Friedrichshafen, Germany—"What you definitely need is space." That's the one constant for Wittmann Battenfeld, the Austrian headquartered maker of injection molding machines, automation, and auxiliaries, according to its General Manager Michael Wittmann.
At Fakuma 2012 (Oct. 15-19; Friedrichshafen, Germany) Wittmann laid out the various expansion plans underway at his company to PlasticsToday, including a new automation facility in Feucht, Germany; an expansion of its assembly and warehouse space in Kottingbrun, Austria; and an office, warehouse, and training site in Taichung, Taiwan. All of these projects are forecast to be completed in the first quarter of 2013.
Wittmann said his company was very aggressive in setting its budget for 2012, especially coming off a record year in 2011. At this point, Wittmann Battenfeld is 7% behind its order income from 2011, as of September, but is still on pace for the second best year in its history. "The slowdown has to come," Wittmann said, noting some of the broader economic issues roiling Europe, "but not yet."
Sales are expected to be 10% better then 2011, reaching Euro 275 million. The year remains positive due to a high order backlog at the start of 2012 and good order income, according to the company.
Wittmann said the PowerSeries line of injection molding machines, launched in 2011, has been a main driver. Further growth has been fueled by gains in worldwide market share for its robots. Order income is expected to increase in the single digits in 2013w, with njection molding machinery sales forecast to expand by more than 10% over 2012, with robots and auxiliaries to gain in the single digits.
The company's new automation building in Feucht, Germany, which is about 20 km southeast of Nuremberg, began construction back in June with a groundbreaking ceremony. The new facility replaces its site in Schwaig and will have 3000 sq m of production space, plus an additional 1200 sq m of administrative space.
|Michael Wittmann, general manager Wittmann Battenfeld.|
"The new site in Feucht is a very important step," Wittmann said, noting that the old Schwaig facility was the oldest building in the combined Wittmann Battenfeld network. Wittmann said the company had completely out grown Schwaig, but initially had to delay new construction, working first on upgrading the Meinerzhagen, Germany site gained in its acquisition of Battenfeld.
Wittmann wouldn't comment on the ultimate effect the new operation would have on automation system capacity, but he and Matt McCabe, international key account manager for Wittmann Battenfeld, said the new site will allow it to offer customers full run off of automation systems and cells on injection molding machines.
Wittmann noted that "automation is very important in Germany," particularly for more complex, full production cells, which it will now be able to test prior to delivery.
Resurgent North America; emerging Turkey
Overall the company's business performance depends on the market, according to Wittmann. He described North America as being "excellent', calling Mexico "just incredible," and adding that Canada is showing signs of a comeback after a protracted period of weakness. He also said business for the company in Turkey has been "excellent."
The company's Fakuma stand included five injection molding machines, 11 robots, and more then 60 auxiliary devices. All of the machines showcased the Wittmann Battenfeld's ability to provide complete production cells, including auxiliaries, automation, and machinery, combining the machinery of the former Battenfeld with the automation and auxiliaries prowess of Wittmann.
Wittmann said that despite his company's ability to provide turnkey packages, customer projects that combine all of the company's various technologies have to be independently assessed. "Some customers like [completely integrated solutions]," Wittmann said. "They say, 'Look I know you; it's definitely a plus.' So for some customers yes, but for other customers, no. Not everyone is asking for a completely integrated project."