UBE Doubles Assembly, Rebuild Capacity With Factory Expansion

The Japanese press maker specializing in large injection molding machines will utilize the newly built bay to support increased assembly, including lines from recently merged Mitsubishi injection business. 

In a ceremony on Oct. 25 at its Ann Arbor, Mich. facility, UBE Machinery Inc. (UMI) invited suppliers, government dignitaries and corporate management from Japan to celebrate the opening of a fourth bay. The company broke ground on the expansion in April of this year, completing work on schedule seven months later.

UBE said the added space and capabilities, including a new powder-coating operation, 60-ton overhead crane, and heavy duty transfer cart, will allow it to double the annual capacity for assembling mid-to-large size machines, including the two-platen servo hydraulic, servo hydraulic toggle and all-electric injection molding machines.

The president of UBE Machinery Corp., Hironori Miyauchi, was on hand, as well as Ichiro Motoki, president of the U.S. machinery business. Also participating were Brian Calley, Michigan’s lieutenant governor and Mandy Grewal, Supervisor of Pittsfield Charter Township and chair of the Pittsfield Township Board of Trustees.

Calley noted that any country would have competed for the UBE factory and expansion, let alone the city of Pittsfield Charter Township and state of Michigan. He said the expansion was an expression of the company’s confidence in the local workforce, thanking those workers for being the impetus to spur this investment. “This is not just a deepening of the supply chain, but a widening of it in this state and in the region,” Calley said, noting that it would help support the state’s “flagship industry: making vehicles.”

Grewal also took the expansion as an expression of faith in the region. “We’re not just seeing businesses come in, but they’re expanding,” Grewal said. “It speaks to the confidence in this community.”

In 2017, UBE merged with the injection molding machine division of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and created a new combined business: U-MHI Platech Co., Ltd. (U-MHIPT). UMI President Ichiro Motoki told Plastics Technology that this expansion will help it increase local assembly of that company’s 2-platen servo hydraulic machines, which complement UBE’s large all-electric machines.

Motoki said that for all-electric machines over 1000 tons in the U.S., UBE maintains a large market share. In the hydraulic machine market, Motoki said UBE has less penetration, so last year’s merger and this year’s expansion will give it a chance to grow, particularly in the area of two-platen servo hydraulic machines. “Since we completed the merger with U-MHIPT, we think that we can cultivate the U.S. market more,” Motoki said.  

Motoki also noted that the first line borne out of collaboration between UBE and U-MHIPT has launched in Japan and will soon be coming to the U.S. The MEIII plus series of al-electric machines range in clamp force from 720 to 950 tons, utilizing U-MHIPT’s machine base integrated with UBE’s press technology.

UBE first established a subsidiary in the U.S. in 1987. In 1996, it began local production of machines in America, building the Ann Arbor facility. The Michigan operation was last expanded in 2002 with the addition of a third bay—C. This ceremony marked the inauguration of bay D.

On the same day as the expansion was inaugurated, UBE announced that the recently combined company will establish a new manufacturing site in Nagoya City Japan. Construction will begin in December 2018 and is scheduled to be completed in March 2020. Once that factory is finished, U-MHIPT will transfer operations from its existing factory also in Nagoya City.