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Construction continued into March 2017 and lasted twelve months. The entire ENGEL Hannover team had moved to a free adjacent industrial building since the refurbishment was very extensive, resulting in a doubling of floor space. A total of 2,400 square metres is now available for the office wing, training centre and the technology centre. The building has two floors covering the entire footprint and even the event and training area is now on two floors. Christopher Vitz, managing director of ENGEL Deutschland GmbH at the Hannover location, is delighted with the new building and especially the new possibilities it offers. "Everything was completed on time to start operations," he says. Founded in 2000, space had become a premium at the most northerly of the four German subsidiaries over the last few years. "In the last few years, Germany has grown quite considerably," says Vitz. "Now that we have the extension, we can meet this growth head-on and it also means we are even better equipped to meet current and future customer requirements."
For several years, the strong growth in Germany has been partly due to the increase in cross-border business, i.e. international companies based in Germany make purchasing decisions in Germany. They also carry out project engineering for machines and production cells in Germany but install and operate them in a different country. "From a technological viewpoint, German processors are among the best in the world," says Vitz. "When our customers expand onto new markets, project engineering very often takes place in Germany, at least at the beginning, since the technological know-how has to be built up at the foreign locations first. Due to its strong presence in Germany as well as on global markets, ENGEL is very well positioned to provide its customers with support on an international scale."
With a current work force of 80 employees, ENGEL Hannover is globally the second largest sales and service subsidiary of ENGEL AUSTRIA. "Our plans foresee further increases in staff to cater for the requirements of our customers," says Vitz. "Germany and international German companies have a major share in our turnover," emphasises Dr. Stefan Engleder, CEO of the ENGEL Group, during the opening ceremony. "In the past few years, we have succeeded in increasing our strong position in Germany across all branches of industry. The current trends in the injection moulding sector also offer us even greater potential for the future on a market that is already very highly developed."
The driving forces behind technology growth in Germany include lightweight composites, continuing increases in process integration and Industry 4.0. These trends make manufacturing processes more complex and it requires more and more intensive collaboration between ENGEL and plastics processors. "We not only act as suppliers but also increasingly as partners for continuous process optimisation over the entire service life of injection moulding machines and manufacturing cells," explains Vitz. "As a result our aim here at the new subsidiary is to provide even better support to speed up the current and future technological change." This is why the technology centre and the training centre were extended and totally refurbished with new equipment. From now on, ENGEL will present the very latest machines, robots and technologies at the technology centre and place them at customer disposal for them to carry out their own tests. There is even space for large machines with clamping forces up to 7,000 kN. "One factor that is particularly important for us is that the technology centre should be regarded not merely as a showroom but as an interactive technology centre," says Vitz. "We invite our customers to experience innovative developments live here and even try them out."
In addition to alternating the exhibits, two themes are a standard fixture in the new interactive technology centre: inject 4.0 and lightweight construction.
ENGEL combines all activities linked to Industry 4.0 under the term inject 4.0. "The term Industry 4.0 was born in Hannover in 2011 and a couple of days ago at the Hannover Fair, we saw just how fast progress has been made in digitalisation and networking in various branches of industry," says Vitz. ENGEL sees its role as a partner supporting its customers along the path towards the smart factory.
Today, ENGEL already offers its customers several software products and services for the digitalisation and networking of injection moulding processes. For example, the intelligent assistance systems of iQ weight control and iQ clamp control have become very well established. During the opening ceremony in Hannover, ENGEL clearly demonstrated these functionalities on a self-optimising injection moulding machine. All the machines at the technology centre are linked within an intelligent network which even allows automatic load management to avoid expensive energy peaks.
ENGEL is already an important partner in the development of lightweight construction solutions for large automobile manufacturers, some of whom have their plants in the immediate vicinity of Hannover. For example, ENGEL equipped the Open Hybrid LabFactory with a v duo machine for research into lightweight construction. The Open Hybrid LabFactory is the lightweight construction campus at the Braunschweig University of Applied Sciences and started up by several companies including Volkswagen. Project managers and lightweight construction specialists work at ENGEL in Hannover and are therefore available locally to work on customer projects.
The first visitors to the new subsidiary are also impressed by the new training centre which is built with a state-of-the-art infrastructure. Experts from all regions of the world can tune in live by video conference. Courses which are regularly on offer include machine operation and process optimisation as well as workshops and seminars on the latest topics. What is new is that ENGEL Hannover now offers training courses to cater for specific target groups. "Participant profiles are becoming more and more heterogeneous," says Vitz, pointing out his observations. "On the one hand we deal with very experienced experts who want to keep pace with developments; on the other hand we receive more and more lateral entrants to the plastics industry and they need technology knowledge to start with. We want to cater for these totally different groups by offering tailor-made courses. We have prepared ourselves to do exactly this."
The fact that many visitors come to the ENGEL subsidiary is part and parcel of putting customer proximity into practice. Thanks to the building's very open architecture with large-surface glass fronts, the green ENGEL machines at the technology centre can even be seen from the street. "Our standards of quality, innovative force and openness are reflected in the architecture of our buildings and this is also a goal when ENGEL invests in its locations," emphasises Stefan Engleder. "Customer proximity is an important factor for us and this is what we also intend to convey through the architecture. Our buildings have an inviting appeal and it is important for us that our employees and our customers have a comfortable feeling when they are there."
As extension work was continuing in Hannover, there were other ongoing major building projects throughout the world, for example at the headquarters in Schwertberg and at the two large-scale machine manufacturing plants in St. Valentin (Austria) and in Shanghai (China).
Since the company was founded in 1945, ENGEL has always been 100 percent family-owned and independent of external investors. At the end of March, the group of companies announced a turnover record for business year 2016/2017 for the third year in a row. The 5,900 employees world-wide generated a turnover of 1.36 billion euros.