The tobacco machinery rebuild market in Europe has been undergoing a period of reduced activity in the past year, with tobacco manufacturers focusing on only the modernisations that are absolutely needed, and skipping general overhauls. Obsolescence avoidance is thus accomplished without upgrading entire machines.
One reason for this has been that machinery utilisation rate is becoming so high, that there is just not enough time to take machinery offline and over to the rebuild specialists. The rebuild work itself has been migrating to low labour cost countries which offers both a more affordable option and better return for the rebuilders.
What follows is a sample of views from some of the major rebuild companies on where the sector is going.
“Rebuilds haven’t been on the active agenda of our customers during the last year,” says Norbert Schulz-Nemak, sales manager at TMQS of Germany. “Instead, the main interest has been in specific pinpoint modernisations or obsolescence avoidance without necessarily looking at the whole machine. It seems that, with a lot of relocations of machines and shifting of production capacities happening, the focus is on ensuring sufficient capacities during and after the transition periods, realised by pre-production and increased machine usage.”
According to Schulz-Nemak, the factors currently influencing the market are cost pressure, standardisation of machinery, and the lack of availability of machines for rebuilds or deep maintenance projects due to high usage. Modernisations and specific tailor-made solutions have been of much more interest. To cope with the demand from customers with high machinery utilisation rates and with relocated machinery, solutions for maintenance and rework with the least time consumption have been of most interest.
Schulz-Nemak says that the world of cigarette production is constantly changing and TMQS keeps working on ways to offer prime solutions for the industry throughout the changes. “This is true for subassemblies, pinpoint solutions, mechanical or electrical modernisations and joint developments. We provide alternative solutions for our customers, often resulting in a high saving compared to the necessity to exchange whole units or even whole machines.”
According to Roel Verschuren, director of sales and marketing at ATD Machinery of the Netherlands, the market for rebuilds is moving to low labour cost countries, especially those in Latin America, where the company is producing machinery for original cigar making machines.
“Our factory in San Pedro is growing,” says Verschuren. “In addition to rebuilding our own machines for Agio Cigars, we see that more customers are asking us to help with their machines, often by carrying out a full rebuild or helping them locate additional machinery. In terms of rebuilds, the biggest thing we did is to bring our factory in San Pedro in the Dominican Republic to a higher level. The factory was established only last year and we invested a lot in the start-up. Engineers from our factory were travelling all year to support the local technicians and the start-up was extremely successful. The local engineers picked up their job really well. It was a big advantage that they already had years of experience as mechanics in the Agio Factory. Fine-tuning was their daily work. We only had to teach them the overhauling process. Two years after the start-up, the factory is already getting too small.”
Godioli & Bellanti
Lorenzo Curina, the chief executive of Godioli & Bellanti, the Italian manufacturers of tobacco processing machinery, says that his company is experiencing healthy demand and is in a position to satisfy any demand in this sector because it’s invested wisely in the past.
“Maybe we have been lucky,” he says. “In the past 10–15 years, we bought many used tobacco processing lines from countries in Europe, simply because they were for sale. We filled up all our warehouses with used tobacco machines, and then gradually we sold most of them off, after reconditioning and rebuilding.”
Curina says that one of the main goals of the company’s latest strategy was emphasising the origin of its machines: “100 per cent made in Italy,” with top level European quality standards. This is key to survival in such hard times, he said.