When it comes to establishing a footprint in the medical technology sector, it's good to keep in mind the principles of the "20-mile march," says Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. (Bolton, ON, Canada). History buffs will remember that setting a consistent, forward-moving pace for his team, in good weather and bad, resulted in Roald Amundsen beating Robert Scott and his weary band of explorers to the South Pole in 1911. "When the opportunity came along for Husky to purchase Swiss moldmaker Schöttli in 2013, it was in perfect alignment with our vision of the company's 20-mile march as it grew into the medical business," Henry Zhang, Director of Business Development, Medical and Specialty Packaging Business, told PlasticsToday. The flag has not been fully planted yet, but the process is well underway.
At the beginning of the month, Husky announced the appointment of Johannes Strassner to lead the company's medical business unit, including its mold and tool-making sites in Diessenhofen, Switzerland, and San Dimas, CA. It described the move as a further step in the alignment of its business unit. That alignment, or integration, has been largely completed in the back end of the business, says Zhang, but it is still a work in progress in the customer-facing part of the operations. In particular, the companies' respective websites remain fairly segregated. There's a reason for that, as Zhang explains.
"The linkage between Husky and Schöttli will become more evident in time on the websites, but it's important to us that Schöttli's culture and way of working is preserved," says Zhang. "We have maintained the Schöttli brand via the core business and customer interface, because it is such a strong and well-respected brand. While Schöttli has a stand-alone website and business, it is wrapped around Husky's global sales and service network," stresses Zhang.
"Seamless integration" is a hallmark of Husky's systems approach and one-stop solution for customers, explains Zhang. Three divisions operate within Husky: Beverage packaging and closures; medical and specialty packaging, which includes specialty closures, formed in part as a result of the acquisition of KTW in 2011 and Schöttli; and hot runners and controllers. "From Hylectric hybrid injection molding systems to the molds, Husky is able to provide seamless integration that results in performance, productivity and output improvements."
This integration benefits customers in a number of ways. Zhang cites, in particular, the overlap between the mold and machine, and mold alignment via the machine controller, which understands the alignment of the mold and where it is positioned to optimize its operation.
While Schöttli is, indeed, a globally respected name in the development and production of high-precision, high-performance molds and injection molding for the medical and other sectors, there is a cost associated with Swiss engineering exceptionalism. Not only are Swiss products pricey to begin with, the strength of the Swiss franc has been a double whammy for export-minded manufacturers.
"Swiss precision and quality come at a premium price, and we are not competing on cost but on value and total cost of ownership," explains Zhang. "Our customers recognize the value that the seamless integration [of our medical business] and Swiss craftsmanship on the moldmaking side bring and the total cost of ownership benefits of reliable, risk-free products," Zhang told PlasticsToday.