Friedrichshafen, Germany — This year is turning out very nicely for Wittmann Group, says Michael Wittmann, CEO of the Austria-based manufacturer of injection molding machines, robots and ancilliary equipment.
“2015 has been a good year for us — quite surprisingly, because I expected it to be a year of correction,” he said during the group's news conference at Fakuma 2015, Oct. 13 in Friedrichshafen.
Although there has been a correction in stock markets, it has not greatly affected industrial markets.
Wittmann said the group's sales in 2015 will be 340 million ($387 million) to 350 million euros ($398.4 million), calling this “a firm figure.” This would be an increase of 11 to 14 percent on 2014 group sales of 306 million euros (about $340 million).
Order income in 2015 has been strong, showing an increase of about 15 percent vs. the previous year. There has been strong demand for Wittmann Battenfeld's MacroPower and new SmartPower injection molding machines, and also in other product areas such as robots and temperature controllers.
It has been a year of expansion at Wittmann plants in Europe, Asia and North America. An expansion at the Kottingbrunn facility on Austria has added a machining center for MacroPower platens, and a new technical center will also open in spring 2016.
In Vienna, its robot plant is being expanded to increase production capacity from 4,200 robots to 4,500 robots per year. Its second Vienna plant is being reconstructed and adapted to the requirements for production of water flow controllers and mold temperature controllers.
On Oct. 19, the group will open a new materials handling facility at a location 19 kilometers northwest of Wittmann's Vienna plants.
In Hungary, the group opened a new sales and service subsidiary in September. In July, the group opened a new building in Taichung, Taiwan. In the United States, it has acquired a neighboring plant next to its facility in Connecticut, which will house the peripheral equipment department starting in February.
“Our U.S. guys are very proud to say this site is now a campus,” said Michael Wittmann.
He was asked during the Q&A session when Wittmann will build machines in China. “Not yet,” he replied. “But if you don't manufacture in China, you're not in China. ... Hungary is a test for China. ... It will come. It has to come.”
Looking to 2016, Michael Wittmann said he is hoping for another good year, but it is difficult to foresee events. He indicated the possible fall-out in the automotive sector from Volkswagen AG's fines in the emissions testing scandal, saying the Wittmann group gets strong demand from automotive customers.
“Definitely as a partner [of automotive suppliers] we would feel it, but hopefully not too strongly,” he said.
The Wittmann 4.0 concept is the group's take on Industry 4.0. “Our approach is very clear,” he said, as it makes the molding machine the control center for all other machines and processes.
The machine is transformed into a control terminal for robots and peripherals as well as superordinate systems such as the “authentig” manufacturing software from TIG, based in Austria. Following the motto “plug and produce,” Wittmann 4.0 allows dynamic plug-in and plug-out of auxilliary equipment, such as the group's Flowcon flow controllers and Gravimax gravimetric blenders, even while the machine is running.
Michael Wittmann said it would not be developed to integrate other companies' equipment: “Wittmann 4.0 is us. I don't see an advantage to incorporate others.”
Wittmann Battenfeld is extending its technology for the medical market. It decided to roll out a medical version of the all-electric EcoPower first, and then qualify it in a clean room. For this purpose, an ISO standard class 6 clean room from Germany's Max Petek Reinraumtechnik was installed at the Wittmann Battenfeld plant in Kottingbrunn, Austria. GMP (good manufacturing practice) standard machine documentation has been made available for machines of the medical version. The installation of the clean room now gives the company's customers an opportunity to carry out production tests for tooling acceptance at the Kottingbrunn facility under real conditions