase, Mayer said.
The Suzhou center also will let the company offer faster service to local customers, and it includes a training center and a small research and development team, Mayer said.
A key goal of the new factory is to give the company more space to do preassembly of equipment, rather than on-site at the factories of its customers in China, he said.