Sankt Augustin, Germany-based Kuhne GmbH has opened a branch office in South Bend, Ind., giving its subsidiary Kuhne Maschinenbau (Kuhne MB) a physical presence in the U.S. after decades of serving North America with sales representatives,
Founded in 1949, Kuhne manufactures film and sheet extrusion equipment in collaboration with its customers and research institutes.
The group's equipment forms production lines for windable and stackable sheet and blown film, including conventional, water quench and triple bubble lines.
The family-owned business also retrofits extruders, controls, feed-blocks and dies, including equipment from other suppliers.
Kuhne's medium-size machine lines are built for the packaging, medical, pharmaceutical, biotechnological, energy, construction and automotive sectors.
For its U.S. office, Kuhne hired three local sales managers and appointed a service technician, who is being trained in Germany before moving to South Bend.
"We are planning to have the technician move to the U.S. within 2021, depending on the ongoing pandemic," Thorsten Bung, the company's director of sales for North America, said in an email.
He points to several benefits for Kuhne MB employees and their customers in terms of being in the same time zone, in-person service and faster parts delivery.
"We can provide in-person service but have also remote service available using remote machine interfaces and/or our new Kuhne lenses," Bung said. "We are also storing spare parts in the U.S. Furthermore, it is the time gap we want to close — no trans-Atlantic flights anymore."
The goal is to improve quality with consultations, after-sales services and machine components, Bung said. The staff consults with customers thermoforming products for food and sheet for appliances, automotive application and membranes for landfills, construction engineering, roofing and more.
"We take their ideas and transform them into equipment," Bung said. "We do almost only customized extrusion lines backed up with our knowledge and based on the customer/project requirement for quality, throughput and space available."
He is optimistic about the year ahead and the ability to collaborate more with customers.
"Kuhne started into 2020 with a couple of orders from the U.S. and even when the whole world slowed down due to the current pandemic, we kept cooperating with our customers on many 'hot projects' for 2021 and thus, we are foreseeing a very positive start into the year," Bung said. "We knew that markets changed and that local service is a must in the U.S. and our plan paid off."
The food packaging, membranes and optical sheet markets are the biggest for Kuhne MB, he added.
Regarding the hot projects, Bung said the work comes from markets it knows well.
"We have some lines going into the food packaging market, mostly for multi-layer sheet with barrier layers," Bung said. "Some projects are for stackable sheet that will be used for automotive and appliances and some are for wide geomembrane lines."
Kuhne provides unique technologies for the extrusion processes the company serves, according to Bung.
"Our triple bubble blown film technology, for example, improves shelf life while reducing packaging weight at the same time. We also introduced high speed extrusion as well as in-line concepts for windable sheet in Europe," Bung said.
It took a few years, but the U.S. market's interest in Kuhne systems has increased dramatically, particularly because of capabilities to "go much wider and thicker" than competitors and offer stackable sheet and membrane overseas, Bung said.
The company's North American sales managers are Adolfo Edgar in London, Ontario; Harald Schindler in Mexico City; and Jacob Dahl in Indiana. Bung said they cover most of the metropolitan regions for plastic converting.
Kuhne says it manufactures more than 200 extruders annually at the Sankt Augustin headquarters.
Kuhne previously had a U.S. presence through American Kuhne, an Ashaway, R.I.-based company that shared some common ownership with the Germany firm.
Several former employees of Davis-Standard LLC founded American Kuhne in 1997. Peter Kuhne, president and owner of Kuhne GmbH, was majority shareholder, but American Kuhne and Kuhne GmbH were independent.
The two companies formally split in 2012, when York, Pa.-based Graham Engineering Corp. bought American Kuhne.