Plastics News posed a wide range of questions to Hehl, who says, "We are very happy to finally be back at a trade fair after what feels like an eternity. Nothing beats personal contacts and innovations you can touch!"
Q: How will Arburg's booth and trade show presence compare to past Fakumas or other major trade shows? The company is bringing nine machines. Is that typical for Arburg at Fakuma, or is Arburg really going all out for this as the first major international plastics industry event in Germany for 2021?
Hehl: Fakuma traditionally has been very close to Arburg's heart, as we are co-founders and have been exhibitors from the very beginning. This year, we have even expanded our booth a bit, underscoring the importance of this international trade fair on Lake Constance, at least for the European plastics industry. The number of machines we exhibit at our booth is within the usual range, although, of course, this always depends on the size of the individual machines.
Q: Does Arburg have many booth meetings set up compared to past years? Or, does your schedule indicate attendance will be down?
Hehl: It is difficult to answer this question in advance, as many visitors drop by our booth, even without an appointment, to find out about new products and innovative applications, meet their contacts in person, and also discuss new projects. Our top priority is to be able to provide intensive support and advice to customers and other interested parties. We are very well prepared for this and, therefore, we have not cut back on personnel in 2021. As usual, many employees from our international subsidiaries will also be represented at Fakuma.
Q: Has Arburg participated in many trade shows this year? Do you have any advice for Fakuma visitors meeting people in person for the first time?
Hehl: Arburg has already participated in several trade fairs this year, including Chinaplas, rapid+TCT, Equiplas and Interplas. However, these were staffed by the Arburg teams from the region and the visitors also came almost exclusively from those respective countries. We expect Fakuma will be the first trade fair for us this year that has an international character.
For visitors, it is always a good idea to make appointments with their respective Arburg contact person in order to use their valuable time at the trade fair as efficiently as possible. The compact layout at the Friedrichshafen exhibition center is an advantage here.
Q: What extra steps will Arburg take to keep employees and visitors safe? How many employees will attend? Is that less than past years? Is Arburg asking the employees who are attending Fakuma to be vaccinated?
Hehl: The safety of our guests and employees is a top priority for us. That's why we have taken the precaution of playing it safe with our stand team: The 2G rule applies to the total of around 300 employees attending the show, which means they must be vaccinated or have recovered from the virus. Around 200 will be on the stand each day to look after visitors. This means we will be almost at the same staffing level as at previous Fakuma trade shows.
Q: In a pre-Fakuma news release you said you expect this trade show to be a memorable one for Arburg booth visitors. Why is that?
Hehl: Visitors can look forward to an impressive program. Our trade show appearance will be dominated by arburgXworld and arburgGREENworld — in other words, by the topics of digitalization and sustainability and resource conservation. At Fakuma 2021, we will bring together the best of both worlds, by demonstrating how we are committed to the goal of increasing the production efficiency of our customers, while also and making them sustainably fit for the future!
At arburgGREENworld, we will present, among other things, our new recycling package by processing bio-based [nylon] 12 and using different marking technologies to allow the separation of plastic products by resin type.
At arburgXworld we will show new apps and features for our customer portal, as well as new assistance functions for our Gestica control system. The Arburg planetary roller screw drive for electrical molding machines is another important focus at Fakuma. And last but not least: Rhe premiere of our new Allrounder More multi-component machine series is sure to be of great interest as well.
Q: What has it been like marketing machines in a pandemic? Did most customers just come to you or did Arburg have to do special marketing outreach?
Hehl: Our approach to serving our customers did not change significantly because of the pandemic. We offered a comprehensive hygiene concept including testing opportunities, so that customers could always visit us, if the legal requirements in the lockdowns allowed it, of course. We also used all digital options to stay in touch with our customers. Thanks to our pioneering role in digitalization, we were and are very well positioned in this respect.
Keywords in this context are our customer portal arburgXworld, the Arburg Remote Service or remote machine acceptance. When it comes to digital formats, our view has always been, and still is, that they must offer customers and interested parties real added value. Examples of this are our new explanatory videos and our interactive Internet TV format arburgXvision.
Q: How successful have the ArburgXvision livestreams been and will they be continued after the pandemic?
Hehl: ArburgXvision was a lighthouse project. We are satisfied with the response we received to this interactive internet TV format, and yet one can say: Digital does not beat personal.
Q: What are you looking forward to most at Fakuma?
Hehl: We are very happy to finally be back at a trade fair after what feels like an eternity. Nothing beats personal contacts and innovations you can touch.
Q: What will make Fakuma a successful event for Arburg? Is it simply a success to be part of a major in-person trade show? Is this a return to a new normal?
Hehl: We are very excited. We are doing everything we can to make it as normal a Fakuma as possible, and we will be very pleased if this is successful. After all, normal would be something very special in today's times. We are sure that this trade fair will have important influences on the future.
Q: How has 2021 been for Arburg? Is medical still staying strong and automotive coming back?
Hehl: We are extremely satisfied with the order intake this year.
Medical technology remains strong and we see clear indications that the automotive industry is picking up again
Q: Is the U.S. still Arburg's biggest export market? What are some of the dynamics of the U.S. plastics industry and economy right now? Can you say what the next biggest export markets are?
Hehl: The USA remains our strongest foreign market. It has been an important pillar for us during the difficult period of 2019/2020. Business there has always been good and continues to be so. As already mentioned, we are very pleased with the order intake in the last few months and this is worldwide. In Europe, after Germany, Italy is still our biggest market.
Q: Arburg started 2021 by acquiring its development partner of more than 20 years, AMK Arnold Müller GmbH & Co. KG to strengthen its expertise and electric drives portfolio. What has happened since then? Will this partnership be on display at Fakuma?
Hehl: The company is now called AMKmotion and operates independently, as a sister company. We are not explicitly presenting this partnership at Fakuma, since the focus in Friedrichshafen is on plastics processing with the corresponding machine exhibits and applications. With regards to drives, the exception is that we will be drawing attention to our planetary roller screw drive for which we now offer a five-year warranty.
Q: In 2020, Arburg purchased RepRap GmbH, a German maker of 3D printing systems for liquid silicone rubber and other materials. What was attractive about this technology considering that Arburg developed the Freeformer? In what ways are the technologies complementary?
Hehl: The company is now called innovatiQ and its unique liquid additive manufacturing (LAM) technology is an ideal complement to the Arburg Freeforming Process (AFP). This additive manufacturing technology is interesting to our injection molding customers who already process LSR with Allrounders and for our AFP customers who want to expand their material spectrum to include liquid silicone rubbers.
Q: In June, Arburg opened a prototype center in Shanghai and equipped it with four Freeformer brand machines to produce benchmark parts using additive manufacturing. Has this technology, which Arburg introduced at K2013, lived up to expectations?
Hehl: In terms of content and technology, we are very satisfied with the Freeformer and are working together with partners and customers on exciting projects in medical technology and automotive sectors. We still have room for improvement in terms of sales.
Q: Are there other trends toward Industry 4.0 that Arburg is helping advance?
Hehl: Arburg is regarded in the industry as a trendsetter in the field of digitalization with around 40 years of experience. The same applies to the topics of resource conservation and sustainability, which are firmly rooted in our DNA. These two programs, for example, are key to our involvement in the R-Cycle initiative, in which we are the exclusive machine partner.
Q: Arburg rated well above the average for the plastics industry in Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) assessment. The company said it plans to next work on emissions. Have you set a goal? What steps will Arburg take to reduce carbon emissions?
Hehl: We have long been intensively focused on the issue of CO2 emissions and their reduction. The high priority we attach to this issue is demonstrated, for example, by the fact that we have established the position of sustainability manager as a staff position. To list all of our numerous activities would take us way beyond the scope of this interview. For those who would like to know more, I recommend our sustainability report, which can be found on our website in the arburgGREENworld section
Q: Is there anything you want to add?
Hehl: I would like to conclude by emphasizing, once again, that we would all like nothing more than to be able to say on Saturday: That was a completely normal Fakuma!