Domestic machine tool manufacturer facility expansion drives new opportunities
Brian Papke, president of Mazak Corp., talks about how a large expansion to the company's Florence, Ky. facility is driving new opportunities for the company in the U.S.
Mazak Corp. has announced a large expansion of its Florence, Ky., manufacturing facility to handle the rapid growth in the domestic machine tool business. Brian Papke, president of Mazak Corp., talks about how that growth is driving new opportunities for the company in the U.S.
PE: What have the last three years been like for Mazak? Have you been able to invest in R+D while serving the existing customer base?
Papke: Our incoming orders in 2010 were up 100%, last year up 60% (on a calendar year basis), and this year are up 20% thus far. Also during the past 3 years, we continued to develop new, innovative products, as opposed to simply meeting the increases in demand with existing older machine models.
During the downturn prior to the manufacturing upswing, we continued to reinvest in our factory and in our R+D resources to ensure that we could competitively produce new products that were receptive to the market when the economy was back on track in 2010. Even though business is now good for most manufacturers, they must still strengthen their competitiveness, and doing so requires truly new, innovative, and productive equipment, not technology that’s as much as 5 years old.
And Mazak, like other manufacturers, is under the same pressure, which is why we continually improve our technology and invest in new equipment for our own production-on-demand manufacturing operations to increase our productivity and competitiveness. Our customers, like us, want the latest and greatest technology that will increase their productivity better than anything else on the market and better than what their competitors are using.
A favorable business climate doesn’t imply that a company will automatically be successful. You still have to be competitive or you will lose that success. Our customers are very receptive to the products we develop because they consistently provide more productivity and a competitive advantage.
PE: As IMTS approaches, what are you hearing from your customers about what they need to continue to grow their business?
Papke: As IMTS approaches, our customers are seeking new technology that will give them the competitive advantage and improve their business. Additionally, they are quite concerned with how those products will help reduce the labor content in operations—not in an effort to necessarily reduce labor costs, but instead to improve production without increasing their dependency on skilled labor.
To reduce their reliance on skilled labor, manufacturers are also seeking to automate as many operations or processes as possible. Such automation can take different forms besides the commonly thought-of stand-alone robot. For instance, a multitasking machine combines enough different processing capability that, in itself, automates production because parts are loaded in the machine once and come out completed.
PE: Conversely, what do they say are the barriers to growing their business?
Papke: The biggest barrier to our customers’ abilities to grow is the current lack of skilled labor. Recruiting, training, and maintaining skilled employees on an ongoing basis are proving increasingly challenging for these manufacturers. Therefore, we continue to strengthen our efforts in providing not only highly productive machines and fully automated solutions that will ease the need for skilled labor, but also providing customers with various training programs as part of our Pyramid of Learning and through our regionally located technology centers.
PE: Mazak is a global company. What are the secrets to being both global and local today, and why is that of benefit to manufacturing?
Papke: There is really no big secret, except for the fact that a company has to be committed. Being a successful company on both a global and local level simply takes a strong commitment to being where your customers are and having a well-established presence in those areas.
We are not only a company that sells machine tools, but one that also works closely with its customers to develop complete turnkey manufacturing solutions that provide them the lowest possible cost of ownership and the fastest return on their investment. But equally important, these solutions optimize their operations and increase equipment utilization rates.
In the machine tool business, those who survive, prosper, and grow over long periods of time are the ones that are completely committed to providing innovative technology and unmatched customer support. Ultimately, our desire is to always have our customers tell us that they’ve improved their profitability as a result of investing in Mazak equipment. We want them to grow and prosper, and in the process, we want to grow as partners with them.
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After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.
The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.