VANDALIA, OHIO — This is a partnership that's really years in the making, a story of timing and opportunity and patience.
The Netstal division of Krauss-Maffei Corp. is teaming up with Electra Form Industries in a partnership to offer PET preform machines and molds as a package deal.
The hope, of both sides, is that unifying the brands through this partnership will help drive sales for each company in North America.
Netstal makes injection molding machines for PET preforms, and Electra Form makes preform molds. Each company has been working independently for decades.
With market leader Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. dominating the PET preform market, the two companies hope to grab a little more of the pie for themselves by working together.
Manufacturing PET preforms differs from other injection molding markets as equipment is typically purchased as an entire system.
“In preform production, you buy everything as one working cell. It's just how it works,” explained Paul Caprio, president of the Krauss-Maffei Corp. and its Netstal division, in Florence, Ky.
Husky has a stranglehold on the market, with Netstal a distant second, Caprio said. While providing plenty of praise for Husky as a competitor, the company president he wouldn't mind taking some of that business.
“In America, it's always been tough because it's Husky's backyard,” he said of the Bolton, Ontario-based company.
“We think the market would like to have a strong second player. Right now, it's really one. One and done,” Caprio said.
Netstal PET-Line machines are built in Switzerland and shipped to the United States as complete units. While Caprio has been with Krauss-Maffei for 20 years and in charge of that company's U.S. operations for about 15 years, he has only been running the Netstal division of the business for a couple of those years.
Brian M. Karns is vice president and general manager of Electra Form's operations in Vandalia, which is located near Dayton, Ohio. He's been with the company for 35 of its 37 years of operations and helped push the idea of a partnership about 18 months ago.
Electra Form once had a similar agreement with Milacron LLC, but that company stopped making PET preform presses long ago.
Karns sees the new partnership as a way to build more molds, and Caprio sees the partnership as a way to sell more machines by giving both companies an opportunity to provide a turn-key offering.
Karns started broaching the idea with Netstal during an open house that company had at its Florence site in 2013. Now, a year-and-a-half later, leaders from both companies are touting the advantages they claim come with the partnership.
Such a union actually has been on Electra Form's mind for a long, long time. Fourteen years.
That's how long it's been since the mold maker first brought up the idea of working with Netstal, but the notion did not gain any traction on the machine maker's side, Karns recalled. Netstal was satisfied with working with European mold makers.
But with Caprio now in charge of Netstal here, that company became more receptive to working with Electra Form on this side of the pond.
“I think it means in particular with the North American market, the mold maker and their location is very important because of repairs, because of wear items, to get them all local on your time,” Caprio said.
While about 80 percent of Electra Form molds are actually made by sister companies in Poland, the finishing touches happen in Ohio. Workers there also can make repairs and provide parts for molds in use in North America, cutting service time needed when compared to working with European mold makers, the men said.
Caprio said the success that Krauss-Maffei has had over here in other parts of its business helped the company realize it did not need to use PET preform mold makers in Europe for its machines being sold here.
“I think they are giving us our due, credit,” Caprio said about company leadership in Europe. “You guys can do a good job on your own.”
Both Caprio and Karns said the two companies are starting their partnership in North America, but see the opportunity for it to expand elsewhere over time. Electra Form, thanks to its presence in Europe, sees the potential to supply molds to Netstal in that region as well.
“This makes us a serious contender because of the local mold maker,” Caprio said. “North America is where we are starting. But for us, this should go all around the world. Our customers will have Electra Form molds at their disposal as an offering. We think there's a bigger piece of the pie for all of us to go after.”
Electra Form, as part of the partnership, has purchased a PET-Line machine that's up and running at its site in Vandalia. The machine serves as a demonstration unit for potential customers and provides limited production capabilities.