Plastics News - Show Daily - October 21, 2022 - 19

SHOW DAILY
Plastics News, October 21, 2022 * 19
ST fi nds new
roads to success
By Joseph Pryweller
Plastics News Staff
Change can be a tough customer.
ST Soffi aggio Tecnica srl found
that out when its primary market
slipped away three years ago.
The extrusion blow molding
company, based in Monza, Italy,
was invested heavily in the automotive
market, which accounted
for between 70-80 percent of
company sales, Managing Partner
Martin Graziadei said.
Then the bottom fell out. Consumers
stopped buying new vehicles
during the pandemic and
those who wanted to couldn't fi nd
what they wanted in inventory. ST's
major global automaker customers
opted to focus production on electric
vehicles but were not ready to
produce them in mass volumes.
All of which left ST with a sagging
customer base. The company
wanted to continue serving
its automotive customers but
couldn't sustain the steep market
drop. So instead ST focused on
new market opportunities. It began
the process - more impressive
during a global pandemic
- of shifting its business to new
customers and markets, including
a stronger focus on North America,
Graziadei said.
ST has shifted its priorities to
specialties and industrial packaging.
It has sold an increasing
volume of customized equipment
into such seemingly random areas
as garden furniture, stadium
seats, hoses and toys. Its industrial
packaging area includes large
plastic drums and industrial bulk
containers. Those markets now
account for about 80 percent of
ST's sales, Graziadei said.
" We had to diversify as a strategy
in order to make up for lost
sales, " he said. " We managed to
come all the way back last year in
sales. It changed our entire market
outlook. "
The company, which markets
itself as ST BlowMoulding, also
found expansion opportunities in
the U.S. market, where many of its
newer customers are located. In
automotive, many of its customers
were in Asia. But with Asian
markets being closed off to some
processors, reshoring activities
meant more business on U.S. soil.
Now, about half of its sales come
from the U.S., and the company is
launching expansion plans to take
advantage of opportunities. ST is
opening a Norwalk, Ohio-based
subsidiary, ST BlowMoulding USA,
at the beginning of 2023 after sharing
space elsewhere with other
partners. The facility will manage
aftersales service, retrofi ts for machines
and spare parts activities.
With sales coming back close
to previous levels, ST also is consolidating
three smaller facilities
in Italy into one 3,300-square-foot
plant in Lentate, Italy, with another
1,200 square feet of offi ce space.
The plant plans to open in 2024.
The company has worked on
digitalized approaches that have
helped it weather a downturn.
Those include an automated system
to change a machine's core
and die, taking away time and
diffi culty for a job that Graziadei
said few individuals wanted to
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19th
- 26th
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Düsseldorf, Germany
Hall 16, Booth B47-2
manage. The process is dangerous
because of having to work
with high temperatures and it requires
the heavy lifting of many
screws, he said.
A core and die changeover used
to take three people between
three to four hours to complete.
The new automated system only
requires one individual and about
35 minutes to complete, he said.
Another company priority is reducing
energy consumption for its
equipment, a major need among
blow molders at K 2022. The company's
electric systems consume
ST SOFFIAGGIO
TECNICA SRL
Hall 14,
Booth B04
Martin Graziadei, left, and Luca Moltrasio of ST BlowMoulding.
Plastics News photo by Marco Stepniak
about 0.24 kilowatts per kilogram,
down about 20 percent from previous
levels, Graziadei said.
But it is the diversifi cation efforts
that Graziadei said are helping
the company stay at the top
of its game. He expected the automotive
market to bounce back
in the near future, once electric
vehicles become more commonplace.
The company is preparing
for the turnaround by offering
machines that produce plastic
liners, typically made from either
nylon or high density polyethylene
material, that can withstand
the high pressure of a tank
used to hold a car battery.
The plastic liners come
wrapped with carbon fi ber and
are part of the push to hydrogen
energy as an alternative to
gas-powered engines, he said.
" You have to stay confi dent, "
Graziadei said. " As long as you
meet your customers' needs, you
will be successful in the long term. "
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Plastics News - Show Daily - October 21, 2022

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