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How NPE, a rejuvenated auto market and hybrid/all-e machines pushed Engel North America to a record year

Long-delayed equipment investments, a resurgent automotive market, and one of the world's largest plastics shows came together last spring to help push a number of equipment suppliers in North America to record performances in 2012, including automation and injection molding machine supplier Engel. "[NPE2012] certainly didn't hurt; we really couldn't have timed it any better," Engel North America President Mark Sankovitch told PlasticsToday. "The show was just one part of multiple pieces-everything aligned."

Sankovitch provided additional color on his company's record North American results in 2012, when sales eclipsed $200 million for the U.S., Canada, and the Maquiladora region of Mexico.

Auto in to, out of a ditch
The global economic crisis was catastrophic for many sectors, including building and construction, but the impact on vehicle production, which fell from around 16 million in 2008 to 8.5 million in 2009, was felt particularly acutely by suppliers of large injection molding machines.

"When auto tanks as it did, it brings everything down with it," Sankovitch said, "but when it came back, especially with the supply chain being pretty much decimated, there was a big demand for large machines. Either their existing machines were too old to run new tooling, or the players that survived needed new equipment. That's what really made the big jump, it's difficult to make these big leaps in any other industry."

With big leaps, however, come big falls, and Sankovitch said Engel's efforts in the medical and packaging sectors, as well as technical molding, are meant to smooth that ride somewhat.

"The drawback with automotive is the oscillations are very deep and very high," Sankovitch said. "When auto goes good, it goes really good, but when it goes bad; it goes really bad."

Sankovitch noted that the requirements for packaging are increasingly inline with those of the medical space, with both requiring cleanroom environments in many cases and medical moving into higher cavitation tooling.

"Packaging was historically done using hydraulic machines with accumulators," Sankovitch said, "but now we're seeing that convert to electric, especially in closure and thin wall applications, where just three or four years ago, electrics couldn't perform but now we're getting there."

Engel just completed a Packaging Days event at its North American headquarters in York, PA, and Sankovitch noted that the only machines on display were all electric.

"When next recession comes and automotive goes down, packaging will be bigger for us," Sankovitch predicted.

Electrics charge up the market
The all-electric/hybrid push is moving beyond the packaging sector for Engel and the market, according to Sankovitch. "AC constant-driving hydraulic machines are becoming less and less ordered," Sankovitch said. "Machines with servo hydraulics are becoming more and more prevalent."

This fall, Engel will introduce a new product in its all-electric line for North America, according to Sankovitch, launching the 200-ton e-mac into the market. The line introduced in Europe last June, with 50-, 75-, and 100-tonne machines. At that time, Engel noted that it would launch a 180-tonne press to the series by the end of last year.

Now hiring
The resurgence in York has meant hiring there and elsewhere, according to Sankovitch. "We're hiring," Sankovitch said. "We're like my competitors-I'd like to think it's just Engel-but we all grew. It's been fantastic for all manufacturing in North America. At the depth of the recession, something like 1380 injection molding machines were delivered [in North America]. This past year, it was around 3200. It was a huge increase, and we've all been able to share in that."

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