AKRON—The stars are aligning for Engel Machinery Inc. to become more active in serving the black rubber manufacturing industry, according to Mark Sankovitch, president of the U.S. arm of Austria's Engel Holding GmbH since April.
Engel's forte has been injection molding presses for high-end plastics processing. In the rubber field, Engel has made its mark primarily with liquid silicone molding equipment, but now black rubber is coming to the fore, Sankovitch said.
“The black rubber industry had been notoriously not quite as sophisticated as the plastic injection molding industry. But we're seeing a change, we're seeing some shift from that,” Sankovitch said during a visit to Akron.
Black rubber processing is becoming more precise, as manufacturers focus on getting at the cost of materials by cutting out the waste, he said. Flashless tools and eliminating labor-intensive secondary operations are among the aims in the business as it tries to become more competitive.
That bodes well for Engel, Sankovitch said, because with injection molding machinery, there's a high level of sophistication.
“I think we have a very strong offering” for black rubber processors, he said. Engel always has built its black rubber machinery at its Austrian operation.
Another factor in Engel's favor has been that the lengthy recession caused some competitors to fall by the wayside, the executive said. “So that makes more opportunities for us.”
York, Pa.-based Engel North America—as the business Sankovitch manages is called—took its lumps during the recession, too.
“Last year's numbers were down 30 percent from the year before,” he said. But Engel tried to stay as efficient as possible and to minimize layoffs. “We were one of the last ones to reduce head count,” he said.
Because the company is privately held, it wasn't “beholden to the quarterly numbers,” Sankovitch said.
Today business is much improved. “In March and April orders have gone from off the cliff to 'oh my gosh,' ” he said. Expecting business for 2010 overall to approach the levels of 2008, the challenge now is to deal with a significant upswing.
He said the supply chain isn't ready for the higher demand, and machinery makers can't get the material to build equipment, so deliveries in the industry are slow.
Even during the recession Engel kept to its growth plans. Although it closed a facility in Guelph, Ontario, in 2008, in April 2009 the firm opened a technical center in Corona, Calif., and in August 2009 began constructing another tech center, in Queretaro, Mexico.
The Queretaro site will cover the heartland of Mexico—the Corona location handles clients in northern Mexico, besides in the U.S.—and is scheduled to open in September, Sankovitch said.