FREUDENBERG, Germany—Rubber industry machinery manufacturer Harburg-Freudenberger Maschinenbau GmbH has restructured, splitting its core businesses of mixing and tire–related equipment production into two distinct groups.
Part of German industrial conglomerate L. Possehl & Co. mbH since 2005, the company now operates under two banners: the HF Mixing Group and the HF TireTech Group. The former unit, based in Freudenberg, includes mixing machinery operations from Harburg-Freudenberger, Pomini Rubber & Plastics S.r.l. of Italy and Farrel Corp.
HF purchased Pomini in 2007 and Farrel in 2009. The Mixing Group employs about 540.
The TireTech Group, based in Hamburg-Harburg, Germany, primarily is made up of three business units: Extrusion Machinery, Tire Building Machines and Curing Presses, the company said. The unit employs about 800.
Branding, product changes
Following the Farrel acquisition early last year, HF introduced a three-pronged strategy in its mixing operations, with each of the companies acting independently in the market, according to Andreas Limper, an HF board of management member and now managing director of the Mixing Group along with Farrel CEO Alberto Shaio. If a customer wanted a mixing line, for example, it could get three offers—one each from HF, Pomini and Farrel, Limper said.
This strategy can work if the market is growing and the products are markedly different from each other, he said. But customers with a specific product want specific offers, and HF felt it needed to make changes to better use the outstanding features of each of its companies in each of its products.
Under the Mixing Group umbrella, HF decided to have new structured product lines, Limper said, meaning there will be one line for each of its main mixing products: tangential mixers, intermeshing mixers, twin-screw dump extruders and equipment control systems.
For example, the tangential machines will be engineered and further developed by Farrel at its sites in Ansonia, Conn.; Rochdale, England; and Barcelona, Spain, under the famous Banbury brand name, Limper said.
Intermeshing mixers will be sold under the Intermix name, a brand dating back to Francis Shaw in England in the 1930s.
Conventional intermeshing machines will be engineered in Freudenberg by HF and Pomini will make variable intermeshing clearance mixers at its Castellanza, Italy, plant, he said.
Pomini also will develop twin-screw dump extruders, under the new Convex—conveying extrusion—brand name, and HF will engineer Advise-brand mixing room automation and control systems, with input from both Farrel and Pomini included, Limper said.
On the smaller plastic mixing equipment side, Farrel will take the lead and eventually integrate Pomini's product line into its own, he said.
“Our customers wanted the best solutions, and we feel we are now taking a big step forward in that direction,” he said, and the businesses will share technologies with the goal of developing the strongest products. “(Customers) expected this,” Limper said.
The Mixing Group's improvements also include broader service and sales operations—no more limitations because only one of the companies was involved—including maintenance available for any HF machines at any of its global service sites and sales personnel well-versed in all of the group's products, Limper said.
“It will be a transition, and our people have to learn, but it's something we all have to do,” he said. “We will have much larger bases from which we can supply service.”
The TireTech Group will be led by HF veterans Guenter Simon and Jens Beutelspacher. There will be some crossover between the two groups; for example, the TireTech side's Belisce, Croatia, plant primarily will make curing presses but also will produce some simple parts and pieces for the Mixing Group, Limper said.
HF Rubber Machinery Inc., the U.S.-based subsidiary with a sales, service and manufacturing site in Topeka, Kan., and another sales and service location in Akron, will be split with the new organization. The Topeka plant will fall under the mixing group and the Akron office within the TireTech unit.
In addition to tire manufacturing machinery, the company's niche production for the oil and food industries will be housed within the Hamburg-based unit, Limper said.
Any savings the restructuring may provide would be speculative at this point, he said. “In our planning, we said we'd be doing well if in the next two years the additional costs of building up these groups will be balanced by the cost savings,” he said. “We expect to see benefits. We would not have done it otherwise. We'll see in the long term.”
For now, Limper would like to see the company first concentrate on quality. “Improving our customer contact, enlarging our sales network to cover the world better, developing our market segments, these are moves we think will pay off.”
HF plans on officially announcing its new structure during Tire Technology Expo week, being held this year in Cologne, Germany. The company will host an open house in Freudenberg Feb. 8, the day before the event begins.
The firm also plans on having two or three information events in the U.S. later this year, Limper said.