Adrian Lunney's monthly Blog

Adrian Lunney, based in London, is a well-known business-to-business press and public relations agent, specialising in communication work in the plastics, packaging and environmental manufacturing sectors.

Business and exhibitions – increasingly global (March 2018)

Next month sees the 32nd edition of the Chinaplas exhibition, which rotates from Guangzhou to its Shanghai location, April 24–27th. And lest anyone think that the show organizers are resting upon last year’s record breaking numbers, here are a few more statistics to consider. (Bear in mind that last year’s Chinaplas show was record-breaking, covered 26 halls and hosted about 155,000 visitors.) This year’s exhibition – in a new location – now anticipates some 180,000 visitors. The new venue is the National Exhibition and Convention Center, Hongqiao, Shanghai and this year’s exhibition space is set to exceed 320,000 square meters – 30% more exhibition space than that of the 2016 edition of the show in Shanghai. Here is another telling statistic: With a total construction area of 1.47 million square meters, the Chinaplas venue is the largest single block building and exhibition complex in the world. There are 400,000 square meters of indoor area, which consists of 13 large exhibition halls and three small exhibition halls. There are also conference rooms with different specifications and settings among the halls. Of course, size is not everything. However, a comprehensive and extensive concentration of all things plastics – wherever it is in the world – is bound to have many attractions for the international shopper. And international visitors to Chinaplas are increasing. Over a quarter of visitors to Chinaplas 2017 in Guangzhou, for example, came from outside China; many from emerging markets and economies, a sizeable and increasing body from the Middle East and increased numbers also from the Americas and Europe. And, after many successful years of manufacturing in China, the WITTMANN Group does not have far to travel!

The group’s plant in Kunshan is well-established and produces robots, temperature controllers, material loaders and granulators, primarily for the growing Asian markets. All of these will be on show in Shanghai including the W808, W818TS, W828 and W838T WITTMANN robots. The W838T represents a first for WITTMANN – since it is the first Asian appliance to take up the design language of the European WITTMANN pro robot series: compact, high-performance equipment for parts removal, together with a pneumatic, pivoting C-axis, built-in as standard with twice the torque of the W828 robot. Another universal language readily spoken by WITTMANN is that of energy saving, becoming increasingly common throughout the industrial world, and long established in the company’s injection molding machinery range. A SmartPower 180/750 will fly the WITTMANN flag at Chinaplas in this regard, using a highly efficient servo-hydraulic drive as standard and deploying the available deceleration energy via KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) for barrel heating. This ensures an optimal level of energy efficiency. The SmartPower production cell will mold a PC-based diffusion lens. A third language of Industry 4.0 will also get considerable air time at Chinaplas – not only via the WITTMANN 4.0 examples and demonstrations but in a new 3D feature built into the 2018 exhibition. Meantime the WITTMANN Group will demonstrate at the Chinaplas the integration of robots and peripherals into the UNILOG B8 control system with the help of an interactive display panel. This display panel will give Chinaplas visitors the opportunity to test WITTMANN 4.0 features directly on site.

In summary, both travel and technology innovations are clearly shrinking the global plastics village and, to some degree, also dissolving some boundaries of culture and geography. We look forward to the innovations of Chinaplas 2018 and the pointers there to our plastics futures.

The whole solution … and the human factor (February 2018)

Some days it seems as if the long-awaited industrial revolution, the so-called “fourth wave” is taking a mighty long time to arrive: For some time now we have been anticipating and expecting the internet of things, the self organizing smart factory (organized on Industry 4.0 principles) and the further deployment and integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics into our working lives.

The groundwork for properly connecting of all these elements and interfaces together concerns communication: Establishing a universal and common “language” – for machine code and machine interfaces and open manufacturing platforms – is central to the future success of the project. Such a task – across technical, cultural and international boundaries – appears almost Herculean in scope. However – at least for plastics-based technology – it seems that bodies such as EUROMAP are playing a full and positive part in moving things forward. A comprehensive machine language will be developed and agreed – and perhaps sooner than we think. However, and even when such a language arrives, human need and motivation will then be the key factor in shaping what happens next.

It goes without saying that any new discovery only finds its true purpose in its usage. For example, there are many advantages in deploying Industry 4.0 principles in plastics processing but user companies should also be integrating MES software (Manufacturing Execution Systems) in order to fully realize all of the commercial benefits. In similar fashion it is pointless having a perfect Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system and database without any real idea or intention of what to do with it. It is also nice to have a SAP system monitoring all operations and activities throughout the factory. However, only effective management accounting skills are likely to make the most of the information. Fortunately WITTMANN has built plenty of head room, interfaces and adaptability into WITTMANN 4.0 in order to make it truly usable and adaptable for the needs of future manufacturing.

On April 24 and April 25 WITTMANN BATTENFELD UK will be looking at just this topic, and will be holding day-long seminars that will unpack the latest features of WITTMANN 4.0 in practical and theoretical sessions. Many aspects will be demonstrated “live” on all the equipment typically involved in a modern molding machine cell, including drying, robotics, granulation and mold temperature control. Importantly, the day will also factor in material on MES, CRM and accounting systems and will show how all of these factors can be optimized together – in order to create more efficiency and more profit for today’s contract molder. The April sessions will also provide a useful forum for revealing the leading concerns and expectations of customers in relation to these topics. And in this way WITTMANN will be able to further refine and improve the features of the equipment for maximum benefit of the customer.

Happy New Year! (January 2018)

Already the Interplastica show, Moscow, is upon us, the long month of January is nearly over and I hope that it is not too late to wish readers a very Happy New Year! “Time flies”, as they say. I could scarcely believe my ears chatting to a client this month and hearing that we were also factoring in plans and strategy for next year’s K show. The last such event still seems fresh in the memory here, and 2019 will mark my 10th such exhibition. 1989 saw me visit the Messe as a fresh-faced rookie journalist; creating pages at speed in order to keep up with demand. The passing years have of course seen many changes but somehow, the fast pace does not seem to diminish. As change comes faster and faster businesses seem to more appreciate the comforting structure of a clear calendar and a known road ahead. We all love a future. And whatever the perils of plastics in the international press and media – and there are currently very many in relation to the environment – it cannot be doubted at any level that the plastics industries have a future.

In fact, for many, the future cannot arrive soon enough: It is my guess that the order books for plastics capital equipment throughout the world are filled out to at least the middle of the year. In short, supply is working flat out to keep up with demand. Putting aside for a moment these supply-side issues and difficulties, on balance this can only be described as a good thing for the industry. As we know, the WITTMANN Group is working around the clock to finish up new machinery halls in Kottingbrunn by the end of March 2018.

The timing is nearly perfect. Not only will such work help double the supply of WITTMANN BATTENFELD medium sized injection molding machines; April 1, Easter Day in fact, sees the 10th anniversary of the WITTMANN acquisition – and subsequent reformation and transformation of the BATTENFELD brand and company. What better time to celebrate renewal and the spirit of spring! Full celebrations for the 10th anniversary of WITTMANN BATTENFELD, however, will have to wait until early summer and, hopefully, better weather. June sees the WITTMANN Group play host to selected guests and associates in Vienna, at a special party held on June 13–14. It promises to be a very special event.

Meantime, once again, may I wish us all a successful and prosperous 2018 – good fortune and happy planning!

A very Merry Christmas! (December 2017)

Season’s Greetings to you!

This year has flown by with much to occupy the business stage in all areas; manufacturing, science, trade and politics. To quote the author of A Christmas Carol, we could perhaps say with Charles Dickens that “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.”

On the one hand, many parts of the plastics processing industries continue to enjoy the “best of times”; to grow and to invest in competences and capabilities. High demand in one global area invariably continues to compensate for low demand elsewhere. And as the plastics industry develops worldwide, a “leveling up” is still apparent through all continents of the world. Thanks also to continual innovation in science and engineering; Industry 4.0, WITTMANN 4.0, plastics processing continues to advance in efficiency and effectiveness. The self organizing factory, complete with artificial intelligence (AI), could be just around the corner, needing just the press of a button to get started and a minimum of human intervention in its day to day operations. Thanks also to advances in user markets such as medical, aerospace, automotive and electronics the future looks very bright for polymer-based manufacturing; based on ever developing processes and ever new materials.

On the other hand, however, the public perception of plastics-as-pollutant has arguably never been greater. The evidence is unfortunately all around us; in the oceans, in landfill and in society generally. However it came to be, plastics continues to be the scapegoat for the human problem of waste and the throwaway society. Developments in the media – both mainstream and social – have poured fuel on the fire by facilitating easy and instant criticism of these problems, regardless of science, engineering and economics. Politicians and leaders have been first in the firing line on these matters and have themselves not hesitated to use these means for instant reactions and results. In these circumstances it is easy to see how political “solutions” – taxation, bans, tariffs – may come to be applied for wrong-headed but popular reasons, and for very little economic benefit.

In these circumstances, the strategy for plastics processors could do worse than take a leaf from the WITTMANN Group – always provide service through innovation and adding value for the customer. The truth is that the clock cannot be turned back. Plastics are here to stay: In the final analysis – and pending some future recycling and re-use issues – these materials provide a net environmental benefit to society and the world. As long as our customers can clearly see that benefit – in functionality and cost-effectiveness – there can be little argument as to the place of plastics in the world.

Once again, may I wish you a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Thank you.

Expansion and protection – both needed (November 2017)

It has been a busy month in plastics. Not only has the growing Fakuma exhibition come and gone, but so has the important Mexican show, Plastimagen (November 7–10) and today, November 16th, the doors shut for another year on the annual medical COMPAMED event in Düsseldorf.

To my mind the COMPAMED exhibition gives great opportunity for WITTMANN BATTENFELD to strengthen its position in the medical world with the continually impressive demonstrations of MicroPower based molding technology. Judging by the quality and the volume of visitors to COMPAMED 2017 the spirit of med-tech innovation is very much alive and well in the world and also seems very fluid – easily crossing international boundaries. In truth the US marketplace remains key to most serious players: Successful FDA approval unlocks many doors and as long as certain other qualifications such as ISO 13485 are obtained and adhered to then the opportunities for international business can be plentiful. Highly-invested molders have the opportunity to supply millions of items to the blue-chip healthcare and medical giants that outsource most molding production and who dominate the worlds of surgical and medical supplies. Less well publicized – but no less important – are the innovators and start-ups, a steady flow of people and resources involved in the creation of new devices. Much of this is inspired and led by practitioners in the field and much of this is therefore taken up by start-up business or SME companies. For every shopping OEM at COMPAMED there was at least one designer working on a new idea or device, often in partnership with a doctor or healthcare professional and looking for a manufacturing partner to help meet this clearly identified niche or medical need. Unsurprisingly, expected double digit growth in the market for elderly healthcare, self-administered devices, and precision medicine is all helping drive market optimism for both OEMs and innovators. So much for the evolving healthcare.

In the previous month the Fakuma exhibition gave a strong hint of the continuing need for manufacturers to safeguard their capital assets and intellectual property. The protection offered by evolving systems such as WITTMANN 4.0, the organizing intelligence of the WITTMANN R9 robot control and the virtual reality of its digital twin are but two aspects of this trend that were unveiled by the WITTMANN Group at Fakuma last month. The new R9 digital twin clearly demonstrates that it is much better to accurately “rehearse” manufacturing situations offline in virtual worlds, rather than risk making expensive mistakes in the real world. The latest developments to WITTMANN 4.0 also show that cyber security will become an increasingly vital part of the manufacturing world. To a manufacturer nothing is more important than having the production line running at all times. WITTMANN 4.0 Plug & Produce is made to deliver all the needed confidence in that regard.

Next year – April 1st – sees the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the WITTMANN acquisition of BATTENFELD. The event will have its own special celebration in Vienna and Kottingbrunn (Lower Austria). If I were a betting man I would wager that issues of connectivity and virtual reality will be set to play an ever greater role in the future product portfolio. It will be fascinating to see what emerges next year.

Aesthetics and design – ever more important (October 2017)

One week from today the doors will be ready to open on the Fakuma 2017 exhibition in Southern Germany. I could be wrong but I sense that business during this coming Fakuma week will be very focused and lively – in the best traditions of the show. The WITTMANN Group has chosen this moment to launch several plastic technology innovations all across the board. Many of these are squarely aimed at what might be called the Premier Division of contract injection molders.

Two weeks ago WITTMANN BATTENFELD UK enjoyed an extremely positive show at Interplas UK. Customers, old and new, came to chat and to buy. The booth was constantly busy and the quality of enquiries was high. To a general observer it was also noticeable how the visual element played a very important part in the marketing of the booth and the equipment. The battery of WITTMANN robots – from PRIMUS to pro grade and all displayed together – was one very effective piece of “eye candy”. The operational performance of the molding machines was another attraction. More than once at the NEC Birmingham – and in addition to the regular customer flow – I spied a general kind of visitor attracted to the movement and operations of the micro-molding machine that was producing the “lab on a chip” component. Most of these admirers were clearly professional people; engineers, scientists, technologists. For some, a passing interest turned into a five minute fascination and education into a molding process that was self-evident and self-explanatory.

This confirms to me that the standard of injection molding technology design and engineering quality – at least for the WITTMANN Group – continues to rise with every passing year, and is at least as exciting, transparent and innovative as any other part of manufacturing. Michael Wittmann’s introduction to the current issue of innovations magazine gives some clues as to the WITTMANN Group approach to design – in this case the evolution of WITTMANN 4.0 and the role played by the control graphics and the UNILOG B8 system. Listening-to-the-customer and every evolving simplicity of form and function are both key to the Group’s process. Next week’s Fakuma show should demonstrate plenty of both.

We are looking forward to seeing you there!

Timing – and scheduling – is everything (September 2017)

This week should have seen the Orlando Convention Centre, Florida play host to the USA’s premier plastics composites exhibition – CAMX, the Composites And Advanced Materials Expo. Anyone watching news and current affairs will know that there is absolutely no possibility of that event now happening there this week. Lightening rarely strikes twice … at least that’s what the organizers of the USA’s National Plastics Exposition (NPE) will be hoping and trusting. Orlando’s weather front system will need to have calmed considerably by the time that the triennial NPE show comes around again May 7–11, 2018.

It may be some consolation for CAMX to reflect that at least their show is an annual one. In the UK, for example, Interplas comes around only once every three years. Win or lose, the commercial stakes for a three year show are raised considerably. By one yardstick the UK show is already winning since exhibitor space bookings have been increased by over 20% since 2014. The show owners and managers – Rapid News – are successfully integrating end-use markets such as medical and packaging into their event and their publications. The Interplas brand and future appears to be in good hands and getting the nurture it deserves. However – will the customers arrive? That is the key question posed for those who are preparing to do business in Birmingham, UK from September 26–28. The WITTMANN BATTENFELD UK team, led by Managing Director Barry Hill is certainly preparing to meeting many kinds of plastics processors – laying out all elements of the one-stop-shop concept and being joined by WITTMANN BATTENFELD technology experts from Austria and France.

Many of the very latest and up-to-the-minute technology developments – not least WITTMANN BATTENFELD’s – will not yet arrive until a few days later, at the Fakuma 2018 exhibition in southern Germany. Truthfully the visitor attendance here is now never in doubt: Fakuma is held every autumn apart from K years and here perhaps is one reason for its growing success and expansion. An annual event simply contains more continuity, momentum and reliability than something that has a 36 month lead time. True, the German speaking market has considerably more sales volume to offer than any other European marketplace. Nonetheless, the regular commitment to an annual show itself breeds confidence, which in turn generates the necessary sales volume. A ‘chicken and egg’ situation perhaps.

Meantime we offer our commiseration to Florida this week and presume to think that Birmingham, UK and Friedrichshafen, Germany will fare better in a few weeks time. The truth is that no amount of planning and scheduling or timing will save a situation from certain factors, around which all business must work.

Working with the flow (August 2017)

In the UK they call it the “silly season” and in parts of Europe – France, Italy – the month of August is more or less written off for work and business. In more Southern European climes – Portugal, Greece – the economy doesn’t sleep; the incoming tourist trade for August alone can determine the economic success or failure of the whole year.

And summer can also be an interesting time for manufacturing and for plastics processing: Factors of unexpected temperature and humidity can be very taxing on the best laid plans for polymer drying; providing a situation where the WITTMANN ATON and GRAVIMAX materials handling combination really comes into its own. A lull in forward orders in summer – most often temporary – can either precipitate a doubling down of sales activities or a switch over to issues of plant maintenance and upgrading. The summertime period is often a cue to spend more time in the “back room”; working on people issues and training and in improving the company’s systems, software, and database management, most likely in the CRM area (Customer Relationship Management).

2017 seems so far fairly typical in that regard, despite the many economic and political uncertainties and turbulences throughout the world. However, many companies will be keen to get “back to school” and back to business: Next month, for example, plays host to the UK’s triennial plastics exhibition, Interplas. Exhibitor sales for the event have increased significantly over the 2014 event according to show organizer Rapid News. It will be interesting to see how UK plastics processors to their supply base in Birmingham, September 26–28. Is Brexit yet playing a part in their decision making? Not yet, I would suggest.

October 2017 then sees the German-based plastics sector resuming its activities at Fakuma 2017. In some ways Fakuma has become the clear “go to” venue for quality conversations, research and learning about injection molding technology. Once a predominantly German speaking event, Fakuma’s popularity with the international community has grown significantly over the last decade. It makes perfect sense to have a show where the home markets can be exclusively cultivated and one can sympathize with the fear that such an event might be diluted by too many overseas visitors. However, the German plastics industry also needs to court its international audience, especially with regard to leading-edge future work. After all, German industry developed the Industry 4.0 concepts for the world and Fakuma now provides a good opportunity for the plastics industry to keep proving these in the form of solutions. WITTMANN BATTENFELD, of course, is one of the plastics industry leaders of Industry 4.0, and will be showing a number of new developments in Friedrichshafen, October 17–21. The coming autumn could therefore provide much new business and a fair number of surprises. Until then, just a few days of summer remain. Enjoy!

Credit where credit is due (July 2017)

Those of us who were around plastics processing at the end of the 1980’s may recall how environmental and recycling issues began to make their mark; on society, on manufacturing and on plastics generally. In those early days much of the language was new and sometimes confusing: The term ‘carbon footprint’, for example, might have been about the family dog treading ashes through the living room carpet. Over time, however, many studies on the manufacturing/environmental interface were made. Subjects such as ‘cradle to grave’ and ‘eco-balancing’ entered the language. The Association of Plastics Manufacturers in Europe led much fundamental research on life-cycle analysis for various polymer types. Green Dots became established. And although many environmental policies and directions are still unclear today, the past thirty years have given us a batch of new terms to work with. One term in plastics that needed careful treatment from the beginning was the term ‘recycling’ … as opposed to ‘in-house’ recycling – or ‘reprocessing’ as it is now generally known.

‘Recycling’ as most of us know it today stands only for post-use or post-consumer recycling. Recycling is also considered today to be something ‘good’ or ‘virtuous’. However, ‘recycling’ is not considered to be applicable to anything within the manufacturing process. In this way manufacturing is damned before it begins. This prohibition masks another truth, which is that modern manufacturing is ruthless in its intolerance of any kind of waste and is near-perfect in its recycling activities. The reason? In-house recycling makes complete environmental and business sense. The WITTMANN Group has been at the heart of the sector’s efficiencies from the beginning. Last week the company announced the release of the latest and final model in its series of G-Max granulators – the G-Max 23. Plastics granulation technology is but one of a number of ways (energy efficiency is another) in which WITTMANN is helping plastics processors in their in-house recycling – the regrinding and repurposing of plastics materials (sprues, runners, faulty products). As a result, plastics processors are now some of the most efficient resource recyclers on the planet.

None of this side of the story, however, is currently mobilized or available for public consumption. Instead the plastics industry – as seen by the media in the oceans, in landfill and elsewhere – is depicted as a non-recycler and a perpetrator of waste. This is not so. The credit for those particular problems must be shared between the users and abusers of the products themselves. It is to be hoped that the world will cease making one material ‘wrong’ while at the same time using it more and more for the clear benefits and efficiencies it brings. The age of unlimited consumption is perhaps nearing its end. Producer responsibility and now consumer responsibility need to work together – for the sake of both.

Full details of WITTMANN’s new granulator – the G-Max 23 – can be seen here:
http://www.wittmann-group.com/uploads/media/Witt-NR-07-2017_G-Max-23.pdf

Protecting production in a connected world (June 2017)

This week has just seen the mighty Apple company announce a revamp of many of its product lines; ushering in a brand new wave of updates and changes, from watches and phones to iPads, laptops and top of the range desktop computers. The bottom line here is that a whole raft of consumer software and hardware now needs upgrading and replacing … again.

For someone of my years – and I speak as an Apple user – one might be tempted to use the term “planned obsolescence”; a tactic that ensures that a buyer is forced to repurchase and repurchase. Fifty years ago – and more by accident than design – the fact of shoddy built quality may have been the trigger for the phenomenon. But today, no such excuse exists. We are simply dealing with the increasing speed of life and the perpetual reinvention of connected technologies. Add in a clever dose of marketing and an appeal to fashion and you have a world-leading brand. In spite of the hype there really is no compulsion to buy. When a machine continues to be fit for purpose for the user it can outlast all the razzmatazz of many reinventions. And yet, in one key part of Apple’s launch this week it became clear that not everything is about surface values: The company’s new iOS 11 operating system, for example, will render many of its older iPhones, iPads and apps obsolete. These devices will no longer receive software updates or, more importantly, security fixes. This development is key. One may spend any amount of money on a piece of equipment only to realize later that software updates and connectivity support are either being phased out or are not sufficiently current or robust to protect operations.

What does this have to with injection molding?, you may well ask. I would refer you to the current edition of innovations magazine, which contains a very interesting piece by Michael Wittmann on the subject; on how the Internet is creating many evolving security implications for businesses and manufacturers and how WITTMANN is meeting the challenge head on. Last month’s global WannaCry ransomware attack on many Microsoft Windows™ users large and small throughout the world was a striking wake-up call. It means that all businesses – injection molders included – must now have an IT strategy in place to prevent the so far unthinkable, being held to ransom and having production stopped. In a connected world, all are connected to all, that’s the Internet deal. However, there is no time like the present for ensuring that the necessary filters, quarantines and firewalls are ready and waiting for any unwanted callers.

innovations magazine is here:
http://www.wittmann-group.com/news/details/issue-32017-of-innovations/3c77d5a46e35062fe146411f41649227.html

Stay safe.

“All the world’s a stage …” (May 2017)

At the outset of 2017 the international plastics meetings circuit appeared to be relatively lightweight – at least compared to the rigors of 2016. The WITTMANN Group, of course, held a memorable 40 year birthday party back in June 2016 and then capped that off with an impressive and intensive K 2016 showing of plastics technology solutions. So, on the face of it, 2017 appeared to supply something of a breather. No milestone anniversaries and no NPE USA exhibition until next spring in Florida.

However, a sudden consultation of the calendar ahead reveals that the important markets of Poland, China and France are dominating the upcoming exhibition calendar for the next few weeks. As ever, the WITTMANN Group is playing a full part in all of these events and has specialist expertise and resources in each of these global zones. It is also perhaps fair to say that in the troughs outside of the K and NPE shows the local country markets assume a greater importance and push more to the fore. This is also the UK’s year for plastics processing – with Interplas 2017 at end-September at the NEC Birmingham. The significant Fakuma exhibition, increasing in popularity, will also resume its business in mid-October of this year. In addition, there are further sectoral commitments for the WITTMANN Group to fulfill – for medical industries, for example.

In today’s global village there is no one country market that cannot learn from the plastics processing experiences of another; plastics and manufacturing technology increasingly know no boundaries. As William Shakespeare put it – “All the world’s a stage …” – in Guangzhou, Orlando, or Düsseldorf, the principles of exhibition marketing and communication remain the same. innovations quarterly magazine, published by the WITTMANN Group successfully keeps all these worlds interconnected and alive to developments across the board. As ever, the next upcoming issue looks full of good things – and will be available in a few weeks time.

“BATTENFELD is back – big time” (April 2017)

April 1st this year sees the 9th anniversary of the WITTMANN acquisition of the BATTENFELD injection molding machinery (IMM) business. Good things take their time. And now, it is clear as day that the BATTENFELD brand has been successfully revived, is back and is thriving – big time.

WITTMANN has nurtured and developed the IMM technology all across the range, from the leading MicroPower machines to the medium to large sized IMM, the MacroPower range. Production expansion at Kottingbrunn and elsewhere is currently an ongoing way of life. In its heyday – perhaps the period from the 1970s through to the mid 1980s – BATTENFELD had no peer in its relentless spirit of molding invention and innovation. Indeed it might be said that the company’s energy was a little too restless. A fair number of innovations at that time could perhaps have been described as good ideas in search of a customer. The WITTMANN way of working does not innovate technology for its own sake but begins and ends with what the customer actually requires; constantly driving and innovating plastics technology in order to make the customer’s life easier. This is the keynote that has made the difference for BATTENFELD and underwritten the revival of the business over the past nine years.

Recently I was able to tempt WITTMANN BATTENFELD Sales Manager Siegfried Köhler into sharing some thoughts on a short video about the nature of this change. I am grateful for his participation, and for the WITTMANN Group publishing it on its YouTube channel.

Please click here to view it:
https://youtu.be/RtTjzB6JA58

Simpler and better (March 2017)

True innovation, it can be said, is less about increasing complexity than reducing it; less about making more choices for the user and more about reducing choices to those that are truly needed and necessary. As Einstein himself said: “Make everything as simple as possible – but not simpler.” Which is why my ears pricked up a few weeks ago, hearing about the launch of the new range of WITTMANN pick & place robots, the PRIMUS 16. Although the PRIMUS robot launch was fairly quietly stated, this new range is clearly set to be a major development for the WITTMANN Group and for plastics processors.

It reminded me of the fact that – with some notable exceptions – many everyday European “High Street” names – Bosch, BMW, Miele, Audi – are known for both top-of-the-range excellence and, lately, also best-in-class at the standard and affordable end of the market. The customer is enabled to have choice. One can pay top dollar for a designer, frost free, noiseless, Class A+ refrigerator or one can pay a modest sum for a very adequate alternative.

The same principle seems increasingly true of the WITTMANN Group which has a range of processing solutions to suit every kind of ambition and budget. This range increases with every passing year and the key, as ever, is continuing to listen closely to the customer. Processors automatically shuttling products of a few grams back and forth may need a dozen pick & place units in contrast to automotive suppliers who need one large robot to automate 10 kg+ components on long cycle times. The evolving marketplace is big enough for both. At another level, WITTMANN continues to find innovation (for example new control functions) that applies throughout all classes of automation, standard and complex.

Keeping trade free (January 2017)

We are not long into the New Year and most political landscapes across most regions of the world seem to remain in a state of turmoil. It remains unclear as to whether politicians or systems of governance need reform – or both. And perhaps reform of these is on its way, simply through the sheer force of events. At any rate, governmental issues matter to industry and to the plastics sector because they play a part in the development or restraint of trade, invariably the latter. As the saying goes – “A good idea doesn’t care who owns it.” On the other hand, new technology and new industries do not exist in a vacuum. True innovation is born and developed in a place and in a somewhere – be it Palo Alto, Shanghai or Kottingbrunn. Governments therefore have a responsibility to such innovation – to their citizens and to each other – to let innovation flourish and to let it go where it will. At the very least, governments have a responsibility to not deny the fact of innovation and to not hinder the development of new ideas, products and services. In recent months, however, and on all continents there are hints of regression, of apparent trade conflicts brewing in the name of nationalism, with tariffs, taxes, currency hedges and protectionism all threatening to play a part. My view, however, is that the tide has already turned and that “the ship has already set sail”.

True innovation is transnational in character and is already well underway, for example, in the benefits of the developing 4th Industrial Revolution – including matters of Industry 4.0, Big Data and Machine Intelligence and Automation. The world’s manufacturing economy is now too interdependent and too transnational for it to develop in any other way. In these circumstances, attempted restraint of trade will ultimately prove to be an unwise instrument for any government to use.

Time will tell, of course. In the meantime, a positive outlook on these matters may well be the most practical strategy available to us. 

Adrian Lunney

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