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Engel expands in Schwertberg, details K plans and holds back the floodwaters

Schwertberg, Austria—Engel's June 3 pre-K press conference served dual purposes: first as a preview of the technology developments it plans on introducing this October in Düsseldorf and secondly as a live trial of the flood-mitigation measures it put in place nearly 11 years ago after the river that runs adjacent to its 40,000 sq m facility in Schwertberg, Austria surged beyond its banks and into the plant.  

Schwertberg, Austria—Engel's June 3 pre-K press conference served dual purposes: first as a preview of the technology developments it plans on introducing this October in Düsseldorf and secondly as a live trial of the flood-mitigation measures it put in place nearly 11 years ago after the river that runs adjacent to its 40,000 sq m facility in Schwertberg, Austria surged beyond its banks and into the plant.  

"Journalists are brave people," Engel CEO Peter Neumann joked with the international trade press gathered at the event. "Even with the announcement of flooding, you still came here."

Several Austrian States, including Upper Austria, where Engel is located, had endured torrential rains over the prior week plus, with the precipitation normally received in two months deluging the region in only a few days. Of the four bridges crossing the Danube from where Schwertberg is back into the city of Linz, only one remained open by the evening of June 3.

The level of the Aist River, a Danube tributary that crested over its banks in 2002 and flooded Engel's headquarters, reached its peak on June 2, one day before the press event. The surge represented the most water the river had seen since the flood forced Engel to gut much of its plant, and it offered a severe test for all the steps the company, city, and province took in its aftermath to prevent a second catastrophe.

Pumps around the Engel facility lowered the groundwater levels prior to the river cresting, and even if they failed, dams around the plant constructed after the 2002 flood were in place. At that time, the previous bridge over the Aist featured a center column that collected debris pushed down river, eventually creating an impromptu dam that helped push the water over its banks. A new bridge, built with the assistance of the city and province, now spans the Aist without a center column to gather debris. In addition, the river was widened in spots and cleared after the 2002 flood.

Expansion underway in Schwertberg

Danube River, Linz, Austria
Engel executive team
At top, a Linz resident takes in the Danube River, swollen with floodwaters; below, (left to right) Engel's Peter Neumann, Stefan Engleder, Georg Steinbichler, and Gerd Liebig take questions during a June 3 press conference at Engel headquarters in Schwertberg, Austria.

Even as Mother Nature tested the defenses put in place by Engel, the company outlined ambitious plans for the K show, and its own capacity in Schwertberg, as its market share expands all over the globe.

In Schwertberg, work is underway on the north side of the plant, to expand by an additional 2400 sq m. This space will be added to its machine set up area, where finished presses are outfitted with automation and tested prior to shipment. At this time, the set up area can only accommodate 140 machines, but after the space is added, which is expected to be completed by October, another 17 machines can be handled. Last year it expanded operations on the south side of the facility.

"Believe it or not, the bottle neck of the company is in the set up area," explained Stefan Engleder, fourth generation scion of the company's founders and chief technology officer.

The company built 2150 machines in Schwertberg in 2012, according to Engleder, and should build the same amount in 2013. Next year, with the new addition the company expects to boost capacity to 2500 machines/yr, depending on the mix presses built. At this time, Engel builds around 45-50 machines/week, with one shift for assembly, and four shifts for machining, which runs 24/7. Schwertberg is responsible for the production of Engel's small-to-medium tonnage machines, up to 500 tonnes clamping force.

In addition to the new space, the company is in the midst of adding another lights-out automated milling operation it dubs Flexible Manufacturing System. The first system, which featured automated machining centers with up to 150 tools that can be changed automatically, began operations in 2006, and along with some other improvements, boosted productivity in Schwertberg by 30-40%, according to Engleder. A second FMS line, behind tarps during the tour, is expected to be up and running by the end of August and will focus on smaller components.

In May, the company installed a new Index R300 double spindle machining center with promot automation automated tool handing, allowing the company to undertake multiple functions in one setup. Such capital investments are a reality for a company seeking to maintain manufacturing operations in Europe, according to Engleder.

"To be here in Europe, you have to increase flexibility every year," Engleder said. This is especially true since the plant essentially only builds bespoke machines to order, without maintaining any kind of inventory buffer or standard stock, all the while currently holding lead times to 8 to 16 weeks.

"Look around," Engleder said, gesturing to the array of machines on the shop floor. "You will never see the same machine twice."

Strong presence throughout the K
At K, Engleder said the company will highlight three areas of its overall development strategy: energy efficiency, ergonomics, and Engel as solution provider. In particular, the company will showcase its e-speed, injection unit advances, e-duo, e-motion, and a new control, the CC 300 [PlasticsToday will have more coverage of the specific advances in coming days].

Engel marketing chief, Gerd Liebig said the theme at K 2013 for Engel will be Inject the Future. The company will occupy its long-held space in Hall 15 C 58 and feature three automotive, two packaging, three teletronic, and two medical displays, in addition to four robots and a total of 15 machines. A further 13 Engel machines will be running in partner stands.

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