Mexico City — Chinese injection machine maker Guangzhou Borch Machinery Co. Ltd. sees opportunities in Mexico: It opened two new offices and a warehouse in the country last year.
But the company, which is one of China's largest injection machine makers, also said the factories of its customers in Mexico have grown more cautious about capital spending this year, uncertain about what will happen with the North American Free Trade Agreement and presidential elections next year in Mexico.
Borch brought two machines to the show floor at Plastimagen, a two-platen 600-ton model in its BU series and a 150-ton high-speed machine in its BH series.
At the show, it also presented its capabilities in networked, or cloud-connected, manufacturing equipment, a major push for the company, which is opening a new manufacturing plant in southern China early next year to focus on selling more advanced manufacturing lines.
More immediately in Mexico, the company said it's been in a building mode since launching in the market four years ago.
“From our experience in the past two years, the Mexican market increased a lot. But this year, it's a little bit … just keeping the same because of some policies from the USA,” said Emily Ma, head of overseas sales at the company's Guangzhou, China, headquarters.
Hans Chen, president of the company's Ontario, Calif.-based Borche Import and Export Inc. subsidiary, said the Trump administration's NAFTA positions have some companies waiting. (The Chinese parent spells its English name Borch, while the North American subsidiary uses Borche.)
“Because Donald Trump discusses about NAFTA, a lot of Mexican customers are afraid to invest a lot of money. And they really hesitate about it,” Chen said. “And next year, there's an election in Mexico. So they hesitate again.”
The company still sees underlying good demand in the market, particularly from the country's auto manufacturing sector.
It's one of the reasons why the company's chairman, Kangjian Zhu, and Ma made their first trips to Plastimagen this year and why the firm has built a service team of 14 employees in the country.
The company sells about 50 molding machines a year in Mexico and another 150 or so in the United States and Canada.
“The Mexico market is really growing every year because a lot of the carmakers move into Mexico,” Chen said.
The 200 or so machines it sells a year in North America is a small fraction of the 4,000 to 5,000 molding machines the company produces annually at its factories in China, but it's a market the company will be increasingly focusing on, Zhu said.
He said the BU model on the show floor is an example of the two-platen machines that are in demand in North America.
“This will really match the request in the North American market for bigger machines,” Zhu said.
The company's new 270,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Guangzhou will make the BU machines and focus on making more automated, internet-linked manufacturing systems, Chen said.
That new plant is set to open early next year, and besides being more automated in how Borch manufactures its own equipment, it will focus on providing customers manufacturing systems, rather than just molding machines.
“We provide the whole system,” said Chen. “If our customers buy our intelligent machines, and the automation systems, originally, they may need 10 people, now they probably need two or three.”
Chen said the company is pushing to develop what it calls more intelligent and automated manufacturing equipment, to prepare for more automated factories for its customer industries.
“A lot of carmakers, when you walk into Tesla, for example, you only see the robot machines; you don't see any people,” Chen said.
Zhu, who is a senior officer at the China Plastics Machinery Industry Association, has consistently advocated for more automation and cloud-connected Industry 4.0 technology in China's plastics industry.
In a speech at the Chinaplas trade fair in Shanghai last year, he called for an innovation center to help the Chinese plastics industry develop those technologies. In the Plastimagen interview, he said that he's still working on that. In Shanghai, he described plastics machinery as a “sunrise industry” that should seek more support from government.
Privately owned Borch, with $150 million in annual sales, is among China's five largest injection machine makers.
Zhu said Borch has general plans to put a customer service and research center in North American but declined to share details.