DUESSELDORF, Germany—A lean manufacturing set-up is "proving its worth" for Maplan in adapting to the current business climate, according to CEO Wolfgang Meyer.
For this year, the Austrian injection equipment maker expects revenues to drop back to 2017 levels due to global economic slowdown, officials reported on the company's K 2019 stand. The decline follows the Austrian company's best ever business year in 2018, when it delivered consolidated sales of about $55.7 million and built around 350 machines.
Maplan reported sales as nearing $50 million for 201, and since has set a goal of reaching growing sales to around $80 million by 2021: $33 million in Europe, $22 million in America, $11 million in Asia and the remainder coming from aftersales.
Since this February, however, there has been a marked drop-off in orders, largely reflecting a decline in automotive vehicle production in China and some signs of slowdown in Europe and the U.S., Meyer said in an interview at the Duesseldorf trade fair.
Around half of Maplan's business is in the automotive industry—its offerings for the sector largely include horizontal machines for sealing products and vertical machines for anti-vibration parts, Meyer said.
Among its other markets, the company supplies molders serving the construction, infrastructure and consumer goods industries, he said, adding that Maplan is adapting to current market conditions.
In 2016, Maplan relocated to a specially designed headquarters facility in Kottingbrunn, Austria, near Vienna, that uses an automated flow assembly production system to reduce throughput times by around 30 percent.
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 molding machine typically requires 600-800 parts, and conventionally, up to 30 percent 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 percent of our machines (built this way). At the moment, 90 percent of our machines are running over the line," Meyer reported at K 2019.
The operation further is supported by a component factory that was opened in 2018. It is located about 80 miles away in Malacky, Slovakia. 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 maneuverer, and cushions it from market declines," according to the Meyer.
Capacity freed up in the main plant is being used for product development, including the addition of "360-degree turnkey systems, ergonomic features and automation system upgrades," he said.
The program 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 (metric tons) up to 900 tons, all with 20 percent steps in increase in clamping pressure," said Meyer.
The next big step in the company's strategy is to deliver "complete 360-degree solutions," Meyer said.
Maplan, he added, "is massively investing in delivering complete systems—the machine, the mold, the cold runners, the automation, the robots—so the customer gets the end-product of a really integrated, optimized and stable process.
"Technology is getting more complicated and we have it in our hands to really help customers achieve more efficient production."