Innovations and global presence ensure long-term growth
Be the first. – This is the banner under which ENGEL will be showcasing innovative products and solutions for a more sustainable injection moulding industry at K 2022 in Düsseldorf, Germany, from 19 to 26 October. Energy efficiency, the circular economy and digitalisation are the key topics and the trends that show potential for growth in what are still challenging times.
For the ENGEL Board, K 2022 is an important pointer to the mood of the entire industry, because incoming orders are declining, as ENGEL CEO Dr. Stefan Engleder reports. However, investments are continuing in the field of greater energy efficiency – the key topic at K 2022. Energy-efficient solutions are vital for Europe's survival. Digitalisation and the circular economy are making a major contribution to reducing energy consumption in the plastics processing industry and protecting the climate.
"We were really excited about getting started with K show 2022. Finally, we have the opportunity for a personal exchange with international customers and partners at a trade fair," says Stefan Engleder at the start of the world's leading trade fair for the plastics and rubber industry. "For us, the K show is like the Olympics. Our development work has been targeted on this for several years, and we're looking forward to finally being able to present the innovations to a broad audience."
The three key topics at the two ENGEL trade fair stands are closely interlinked. Digitalisation provides the tools for more energy-efficient production, and for closing material cycles. It takes all three topics together to empower any reduction of the carbon footprint in injection moulding processing and actively support climate protection in turn. "Ideas and solutions for a more sustainable plastics industry were already on display at the last K show. And this year, the industry will prove that these were no flash in the pan. Many solutions are already being used successfully in on-going production today and further demand is high."
Achieving sustainability goals relies on new technologies in many cases, and investments will continue to be made in this field, although geopolitical developments, in particular, are fuelling uncertainty. ENGEL has noted a decline in incoming orders since August. This is mainly attributable to the construction and infrastructure industries. Compared with this, automotive is still performing well globally.
Besides geopolitical developments, the biggest challenges at present still include supply chain disruption and the massive increases in energy and material prices. ENGEL is gearing up for a further decline in demand, although the Board is painting a positive picture for the medium and long-term outlook. "Plastics processing remains a growth market," as Engleder emphasises.
Due to what is currently still a comparatively good order backlog, ENGEL expects to close the current 2022/23 fiscal year in March 2023 with a minimal year-on-year increase. The aim is to reach the level of the pre-crisis year 2018/19. At that time, sales revenues amounted to 1.6 billion euros. In the past 2021/22 fiscal year, ENGEL already succeeded in almost completely compensating for the drop following the automotive crisis and the onset of the Corona pandemic. The Group generated sales revenues of 1.5 billion euros, an increase of 36 percent. Europe accounted for 50 percent, the Americas for 27 percent, Asia for 21 percent, and 2 percent from other regions.
Germany continues to be the largest single market for ENGEL; together with Austria and Switzerland, this is a market that is very strongly technology-driven. The region is being hit particularly hard by rising energy prices. This can be felt in new investments. Demand for energy-saving solutions is high.
The situation in Eastern Europe is comparable. There too, extremely high energy prices are challenging the existence of many companies. Capital expenditure is limited to new projects with a strong focus on energy-efficient solutions.
Following a particularly successful year in 2021/22, Western Europe remains on course for growth, primarily driven by the automotive industry. Italy and France are contributing the lion's share to the region's success. There is also growth in the Packaging Division. In the past fiscal year, ENGEL recruited industry experts for both countries to bolster the local teams with specialist know-how.
Despite the difficult economic environment, North America has also reported very good business figures. The Packaging Division in particular saw significant growth. All told, ENGEL is benefiting from the ongoing reshoring trend in this region. The response by ENGEL to the very high demand for machines with short lead times in North America is the Fast Track programme; this strategy has helped ENGEL win over many projects. Due to the recession, ENGEL expects demand in North America to slacken in the short term. However, the market offers the best conditions for further strong growth in the medium to long term. Growth in electric mobility is contributing to this, as is the increasing use of recycled materials in plastic packaging, among other things.
Latin America countries have seen the return of the automotive industry as an economic driver. The automotive sector is developing particularly strongly in Mexico, where ENGEL is participating in this growth at an above average rate. But this trend is also noticeable in Brazil and Argentina.
In China, the zero-covid policy is increasingly suffocating economic growth. "Our advantage is that we have a strong local presence," as Stefan Engleder points out. "We continue to do very good business in China, especially with integrated production cells with a high degree of automation. And China is the world's largest market for injection moulding solutions. The country has always been very important for us," says Engleder.
On the other hand, Southeast Asia and India are benefiting from the Chinese government's rigid Corona policy. The regions have become the focus of investors as alternative production locations to China.
All told, METAI, which includes India, the Middle East, Turkey and parts of Africa, is performing very well after the ramp-up in the automotive industry in the middle of last year. Apart from India, South Africa and Turkey are particularly worthy of mention here.
ENGEL established its own subsidiary in North Africa, based in Tangier, Morocco, in the early summer of this year. "The new local offering has been very well received by customers. We have already expanded the team on site," as Engleder reports. Technical centre capacities are being expanded at the same time. ENGEL Maghreb is cooperating here with a locally based training centre, where two ENGEL machines will soon be set up for customer trials and demonstrations. Apart from the automotive industry, the packaging and medical sectors open up a great deal of potential in this region.
The automotive sector recovered faster than expected in the past fiscal year 2021/22 and still accounts for a high share of order intake today. However, optimism is muted. Due to the massive increase in energy prices, inflation and the war in Ukraine, some projects are currently being postponed in this sector in particular. Investments continue to be made wherever, for example, electric mobility or autonomous driving require new technologies, or to modernise machinery with the aim of boosting energy efficiency.
"The carbon footprint is playing an increasingly important role, especially in the automotive industry," as Engleder reports. "Supplier sustainability is now a decisive criterion guiding investments in new machinery and production units here. We have silver status in the EcoVadis ranking and can tell that this is viewed positively by our customers in the automotive industry."
The Corona boom of recent years in the Technical Moulding Division, has levelled off. This mainly relates to the building, household, sports and leisure sectors. On the other hand, investments in logistics applications remain at a very high level. On top of this, many companies are getting serious about modernising their machinery to reduce their carbon footprints in production. The demand for energy-saving servo-hydraulic and all-electric injection moulding machines continues to rise. Beyond this, recycled material processing is gaining ground in this industry in particular.
The teletronics industry is particularly technology-driven; ENGEL is supplying increasing numbers of high precision injection moulding machines for highly demanding products here, often in the field of micro injection moulding. The wearables and sensor products sector for sports, leisure and health is also opening up further potential here.
Medical continues to develop well even though the Covid boom has slackened. Products in the autoinjectors and inhalers groups are particularly worthy of note here.
In the packaging sector, the switch to tethered caps is now clearly noticeable, driving demand for all-electric high-performance machines from the ENGEL e-cap series. All told, the USA continues to excel in the packaging sector with huge demand for duo speed machines for the production of pails. In Europe, it is smaller household packaging that now mainly drives new investments. To offer clients in the packaging industry better support in the face of changing conditions, ENGEL has invested strongly in its packaging expertise. This year, a new Packaging Centre, with machine capacity for customer trials, demonstrations and industry-specific developments, was opened in Austria at the Schwertberg and St. Valentin locations. Packaging expertise has been built up in subsidiaries around the world, with packaging experts being specifically taken with a view to this.
All over the world, finding qualified employees has developed into a further major challenge for the industry. On top of demographic change, the poor image of plastics among the general public is causing problems for the industry. "It is essential for us to use the plastics trade fair to show school, college and university students, anyone who is interested, and, above all, plastics critics what the industry can do," says Stefan Engleder. "Plastics are the material of the future. Modern life is not possible without plastics. Companies in the plastics industry are collaborating to create the conditions for people all around the world to use polymer materials in a responsible way."
ENGEL is strongly committed to plastics technology education at universities, colleges and schools both in Austria and in many other countries with its own subsidiaries. This includes machine loans, offering placements and supporting theses and joint development activities.
ENGEL is continuing to expand its own in-house training program in order to secure the next generation of skilled workers in its own plants. Last year, the ENGEL plant in the USA launched a new technical vocational training programme. The programme currently has 13 trainees.
71 young men and women started vocational training in the company’s Austrian plants in September. That is more than ever before. The further increase in the share of female trainees is particularly gratifying. A quarter of this year's new apprentices are women.
All told, the ENGEL Group employs around 400 apprentices worldwide. The training locations are Austria, China, the Czech Republic, Germany and the USA.
"It is essential for us to use the K show 2022 to show school, college and university students, anyone who is interested, and, above all, plastics critics what the industry can do."
Currently still with high utilisation levels: The ENGEL production plant at the company headquarters in Schwertberg, Austria.
To ensure the rising demand for skilled workers is met, ENGEL invests strongly in internal training. ENGEL recently launched its own apprenticeship program in North America.