ORLANDO, FLA. — Haitian International Holdings Ltd. (Booth W3683) is introducing new machines to North American molders with four presses on display at its large booth at NPE 2015. But the world's largest injection molding machine maker and its executive Helmar Franz have a bigger mission.
Haitian and its North American agent Absolute Haitian Corp. are launching the Zhafir Zeres series in North America, an all-electric line with integrated hydraulics. It's available immediately in the U.S. and Canada in clamping forces of 45 to 259 tons with larger model sizes to follow.
Haitian is also offering new, smaller model sizes and new wide-platen options of the successful Jupiter II servo-hydraulic two-platen machines to North American molders. New model sizes include 440, 618, 730, 844 and 1069 U.S. tons, and the wide-platen Jupiter II is available in 1,069-, 1,349- and 1,798- ton models.
Franz touts Haitian machines' flexibility enabled by high standardization.
“We call it ‘technology to the point,” he said.
Out of the 27,000 machines it makes annually, about 20,000 are standard machines and the remaining presses have some level of customization.
Machine or mold first?
Franz points out a fundamental difference in the purchasing process by North American molders vs. Chinese molders.
“The Chinese molder would bring a part to us, get the machine first and then take it to a mold maker to get the mold built,” he said. “Whereas in North America and Europe, many molders still would take the product idea to a mold maker first, build the mold, and then buy a specialized machine to accommodate the mold.
“Why do the Chinese molders do it that way? Because they are pragmatic and profit-driven,” he said.
“Instead of having the machine built to the mold specs, it makes more economic sense to build a mold to fit the machine. You can quickly switch and use that machine to make other products when market trends change.
“It's good for the mold makers, too,” he said.
He recalls a story that happened shortly after he joined Haitian from Demag. He noticed a customer ordering 400 of the same machine. He thought it was some sort of mistake.
“I visited the company. They made electrical parts like wall plates. Their product portfolio consisted of thousands of items and they had 2,000 Haitian machines. But they were the same 160-ton machine. They could have chosen an 80-ton machine, say, for a certain smaller part, but they wanted standardization and scale of economy.”
Franz said Haitian's North American customer base consists mostly of small and midsize molders who are highly diversified.
“They aren't only supplying to the automotive industry, which is strong at the moment,” he said. “They also serve appliances and other markets. They need flexibility with their machines.”
One of the innovations Haitian built into its all-electric, high technology Mercury series is a feature that separates plasticizing from injection. “Instead of using the same heavy screw for plasticizing and injection — one being a rotating process and the other linear, we use a 25-kilogram plunger for the injection.”
But the Mercury didn't exactly turn into a blockbuster as Haitian expected.
“It was too many new things, too many changes in one machine,” Franz suspects it was too overwhelming for customers in the molding industry.
To take a better approach at this, Haitian is currently developing a MEX tiebarless series.
“It's a high priority for Haitian. Our German and Chinese R&D teams are working together on this,” he said.
He expects the new series to be ready by the end of the year, “certainly by K show [in 2016].”
The outspoken industry veteran also expressed some sense of “disappointment” with machinery exhibited in recent years.
“I see a lot of fancy applications, but as machine tool makers, we need to concentrate on the development and innovation of machines themselves,” Franz said.
For example, as lightweighting gains so much popularity, “Why don't we try to make these heavy platens lighter? Instead of steel casting, can we use composites?”
Franz said he's also been contemplating the future business model of “hardware makers.”
“I think the customers will become less emotional about the hardware and get more value from services,” he said. “They will benefit from using the machine, not owning the machine.”
He added, “we are not [just] talking about leasing or financing. If the producer owned the machinery, it can do a much better job recycling the machines.”
The four machines at Haitian's NPE 2015 booth include a JUII 6500/4500 with clamp force of 730 tons and a shot size of 80.14 ounces; a Zeres 1200/300 with clamp tonnage of 135 tons and a shot size of 4.73 ounces; a Venus II/p 3800-1700p with a clamp force of 427 tons and shot size of 25.40 ounces; and a Mars MAII 2800/1350 with 315 tons of clamp force and a shot size of 23.6 ounces.
Haitian already operates assembly plants in Brazil, Vietnam and Germany, but not in the United States — its third-largest export market.
Turkey is Haitian's largest export market, where Haitian has secured 60 percent of the market share with 600 machines sold annually.
Franz was not at liberty to speak on the company's latest financial performance, as the Hong Kong listed company is due to release its 2014 annual report on March 27 in Hong Kong.