Coronavirus: Engel reopens plants in Austria; Wittmann Battenfeld designated ‘essential’; other companies finding ways to adapt

March 26, 2020
Companies act to slow spread by closing facilities, having employees work from home.

Engel has reopened operations at its Austrian plants, after having shut down April 15 when some workers tested positive for COVID-19. 

At the time of the closure, Engel cited an increase in the number of new infections in regions close to the plants. “The health and safety of our employees and their families is our highest priority,” the company said in a statement.. 

The ill employees worked at plants in St. Valentin, Austria, and Schwertberg, Austria.  

Earlier this month, Engel canceled all events planned for spring, significantly restricted travel activities worldwide, switched meetings to virtual meeting spaces and tightened hygiene measures in its plants, including installing additional disinfection stations. It also restricted visits to its Austrian plants. 

Engel North America has moved almost all team members to home offices, according to a second company statement. 

“We have a number of measures in place to limit the potential risk of infection for those who will be working in the York, Pa., facility to guarantee operations and spare parts shipments, according to the statement. 

Engel North America continues to offer service, spare parts, sales, applications engineering and administration support “to the extent that the current situation allows,” according to the company. 

“We will reach out to all customers to update them individually on any open projects or deliveries that are affected,” the statement reads. “Please note that this may take some time. 

Engel is asking customers to use e-connect, an online portal for customers, or email to communicate with company. Engel’s service department can be reached at [email protected], and the spare parts and retrofits department can be reached at [email protected]. 

Wittmann Battenfeld 

Wittmann Battenfeld Inc. has been named an essential business by the state of Connecticut and will remain open during the COVID-19 crisis, according to an emailed company statement. 

Wittmann Battenfeld is supplying machinery, equipment and support to numerous medical and packaging molders that are ramping up operations to provide critical supplies. 

“As of today, we have received 45 ‘Essential Status’ letters from customers who mold products that are critical to saving lives and battling this pandemic,” David Preusse, president of Wittmann Battenfeld Inc., said in a March 25 press release. “We are doing all we can to support these customers with our molding machines, robots, auxiliary equipment, spare parts and customer support.” 

Among the companies providing the company with “Essential Status letters are industry leaders including 3M; Becton, Dickinson and Co.Baxter International Inc., Cardinal HealthCorning Inc.Eli Lilly, Flex, Jabil Healthcare, Nemera and Technimark. Those customers make essential plastic parts including blood testing supplies; bottles, caps and closures used in hospitals; COVID-19 diagnostic kits; disinfectant wipes; drug delivery devices; fiber optics connectors for telecommunications; heart valve replacements; IV products; laboratory supplies; pharmaceuticals; pipette tips; sterilization supplies; suction canisters; thermometersand ventilator parts. 

As part of its measures to prevent the spread of the virus, Wittmann Battenfeld has directed many of its employees to work from home. 

“We have about 30 staff on hand at our two plants in Torrington, Conn., to work on the essential jobs,” Preusse said. “Luckily, we took action to be ahead of the curve. We tested our IT systems before we hit the urgent time to shutter all office staff and most manufacturing staff in a ‘hot state.’ We have over 50 staff now working remotely.” 

The company has created a series of webinars about robots to temporarily replace in-person training but still ensure molders receive the support they need. 

Regional service staff are available to drive to customer locations when necessary. The company is minimizing air travel. It is using online tools, such as TeamViewer and FaceTime, to connect with customers. 

“Plastics are essential materials for manufacturing items that are essential to battling the COVID-19 crisis,” Preusse said. “The importance of plastics in a time like this cannot be understated, and we are proud to be a part of this industry.” 


Coperion continues to operate during the COVID-19 outbreak, but it has put into place measures to safeguard customers and employees, company President Kimberly Ryan wrote in a March 25 email to customers. 

“More than a week ago, home office workplaces were established for as many of our associates as possible – engineering, project management, sales, marketing, finance and staff functions,” according to the emailed statement. “We have taken appropriate protective measures at all of our locations and our employees are fully versed in the new rules of conduct. 

Although many employees are working from home, they still are available by email, phone or conference software, according to the statement. Onsite visits have been limited by border closings and travel restrictions, but, where travel is still allowed, Coperion has service personnel available globally to deploy, if needed. The company also is recommending customers use remote services and assistance available by telephone hotlines. It lists those numbers at 

Production sites and warehouses continue will continue to operate unless local restrictions force them to close, according to the statement. 

Negri Bossi

Italian machinery manufacturer Negri Bossi has begun producing masks using two of its injection molding machines. 

The reusable masks are made of flexible, transparent thermoplastic rubber for comfort, and utilize an interchangeable filtering fabric. The masks can be sanitized using soap and boiling water. 

The molds were built by Esistampi, a longtime collaborator of Negri Bossi. At full capacity, the machines can produce up to 500 masks per hour.

Negri Bossi is located in Milan, the region of Italy hardest-hit by the coronavirus. 

Rapid Granulator

With industry exhibitions canceled and postponed due to coronavirus, Rapid Granulator is offering more free rental machines to support customers that are producing personal protective equipment such as face shields and respirators.

Anders Mårtensson, Sales and Marketing Director, said in a statement, “We decided to offer our exhibition machines to support our customers. And now we have decided to release even more machines to the medical sector since we have been facing a huge request.”

Rapid Granulator, Bredaryd, Sweden, supplies size-reduction equipment for plastics processors and recyclers and has North American operations in Cranberry Township near Pittsburgh.


Asaclean is offering free technical and product support, including online and phone purge training sessions and video consultations for its injection molding and extrusion customers.

Company Vice President Phani Nagaraj said in a press release, “We have a large portion of our customers in medical, packaging and custom molding who are pitching in to help the cause but find themselves dealing with unique challenges. When medical supplies are dwindling, processors cannot afford extended downtime and contamination issues. There are real-world consequences.”


Fanuc America, which manufactures and sells industrial robots, continues operating with most employees working from home with multiple states issuing “stay-at-home” orders. 

“That means that for an undetermined amount of time, the majority of Fanuc America’s employees will work from home,” company President and CEO Mike Cicco wrote in a statement posted on the company’s website. “That includes those working at our Rochester Hills, Mich., headquarters and all regional locations in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and South America.” 

Fanuc America is considered an essential business as it provides products and services to many “critical infrastructure sectors” as defined by the Department of Homeland Security. 

“We will continue operations throughout this crisis to support our customers, following all national, state and local directives,” Cicco wrote. 

CPM Extrusion Group 

The CPM Extrusion Group, including CPM Century Extrusion, based in Michigan, has implemented an infectious-disease-control policy worldwide that includes eliminating nonessential travel, establishing work-from-home arrangements when possible and providing quarantine guidance for employees who are ill.  

Employees continuing to work in company buildings are practicing stringent sanitation and social distancing, according to a company statement. CPM Extrusion Group has closed its facilities to most visitors, and all essential visitors are being screened with questionnaires. 

The company said it continues to assist customers and is asking them to use remote service options whenever possible. 

“Our experienced and qualified staff can talk [to] your team over the phone, via video conference or through the communications tool of your choice,” according to a statement from Charles Spearing, CPM Extrusion Group GM. 

Whenever possible, if an in-person service visit is necessary, CPM employees will drive instead of fly. The company will limit the number of service people visiting a location at one time, andwhile at a customer’s site, will follow CPS’s protocol for social distancing and cleanliness in addition to any policies a customer may have adopted. 

Macro Engineering 

Macro Engineering & Technology Inc., a manufacturer of sheet and film extrusion systems based in Mississauga, Ontario, has taken several steps to reduce the risk of COVID-19 in its workplace. 

“We take the health and safety of our employees, customers and suppliers very seriously; as a result, we have suspended lab trials with customers in attendance; we are still supporting lab trials on behalf of the customers, in which case we will share all trial data and samples,” the company wrote in an email. “We have also suspended customer and supplier visits until further notice. 

The company, in accordance with guidelines from Health Canada, the federal agency responsible for public health matters, has suspended all nonessential business travel.  

“In the event of an emergency, we are here to support you remotely as much as we can,” according to the company. 

Some of the company’s vendors have announced delivery delays, which means some of Macro Engineering’s shipping dates may need to be modified. 

“We will notify our customers promptly if their deliveries are affected as a result,” and the company will attempt to minimize any delays, according to the  statement.   

Sumitomo (SHI) Demag 

Sumitomo (SHI) Demag supplies services in support of many critical infrastructure sectors “that have been deemed essential in our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to an email from the company.  

“As such, Sumitomo Demag will continue to provide machines, spare parts and technical services in support of those designated mission-critical customers within any state-imposed stay-at-home order,” the company wrote.  

It also will provide full support for all other customers in unrestricted regions, according to the statement. 

Dri-Air Industries 

Dri-Air, based in Connecticut, remains open, according to a company statement. 

“Dri-Air is a proud partner to many essential life-sustaining businesses and will continue to provide our drying solutions and services,” according to the company’s email. 

Production is on schedule and supply chains are solid, according to the company. Any dryers intended for customers fulfilling orders for the medical industry will be put on a “fast track.”  

Sales and support personnel are available via web conference, phone and email. Essential employees are following social distancing requirements and guidelines provided by the CDC and Department of Health. All other employees are working remotely. 


PCS, headquartered in Michigan, remains open during regular business hours as an essential business that provides support to critical manufacturers in the aerospace, defense, food and beverage, medical and transportation industries. 

PCS manufactures and distributes mold components, mold bases and hot-runner products for the plastic injection and die casting industries. 

“We continue to follow all CDC recommended practices, orders, and precautions to [ensure] the continued safety of our team members during this time,” PCS wrote in an emailed statement.  

Unless they are providing critical services deemed essential by government authorities, employees are working from home and are not to enter PCS offices. 

For information on how the coronavirus is affecting operations at other companies, read Plastics Machinery Magazine’s earlier article at 


Sun Plastech Inc., Parsippany, N.J., 800-787-4348,

Coperion Corp., Sewell, N.J., 201-327-6300,     

CPM Extrusion GroupTraverse City, Mich., 231-947-6400,     

Dri-Air Industries Inc., East Windsor, Conn., 860-627-5110, 

Engel Machinery Inc., York, Pa., 717-764-6818, 

Fanuc America Corp., Rochester Hills, Mich., 248-377-7000, 

Macro Engineering & Technology Inc., Mississauga, Ontario, 905-507-9000, 

PCS Co., Fraser, Mich., 586-294-7780, 

Rapid Granulator Inc., Leetsdale, Pa., 724-584-5220,

Sumitomo (SHI) Demag, Strongsville, Ohio, 440-876-8960 Suwanee, Ga., 678-892-7900, 

Wittmann Battenfeld Inc.Torrington, Conn., 860-496-9603,  

About the Author

Bruce Geiselman | Senior Staff Reporter

Senior Staff Reporter Bruce Geiselman covers extrusion, blow molding, additive manufacturing, automation and end markets including automotive and packaging. He also writes features, including In Other Words and Problem Solved, for Plastics Machinery & Manufacturing, Plastics Recycling and The Journal of Blow Molding. He has extensive experience in daily and magazine journalism.