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KraussMaffei, Netstal combine operations in China

The two companies, long sister firms within the same group, will combine their operations in China, a country where Netstal hopes to benefit from the much larger staff of KraussMaffei. "Big international customers really wanted us to grow here," explained Bernhard Merki, CEO of Netstal. The change is effective July 1.

Only two weeks ago the companies announced they would merge operations in Brazil, another country with a fast-growing plastics industry. In China, where KraussMaffei has 200+ employees and Netstal only 15, the merged organization should especially help the smaller Netstal (Naefels, Switzerland) expand sales of its high-end injection molding machinery.

KraussMaffei (Munich, Germany) manufacturers extruders, reaction processing machinery and injection molding machines, and although in the past there was some overlap in their portfolios, management at the two companies no longer consider each other as competitors for molders' business.  KM's presses typically are used for technical parts and automotive equipment whereas Netstal is focused on fast-cycling machines for packaging and high-volume medical applications.

In announcing at Chinaplas (May 17-20, Guangzhou, China) the merging of the two operations in China, Merki also said that Netstal would now be the sole supplier of preform molding equipment of the two. More than 10 years ago, KraussMaffei developed machines for PET preform processing but the company had limited sales success. Netstal and Husky compete for most of the world's PET preform molding business.

Harald Schweitzer, CEO of KraussMaffei's operations in China, said that the combined forces of both companies would exceed 250 employees in China.  The two teams will work together in a single space in Shanghai, where both to now have had separate offices.  "We believe we can better help customers with this move," he added, noting China remains a growth market for the companies. May 2011 marks 10 years of presence in China for KraussMaffei. "We started with just five people and a trading office," recalled Schweitzer.    

Now heading up injection molding operations in China for both companies is Michael Müller, VP China, who is on KM's payroll. Andreas Nydegger, GM of Netstal China, will be returning to the company's Swiss headquarters in the summer after seven years in China, and likely will leave the company at year's end, he told PlasticsToday at his company's stand. Nydegger said the sales and service force of both companies will be cross-trained to a certain extent on each other's machinery so that customers can expect quicker service.

Netstal in the past has sometimes had to lean on help from its teams in other parts of Asia to ensure it could quickly install presses in China. Merki said Netstal would also consider making use of KM's facilities to handle some final assembly of its machines in China for presses ordered by molders there. Most likely this would involve integration of auxiliary machinery and automation equipment, said Merki, but he added that this has not yet been decided. "Shortening lead times is our primary concern," he added, and noted that KM already has space and stocks spare parts in China.

KraussMaffei didn't run any machines during Chinaplas, displaying instead a 30-mm lab extruder developed by KraussMaffei Berstorff. At its booth Netstal ran an Elion all-electric molding machine that drew a crowd whenever it ran. Mounted in the machine was a 96-cavity closure mold running at 2.3-second cycles, churning out on average about 35 closures per second. Nydegger said that so far Netstal has not sold such a closure molding cell in China but that talks during the Chinaplas show bode ell for that to change soon.

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