Krauss Maffei’s open house reaffirms importance of North American market
A full parking lot outside and packed warehouse inside during a recent open house reflect the record year KraussMaffei's North American operations are enjoying.
senior editor, Plastics Technology
senior editor, Plastics Technology
The attempt to identify the owner of a poorly parked vehicle at KraussMaffei’s recent Florence, Kentucky open house reinforced in two ways just how good business for the Munich-headquartered plastics machinery manufacturer currently is (Photo courtesy KraussMaffei).
First, there is the fact that interest in the company’s technology offerings was high enough that the lot at its Florence facility quickly filled during its May 15 open house, forcing some visitors into borderline “parking” spots.
Second, there is the fact that one of those borderline parking spots obstructed a loading area, which is a no-no with the company’s business on record pace, and deliveries into and out of Florence necessitating a wide open loading/unloading zone.
“We had nothing but really, really good feedback,” Paul Caprio, president of North American operations at KraussMaffei Group said of the open house and its large turnout, which he estimated at double the number of visitors compared to 2013’s. “I think it’s also a reflection that times are very good in manufacturing right now. The customers that could get away—folks are still very busy—came in to see what we were doing.”
Those who attended could also see what KraussMaffei’s technology partners were doing, thanks to tabletop exhibits. These were interspersed with running equipment, including live displays of injection molding, pipe extrusion, and compounding, as well as a dry-cycle display of the a mold carrier from the company’s reaction injection molding (RIM) division. In addition to all that, attendees could take in technical presentations, with concurrent tracks of injection molding and extrusion related papers.
The event marks the second straight year KraussMaffei held an open house at its North American headquarters in Florence, which sits at the northern border of the Bluegrass state, just minutes “as the crow flies” from the Ohio River. Held in mid-May, the event’s timing was altered from last year, positively impacting attendance in the view of Caprio.
“Last year’s event was excellent, but it was in June, and we had twice as many people this time,” Caprio noted. “I think June is a big vacation month, so this year, we got all those people back plus all the others that were on vacation last time. It definitely surpassed what we expected.”
Three straight years of record results
The heightened interest in the event reflects the overall success KraussMaffei is experiencing in North America, where Caprio believes the company will enjoy another record sales year in 2014, just as it has done in 2012 and 2013.
“[Business] has been tremendously good and strong,” Caprio said, “and it’s been running that way for a couple years now in the States, Canada and Mexico. We’re expecting this year to be another record year; normally [capital equipment suppliers] see things tighten up before any one else does, but it’s doing anything but slow down right now.”
Florence is in the midst of the new automotive corridor running throughout the Southeast and the strength of that market has been noticed by KraussMaffei. “Automotive is driving everything,” Caprio said, adding that as the overall economy improves, particularly as unemployment rates go down, packaging, which the company largely serves via its Netstal brand of injection molding machines, could see a sough-after boost.
“I do think our packaging customers have felt a little bit of a softness in their markets,” Caprio said. “People at a grocery store choose the less expensive container in tougher times. Once people are working, they go back to convenience, and spending more on brand. That will give our packaging customers a lift.”
Beyond that, Caprio noted that the medical market remains a strong, if smaller, segment, with appliances also moving in the right direction in terms of activity and geography.
“In appliances, we’re seeing reshoring, with business come back from China and Mexico,” Caprio said. “Those are great developments for the U.S.” It’s great for KraussMaffei as well, with the company able to win appliance business in both its PUR and injection molding segments.
In terms of staffing, Caprio noted that Florence is back to 2008 levels, before the crash, with nearly 200 employees, but now more sales per worker. “We’re bigger than we were sales-volume-wise with less people,” Caprio said, “so we get more out of our people. Down times and technology help make you more efficient.”
KraussMaffei is a global operation, with manufacturing and assembly on three continents, including aftermarket operations, spare parts, and assembly of extrusion and RIM systems in Florence. For now, operations in Florence will remain the same, with no plans to assemble injection molding machines in Kentucky given the diversity of the company’s offerings and the market’s relative size.
That said, Caprio did note that North America is KraussMaffei’s second largest market, behind only Europe, accounting for about 25% of its business in terms of volume. “The volume number seems to get bigger, but percentage-wise seems to stay the same,” Caprio said of North America, noting that despite that, they see continued growth for the region.
“North America is a very appreciated, mature market that buys on value and that’s very important,” Caprio said. “It’s the mature markets that realize the technology savings.”
You can see where that’s appreciated by KraussMaffei, even when North American clients take liberties in where they park.