Dusseldorf, Germany – A ‘lean’ manufacturing set-up is “proving its worth” for Maplan in adapting to the current business climate, according to Wolfgang Meyer, CEO of the rubber moulding machine company.
For this year, the injection equipment maker expects revenues to drop back to 2017 levels due to global economic slowdown, officials reported on the company’s K2019 stand.
The decline follows the Austrian company’s best ever business year in 2018, when it delivered consolidated sales of about €50 million and built around 350 machines.
Maplan reported sales as nearing €45 million for 2017 and has since set a goal of reaching growing sales to around €72 million by 2021: €30 million in Europe, €20 million in America, €10 million in Asia and the remainder coming from aftersales.
Since this February, however, there has been a marked fall-off in orders, largely reflecting a decline in automotive vehicle production in China and some signs of slowdown in Europe and the US, Meyer said in an interview at the Dusseldorf trade fair.
Currently around 50% of Maplan’s business is in the automotive industry – its line-up for the sector largely comprises horizontal machines for sealing products and vertical machines for anti-vibration parts, noted Meyer.
Among its other markets, the company supplies moulders serving the construction, infrastructure and consumer goods industries, added the CEO, who went on explain how Maplan is adapting to current market conditions.
In 2016, Maplan relocated to a specially designed headquarters facility in Kottingbrunn near Vienna, employing an automated ‘flow assembly’ production system to reduce throughput times by around 30%.
Machines are moved on rails, one step every day at the 200-employee facility, with the correct parts, pipes and screws etc brought around the machine so that they are ready-to-hand for the workers.
According to Meyer, a rubber injection moulding machine typically requires 600-800 parts and conventionally up to 30% of the build-time can be used in searching for parts.
At Kottingbrunn, a model of every part in stock is fed into Maplan’s ERP system, which automatically orders the parts for the different assembly steps. Suppliers are notified by RFID when parts need to be restocked.
“We originally aimed to have 70% of our machines [built this way]. At the moment, 90% of our machines are running over the line,” Meyer reported at K2019.
The operation is further supported by a component factory, located 130km away in Malacky, Slovakia opened in 2018. Maplan produces electric and hydraulic assemblies as well as mid-size components and sheet-metal parts there.
The flexibility of the overall production set-up gives Maplan ‘greater efficiency, room for manoeuvre and cushions it from market declines, according to the CEO.
Capacity freed up in the main plant is being used for product development, including the addition of “360° turnkey systems, ergonomic features and automation system upgrades,” he explained.
The programme has, for example, included a complete overhaul of the company’s vertical axis machine series, which has also been expanded with additional size levels.
“There is really a lot of novel features within the range, which now goes from 90 tonne up to 900 tonne all with 20% steps in increase in clamping pressure,” said Meyer.
The next big step in the company’s strategy is to deliver “complete 360-degree solutions”, according to the company boss.
Maplan, he said, “is massively investing in delivering complete systems: the machine, the mould, the cold runners, the automation, the robots so the customer gets the end-product of a really integrated, optimised and stable process.
“Technology is getting more complicated and we have it in our hands to really help customers achieve more efficient production.”