Italy's ST looking to grow outside Europe

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Photo by S.T. Soffiaggio Tecnica srl S.T. Soffiaggio Tecnica srl wants to open a manufacturing site in the Americas.

With sales increasing in North America, Monza, Italy-based S.T. Soffiaggio Tecnica srl plans to open a new site to manufacture blow moulding machines.

"We're are looking in the very near future, maybe in the United States," Patrizio Pinciroli, senior regional sales manager for South America, Mexico, North America and Canada, said at Plastimagen 2017. "Right now, all of our machines are coming from facilities in Italy and Switzerland."

The company is casting a wide net for a place to set up operations.

"We're looking from Canada down to Patagonia," Pinciroli said, adding the United States is a top choice. "I think we reached the right moment in the US where the automobile market is growing up. Fiat's merger with Chrysler gave us very strong input."

Fiat is a customer already. The company also picked up its first U.S. customer for suction blow moulding machines, and it has made sales to filter systems maker Mann + Hummel USA for its facilities in Michigan and Tennessee, as well as their competitors.

Other ST machines are at the Michigan plant for hose, duct and components maker Flexfab LLC and Ohio duct manufacturer Steere Enterprises Inc.

"They are fighting with the same gun in the same market," Pinciroli said. "If you're producing the same items, it's better to use the same gun. Although you may not be the total winner, you can win some battles."

In addition to the auto market, ST manufactures conventional machines to produce packaging for technical parts and toys.

Three weeks ago, ST sold a machine to a Texas drum manufacturer.

"They're going to make big containers with 1,200 litter volumes. It's a very huge machine for chemical, industrial and petroleum uses," Pinciroli said.

ST technology ranges from 30 litres to 2,000 litres. That's outside the scope of the most common blow moulding applications in Mexico, which are bottles and containers up to 30 litres, Pinciroli said. The competition to equip those facilities is fierce, he added.

Still, ST is making inroads. Pinciroli said he has sold eight machines in Mexico to four companies for suction blow moulding applications and another four machines to one company for multipurpose applications.

"One is a huge machine with up to 200 tons of clamping force," Pinciroli said. "He's producing tables. He's a commercial competitor of Lifetime Products in the United States, which makes tables for airports."

Machine sales in Mexico currently make up a small part of ST sales, but the company saw a sharp increase last year from the auto industry.

"Here in Mexico, we have very strong competition from Chinese and Taiwanese companies. Of course, it's not possible to make a comparison with them," Pinciroli said. "Their customers are looking at disposable machines sometimes. I prefer to spend more money to be sure for the long term."

ST is optimistic about its future in Mexico and sales are strong elsewhere, Pinciroli said.

"I think in the next couple years we'll be in the position to build two more [plants] in Europe, and we will watch for the right moment for the United States," he said.

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