Hong Kong-based L.K. Technology Holdings Ltd. is entering the North American plastics processing market with a line of its eXcel injection molding machines for general purpose applications.
Plastics equipment industry veteran Michael L. Smith joined the firm July 1 as vice president of sales and marketing for North America and operates now from a Ladera Ranch business center in southern California's Orange County. One of his first duties was to guide the California incorporation of a new division, L.K. Systems Inc.
The firm has signed floral container molder Diamond Line Inc. of Akron, Ohio, to sell and distribute L.K. Systems injection molding machines in 13 Midwest states plus western Pennsylvania. Diamond Line “has approximately 130,000 square feet in the Akron area and can inventory machines there,” Smith said in an interview.
For its internal use, Diamond Line ordered three eXcel machines. L.K. Systems expects initially to deliver a 180-ton press by mid-November and a 360-ton unit by early January. Other models in the L.K. line have clamping forces of 88-640 tons with units up to 4,500 tons being available.
The eXcel line utilizes a hydro-mechanical clamp with a toggle mechanism. “We are continuing to refine the technology to make the machines as energy efficient as possible,” Smith said. “More development is underway including a focused effort on a hybrid machine.”
Currently, Diamond Line operates three injection molding machines ranging from 90 to 400 tons from Elite Precision Machinery Co. of Dongguan, Guangdong, China. Diamond Line is selling two of the presses as it begins using the eXcel models, Smith said.
He said North American models of the L.K. Systems presses incorporate safety and energy-efficiency features, meet requirements of the American National Standards Institute, achieve operational uptimes of 95 percent, and come with a two-year warranty except for wearable items.
The machines are “really an affordable entry to the market for processors” whose current machines in many cases have exceeded the usual replacement phase, Smith said. The L.K. machines “are not intended to compete with the lines” of Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd., Engel North America Inc. or Milacron LLC for which “I have high regard.”
Apart from the Diamond Line effort, L.K. Systems intends to develop its own technical, parts and distribution facilities, initially in the Indiana area. “We will bring machines into that facility,” Smith said. Later, L.K. Systems plans for a similar site in the West.
“In the future, we may bring in clamps, injection and control modules from China and do some assembly to meet market requirements” in North America, he noted.
L.K. Systems signed a one-year lease with Regus Group Cos. for the space in Ladera Ranch and corollary access as needed to Regus' global business centers.
Smith began his plastics industry career with Industrial Molding Corp. in Torrance, Calif., in 1975 and joined Euro-Tec Inc. in Anaheim, Calif., as executive vice president and general manager in 1987. He became Husky general manager for the western region in 1990 and, for several years, also oversaw Husky's national sales force development and best practices. He took early retirement in 2006 and has kept busy with consulting assignments, motivational speeches and business writing.
Smith has held numerous leadership positions with the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.'s western region and related chapters. He received SPI's 2001 Western Plastics Award for exceptional individual service.
L.K. Technology Holdings approached Smith in May about geographic market expansion plans for its injection molding equipment.
Smith visited the Hong Kong headquarters and Chinese factories in Shenzhen in Guangdong province and Ningbo in Zhejiang province. “L.K. injection molding machines did not have a presence in America,” he noted.
“The new Ningbo facility has several hundred thousand square feet,” Smith said. To accommodate North American technical and market needs, “design of the machines took place in a series of meetings between May and first week in July. We wanted them to be competitively priced. It has to be a good machine for economic reasons.”
Smith discovered a possible L.K. marketing advantage that stems from the reshoring trend of some molding work moving to North America from Asia.
“A lot of that product runs on L.K. machinery in Asia,” he said. “We will try to determine which products are on those machines.”
For the fiscal year ended March 31, L.K. Technology Holdings reported profit of $9.02 million (HK$70 million) on sales of $342 million (HK$2.63 billion). Sales of about 3,500 plastic injection molding machines totaled $76 million (HK$589 million). Die-casting machine sales were $240 million (HK$1.89 billion).
S.S. Liu formed the business as L.K. Machinery Co. Ltd. in 1979. It has traded publicly as L.K. Technology Holdings on the Hong Kong stock exchange since October 2006.
Liu said in a statement: “Michael's vision, reputation and knowledge within the plastics industry have already made him a significant member of the L.K. Systems Inc. division. We view his appointment as a reflection of our commitment to a growing market.”
Since 2006, the parent firm's L.K. Machinery Inc. division in Holland, Mich., has provided and supported Chinese-made computer numerical control, precision die cast and trim press machines largely for the North American automotive manufacturing industry. In a related initiative, a 2013 joint venture between the L.K. division and SAPP SpA of Brescia, Italy, outfitted a facility in Edinburgh, Ind., to repair and rebuild large die cast molds for the same market.