Nolan Strall, Krauss-Maffei’s VP for North American operations and aftermarket, said the updates began about the middle of last year, and, when they are completed, the center will boast greatly expanded capabilities.
“Our goal is to be able to showcase all of our reaction processing, injection molding and extrusion capability in the Innovation Center,” Strall said. “Our goal was not to be able to cover all the size ranges, but … to check the box on all of our technologies, so that at some level of scale, we can showcase that and we can provide a solution – or at least show at a smaller level what that solution would look like running on our equipment.”
Strall said the center’s machines will include extrusion machines with screw sizes of 28mm, 42mm, 65mm, 75mm and 90mm. The center has two of the company’s newest all-electric PX injection molding machines, as well as an older hydraulic CX series machine with an MC4 control.
“That was really an investment we made on the used market to bring a machine back and refurbish it with the same legacy controls so that we can also have some of that legacy control knowledge here and be able to train that for our people,” Strall said.
There is also a GX 450 with the ColorForm system, which combines injection molding and reaction process machinery.
Strall said that, while the machinery is important, personnel will be key.
“For me, it's all about the people. We've been able to retain a lot of our top talent through the COVID period,” he said. “The investment has really driven a lot of excitement at KMC, here in Florence. So being able to add new service technicians, being able to attract … people back into the company that were previously here that have a lot of plastic experience, a lot of depth and knowledge in the industry, has been a real highlight for us.”
He said KMC is in the process of recruiting another senior process engineer and is considering bringing in someone from the company’s Hanover, Germany, facility. One goal is to have Innovation Center staff serve as subject matter experts for customers running trials on new technology and new compounds. They also will integrate the internal and external training curriculum that has been established in Munich and Hanover.
“One of the things that we're really trying to do is make sure that we are pulling our knowledge and experience from the headquarters and getting that here to our market as well,” Strall said.
He also highlighted his company’s partnership with the University of Cincinnati. Every semester, three to four students studying in relevant fields have the opportunity to work at the Innovation Center.
“We don't put them in cubicles, and we don't sit them behind desks. They're out there, participating in the lab, setting up, tearing down trials, talking with customers, really getting the full experience of what it means to be in the industry and to be working on this equipment,” Strall said. “So, we see it as a win-win for the students, of course, then also for us. That allows us to identify top talent before it even hits the job market.”
Strall said the Innovation Center updates are scheduled to be complete by the beginning of the third quarter.