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.

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:

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:

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. 

Season’s Greetings! (December 2016)

With so much political and economic turbulence across the globe today it is easy to feel that the simple and traditional message of Christmas cheer is all but drowned out in the general noise of ongoing world events. Setting aside the traditional Christmas context for a minute, I am able to remind myself of “a ray of hope” in the ongoing and positive achievements of science and technology. Day-to-day these developments are often unsung, but nonetheless they add up to transformation of human life – in medical advances, in information and connectivity, in new materials, in automation, and in the raising of living standards across nations.

Plastics technology – and the WITTMANN Group – is intimately connected to all of these industries and to the 4th Industrial Revolution which, thanks to Industry 4.0, is already on its way. In its own way, therefore, and at this time of year our plastics industry can rightly applaud its successes, its promotion of human comfort and development and its alleviation of human suffering.

In short, may I wish you and everyone in the WITTMANN Group a very happy festive season ahead, with the opportunity to recharge the batteries for a busy 2017!

K 2016 – the best yet? (November 2016)

It may just be me – but my sense was that we recently enjoyed a very good K show indeed. The “folk wisdom” used to be that leading companies simply needed to be seen at this triennial shop window, indeed could not afford not to show at K. However, for relaxed and in-depth conversations about the technical aspects of injection molding the other plastics exhibition in Southern Germany was said to provide a better setting. Well, perhaps this year’s K show borrowed a page or two from the Fakuma rule book. Conversations were animated, relaxed and friendly; much business was certainly being conducted and visitor traffic – on both WITTMANN Group booths – was certainly very very busy indeed.

A packed WITTMANN press conference on the first day of the show also provided journalists with the usual blend of good company news, commercial and technical and also gave much detail of the WITTMANN Group’s continuing expansion activities throughout the globe. Although the WITTMANN 40th Anniversary Party in June had stolen much of the innovation “thunder” for the rest of the year, for me there were very many highlights – too many to mention; the 9th generation robot control, the UNILOG B8 control, the EcoPower Xpress, the twin-shot micro-molding, the expansion of the robot range and the material handling capabilities.
Michael Wittmann concluded matters with an absorbing account of how the WITTMANN company is at the heart of all Industry 4.0 developments for plastics processing. Expect to see more of that at the next K show – and the one after that …
Georg Tinschert was also able to tell the press pack that a 2,000 ton WITTMANN BATTENFELD injection molding machine was being made for delivery to a customer in 2017. That bridge has now been crossed and, no doubt, we may see even larger machines produced in the coming years as the Kottingbrunn facilities expand.

But the best K show yet? In 1989 I made my first trip to the Düsseldorf fair – fresh from helping create Plastics and Rubber Weekly’s 80–90 page weekly issues. We certainly will not see that level of marketing spend again – especially from materials companies – nor that general expansion in the industry. Perhaps it is not too fanciful to suggest that K 2016 might represent a “coming of age” moment for the plastics industry. The growth spurts of adolescence are now mainly over and the world of adulthood implies much more reasonable expectations between buyers and sellers. General levels of technical competence – in both suppliers and users – continue to rise. Growth forecasts, though very positive, are pitched on the modest side. It is a scenario that fits the character and the future plans of the WITTMANN Group very well.

Applauding the generational shift (September/October 2016)

Every once in a while the ground shifts as producers rewrite their product book for the customer. A little while after the WITTMANN Group’s purchase of BATTENFELD in 2008, we began to see the emergence of a coordinated and powerful PowerSeries brand across the board. MicroPower, SmartPower, EcoPower and MacroPower were the brand segments and the 2010 launch in Kottingbrunn for me was a high water mark in terms of the launch and the definition of the new identity. It therefore gladdens this journalist’s heart then to get word that the WITTMANN Group is expected to launch its 9th generation of robot control – the R9 – at the coming K show. According to the statistics, a new generation of product comes along only every eight years or so. This timescale puts the R9 launch right on schedule. Big news. I may be speculating here, but if the R9 is ready now – then the 9th generation of WITTMANN linear robots must not be far behind.

And just looking at the Messe Düsseldorf K show preview gives a big hint at the bigger context. The website’s videos show that there will be only one game in town this October – Industry 4.0. WITTMANN 4.0 is very well placed to meet the Industry 4.0 challenge and the R9 and its successive iterations have been designed to help lead the way. The WITTMANN Group’s theme for the K exhibition also gives a clear hint as to the next eight years of development. “be smart” is a nod to the increasing performance and sophistication of the world’s plastics processing industries – a performance that will need to continuously improve. “be smart” recognizes the central demand that Industry 4.0 will make upon tomorrow’s manufacturing businesses.

We will live in a world where manufacturing will take advantage of the synthesis and networking of all relevant technologies in a connected internet of objects, services and data. For industry this means integrating, shaping and improving computing, electronics, manufacturing and web connectivity in order to be able to offer quick, flexible responses to customer demands. The era of mass production previously organized by humans, and focused on lean manufacturing and techniques such as SMED and 6 Sigma, is gradually becoming overlapped by the intelligent and self-organizing factory that constantly reconfigures itself, via Big Data, in order to answer the increasingly varied demands of the marketplace. At this point in time, such a scenario sounds rather incredible. However, it seems that “be smart” is the very best strategy to deploy, in order to prepare ourselves for such a future.

Little things mean a lot (August 2016)

In the coming weeks before the K 2016 exhibition we can expect the trade media to preview a multitude of announcements about new materials, new equipment and new plastics technology solutions. In my experience the K show provides the best opportunity in the global plastics world for this to happen. As we know, many plastics technology suppliers hold back their developments and achievements until precisely this point in the global marketing cycle. And although there are many competing plastics exhibitions in the world now – in China, the USA and at Fakuma also – the K show still retains the crown. Invariably there will be much debate about which suppliers have created the biggest and best impact on the scene; the discussions about the place of 3D printing, electric versus hydraulic, recycling and plastics bio-materials – all of these will resume and continue in Düsseldorf and the show will fulfill its main purpose of stimulating growth in the industry. From a user and owner point of view, however, the K show will offer an opportunity to test the practicality and usefulness of all these new solutions.

The key to plastics innovation – as the WITTMANN Group has always known – is the difference actually made to the user experience: The operator/setter needs to realize easier and better performance and the owner/manager needs to realize improved cost and energy performance as well as value for money. In this sense, true innovation actually proceeds in small and very practical steps. The new EcoVacuum function on the WITTMANN robot series provides a prime example. This feature allows for a periodic shutdown of the continuous vacuum produced, thus minimizing the robot’s demand for compressed air. Significant weekly savings of operational costs can therefore be achieved for those who purchase their WITTMANN robots with the R8.3 robot control system as standard. In-house recycling and regrind operations provide another key area. Increasing demands for health and safety within the industry have given rise to the introduction of the WITTMANN G-Max 12 granulator, a piece of recycling machinery that can now be operated from outside a contained protective housing via a remote control. The control’s connecting cable to the granulator has a length of three meters, and, again, the WITTMANN Group offers this new feature as standard. When the molding machine is “off”, the granulator stops automatically. Again, this helps to save energy.

In short, in the repetitive and quality-conscious plastics production environment, little things can mean a lot. The discerning plastics industry customer – at K 2016 or elsewhere – will know this and will shop accordingly.

Celebration and achievement (July 2016)

Well. It was everything we thought it would be – and then some more. The WITTMANN event “house style” of acrobatics combined with a robotics theme exceeded anything previously ever shown. The after dinner Eurovision song-winning entertainment was a very unexpected bonus, as was the participation of the entire Wittmann family complete with spouses – in the formal part of the day’s presentations. Without doubt, the 40th anniversary party was, by any standard, a very joyful and successful event.

Naturally enough, I kept company with the international journalists who had plenty to record in their notebooks. And if there was any idea that WITTMANN technical or product innovation might be held back until this year’s K 2016 show, these thoughts were immediately dispelled. New temperature controllers, materials conveying, granulators and robots, large and small were all discussed. Press information on the same is this month being released into the public domain. And with 1,600 customers touring the exhibits and the various WITTMANN Group production facilities it seemed very likely that much global new business will result in the coming months. We now look forward to the K 2016 exhibition, where we can rely on further WITTMANN Group innovation to be on show. The triennial exhibition in Düsseldorf, October 19th–26th, make no mistake, is a unique forum for the global industry and much of the plastics supply side simply has to be there.

However, and in my view, the WITTMANN 40th anniversary party has now set the bar for its unique blend of business, technology, entertainment and celebration. The events of June 7th–9th will stand in the memory for many years to come.

Party time! (June 2016)

The stage is set; the invites have been issued, the flights and ferries and rooms are all booked. This week will see the party clothes dusted off and Central Vienna will be the backdrop for the biggest party yet for the WITTMANN Group – celebrating 40 years of growth, expansion and plastics industry business. Fifteen years ago, the 25th birthday celebrations in Vienna were really quite something to write home about. I’m thinking that it will be quite a task to better that occasion – but I fully expect the job to be fulfilled come June 7th to June 9th.

It is worth reflecting that not all businesses today have the wit or the wherewithal to hold a party or to simply even celebrate what they do. My suspicion is that this is something best handled by those companies who are very securely anchored in their trade and who are also most likely very close to the style of a family run business. It’s not about size or scale. Despite the continuous yearly expansion – most notably with the WITTMANN purchase of BATTENFELD on April 1st, 2008 – the family-run character of the WITTMANN business has not changed one iota. The instinct to show and to demonstrate and celebrate the ever changing innovations and possibilities in plastics processing technology has not really changed since Day 1.

My hope and wish is that visitors and customers alike will get to share in the WITTMANN spirit of celebration and innovation – and will take some of that spirit back to their own workplaces – to innovate and to celebrate further there. In short – let the festivities begin!

Another WITTMANN anniversary well worth celebrating (April/May 2016)

“There is only one thing worse than being talked about,” noted the nineteenth century dramatist and wit Oscar Wilde, “and that is not being talked about.” In the hundred years or so following Oscar's prophetic words we have seen a veritable explosion in all kinds of “talking” – newspapers, radio, television, the PR industries and, lately, the Internet and its so-called social media instruments – Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. In the middle of all this escalating “noise” it is not easy to find clarity of information and unbiased expression of fact, even in those technical matters which are undisputable.

However, innovations Magazine from the WITTMANN Group has fulfilled that positive brief from the start and now celebrates its 10th anniversary of publishing. Under the guidance of Michael Wittmann, Publisher, and Mr. Bernhard Grabner, Editor, it can justly reflect on many years of a job well done. Here's how. Firstly, innovations Magazine fulfills the aim of all good journalism, which always aims to create “a good story – well told”. “A good story” means that the news is well worth telling in the first place – in other words, the story content is new, has genuine interest and therefore creates value for the reader. “Well told” means that the manner of telling does justice to the material; the story is written in a clear and engaging manner, it successfully communicates the essence of the technology, it deals correctly with all the facts and with matters of grammar and spelling. Both of these criteria are meticulously applied to every piece written – and translated – for innovations Magazine. In short, the editorial standards are of the highest quality and have not changed since inception. Secondly, in my opinion, through its regular content of case study work and user reports, innovations Magazine successfully shows that, although local customs and practices are very important, plastics technology is a universal language. What is proven to work in Taiwan can be translated and put to work in Toronto or Tahiti. In that sense innovations Magazine is a vital and practical resource for the plastics industry, highlighting possibilities and clearly illustrating what works.

Right now it is difficult to refrain from writing about the exciting preparations for WITTMANN 40th Anniversary party in Vienna next month. However, and in the meantime, I invite you to raise a glass to innovations Magazine and to its future growth and success. The latest issue is here online.

Celebrations … before the party (March 2016)

I’m not normally a demonstrative chap and my fellow passengers on the London Tube must have wondered what was going on when I couldn’t help letting out a loud cheer during the silent rush hour ride home. My cheer came from the news – downloaded via PRW onto the iPhone – that WITTMANN BATTENFELD had just inked a deal to supply more than 100 machines to Hong Kong based Hayco Manufacturing. The equipment will be shipped to the company’s new manufacturing plant currently being built in the Dominican Republic. A number of machines will also go into an expansion of Hayco’s three existing China factories. I have been reporting on the plastics industry for 28 years now and can recall no single order bigger than this.

Of course, large multi-machine deals do sometime happen from time to time. If news of them makes it into the public domain and to the trade papers the story is most often picked for the front page lead of the magazine. We all like to hear good news. But let’s take a moment to reflect a little on the implications of the story. Firstly, that statistic – over 100 machines. An award winning and savvy customer such as Hayco will have done much homework and due diligence in making certain that – pound for pound – its one-time investment will pay off handsomely through the lifetime of their equipment – 10, 20, 30 years. We can be sure therefore that the performance and the specification of each of the SmartPower and MacroPower machines will have been put under the microscope and compared favorably to its competitors, on a machine by machine basis. And no mix and match or half-measures applies to this customer. Hayco has put its faith in WITTMANN BATTENFELD technology and has multiplied its machine advantage by over 100 times. Such bold purchasing strokes characterize the performance of successful businesses. We can also be sure that the quality/price ratio on the deal will have been second to none. Not many companies can beat out the indigenous machinery builders to supply machinery to three factories in China. WITTMANN BATTENFELD has done so. And not many other suppliers – none in fact – can offer the complete one-stop shop of equipment for all molding cells.

This April 1 upcoming sees the 8th anniversary of the WITTMANN acquisition of BATTENFELD and, in truth, one could not have asked for a better or more timely anniversary gift. Not only is this a great morale boost for the company, the news of this order sends a clear signal out to the marketplace. It completely validates and endorses the performance of the new WITTMANN BATTENFELD machines. It affirms that the BATTENFELD brand is now truly revived and thriving – under the WITTMANN management. So – in my view, hearty celebrations and congratulations are very much in order – right now! Plenty of time then to reopen the champagne ahead of the WITTMANN 40th anniversary party proper, in Vienna, June 8th. In the meantime may I wish the website readers a very happy and peaceful Easter. I look forward to resuming after the holiday break.

Think global – act local (February 2016)

Anyone contemplating the year ahead in plastics might be forgiven for thinking that a relatively clear road stretches from this point on to Düsseldorf, Germany, October 19–26th. The K exhibition there is still the largest and, many say, the best in the world. It has come to dominate the global industry in whichever year it happens to fall. True, certain show activities have diminished; materials-based marketing for one. And publishing for another. And yet it would be a very brave industry player who would find a reason to stay away.

However, the plastics world will certainly keep spinning before and after K 2016. A casual look at the WITTMANN Group news headlines confirms this is so. Russia’s enduring Interplastica show in Moscow has just been witness to WITTMANN BATTENFELD expertise in medical molding and many other matters. And, since spring is coming, the focus in early March will move to North America, to the increasingly popular and vibrant Plastimagen in Mexico City. Back in the mists of time, and at the Mexican show’s very first edition, the WITTMANN exhibiting space was modest. Next month will see the 20th edition of Plastimagen take place and the WITTMANN BATTENFELD presence is very substantial indeed; showing the latest benefits to be had from MicroPower, SmartPower and EcoPower technology as well as demonstrating all manner of WITTMANN auxiliary equipment. In the first two months of this year WITTMANN BATTENFELD has also announced developments in Europe, including new agencies in Latvia, Lithuania, and Albania/Kosovo.

My point is that local comes first. Any and all plastics technology that is launched in Düsseldorf in October, however revolutionary, will have to pass through the filter of local customs and cultures for adoption. Being firmly established in such local custom and culture is therefore essential for any supplier. It is also key to understanding user needs and practices – and being local ultimately helps drive product innovation at the center. This is why the WITTMANN Group continues to nurture all such activities around the world, staying close to the source of all innovation: customers. What is also absolutely certain about 2016 is that the WITTMANN Group will be using the local Austrian talent for hospitality and celebration – and staging the company’s 40th birthday party in early June in Vienna. It’s going to be quite an event!

A very happy and innovative new year! (January 2016)

Although our world still seems to have a curious and regular appetite for bad news stories of all kinds, one silver lining strikes me when sifting through the daily headlines. And that is that the principles of human ingenuity, inventiveness and innovation seem very much alive and well.

Alas, some of this intelligence is socially deviant. It seems that a teenager in a bedroom can sometimes bring a bank or a phone company or a government department to its knees. However, many stories are inspirational and clearly address the common good and promote human progress.

We know, and have already written, that an unmistakable wave of innovation is coming to the world of manufacturing.

The forces of Big Data, Industry 4.0, the Internet of Things, 3D printing, increased automation – these are all currently combining to create the next industrial revolution and the idea of intelligent, self-creating factory.

And thanks to a well-known process of continuous innovation, day to day, and year to year, the WITTMANN Group is in prime position to ride this coming industrial wave. WITTMANN 4.0 is already leading the way and WITTMANN customers will now be able to take advantage of new licensing programs in order to exert integration and control over all production operations.

Adrian Lunney

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