GUANGZHOU, CHINA — A year ago, Engel Holding GmbH made a big splash at Chinaplas when it launched Wintec, a new business to focus on making standardized injection presses for commodity processors in Asia.
A year later, Schwertberg, Austria-based Engel says Wintec is growing rapidly and continues to be a key cog in Engel's plan to compete against lower-cost machines made in China.
“Everything worked out quite well, we are happy,” said Peter Auinger, CEO of Wintec, in a May 19 interview just prior to the opening of Chinaplas 2015.
At this year's Chinaplas in Guangzhou, part of Wintec's goal is to continue to penetrate the market in China, adding new agents and reaching processors with standard machines that meet the same quality standards as Engel's made-in-Austria presses.
“There's no compromise in machine quality,” Auinger said. Wintec uses the same machine tools as Engel's plants, and mostly the same component suppliers. He called Wintec “the fastest and maybe the easiest step” for processors in Asia to take to move into higher quality molding.
The big difference between Engel and Wintec is that Engel has more customized equipment — it offers 750 options on Engel machines, compared to 150 for Wintec.
While there's much talk at Chinaplas about companies shifting strategies to adjust to China's “new normal” — annual GDP growth of about 7 percent, instead of the double-digit gains of the past — Auinger said Wintec does not need to change its approach.
“The growth is shifting. China clearly has an approach to more quality, to more sustainability, to more reliability. And on those issues, Wintec is coming at the right time to the right place,” he said.
Auinger said Engel started producing Wintec machines in Engel's Shanghai plant in 2014. In the fall, it started making injection presses in Wintec's own plant, in Changzhou, China.
Last year Wintec built about 50 machines. This year it plans to build about 100, and by next year Auinger expects the Changzhou plant to be at its capacity, about 300 mid-and large-sized two-platen machines.
Wintec currently has about 100 workers.
Engel puts focus on automation
Engel, meanwhile, put a positive spin on the “new normal” economic growth in China. Gero Willmeroth, sales and service president at Engel Machinery (Shanghai), noted that 7 percent annual growth would still be considered very strong in any other market.
He added that as China's economy matures, plastics processors will graduate to investing in equipment with higher quality and efficiency.
“The premium segment of the market is growing,” Willmeroth said.
In Asia, Engel makes injection presses in Shanghai and in Pyongtaek, South Korea. Production in Asia accounts for about 85 percent of Engel's sales in Asia — the company still imports some specialty machines from Europe.
One of the recent developments in Asia was the establishment of an automation center at Engel's Shanghai plant. The center currently has five automation engineers on staff, but Willmeroth expects that to increase by Chinaplas 2016.
“The degree of automation is strongly increasing because of increased labor costs and because of the emphasis on a higher degree of precision,” Willmeroth said.
Engel posted sales of about $1.4 billion last year, with Asia accounting for about 17 percent of the total.