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Heller plans to boost output at its U.K. machine factory.

Heller Machine Tools Ltd. (Redditch, U.K.) is now talking about its plans for further expansion. The assembly plant near Birmingham, England, has been producing virtually a horizontal-spindle machining center per working day--around 300 units/ year--and is aiming to increase that.

According to Jeoff Lloyd, managing director of the German builder's U.K. operation, turnover for fiscal 2003 will have "broken through the 40-million [pounds sterling] barrier ($67-million).

"In our strategy for expansion, the site is prepared for a fourth assembly bay," Lloyd says, adding that it could happen with three- to four-months' notice.

Currently, Heller Machine Tools' Redditch site is building all of the company's MC series of horizontal-spindle machining centers with the exception of one model built in Brazil. Assembly is carried out in three bays totaling some 82,000 sq. ft.

Around 90% of production is exported, according to sales manager Eric Pollard, with major markets being North America, China, India, and Hungary.

Of particular note, Heller has had significant success in selling MCs to suppliers of automotive castings interested in adding more value to their products. "More foundries are looking to machine parts," says Pollard, who points to the example of the recent purchase of seven MCs by Hydro Aluminium (Leeds, U.K.).

At EMO in Milan last month, Manfred Maier, new managing director for sales & engineering at the parent Heller Maschinenfabrik G.m.b.H. (Nurtingen, Germany), said he expected a small drop in group turnover from 360-million euros in 2002 to around 345-million euros this year. "For 2004, we expect the same level of turnover as 2003," said Maier. "We see the European market stabilizing but anticipate big growth in the Asian, and especially the Chinese, markets. As for North America, we wait for the U.S. election and future government programs." The builder's German home operation is heavily automotive-oriented. "For now, any diversification into mold & die and aerospace work is not a number one priority," said Maier. He added that the problem of branching out into those areas is mainly a question of the CAD systems that a machine-tool supplier has in its arsenal, since the relationship between CAD and metalcutting machines is closely linked among moldmaker machine-tool customers.

Reported by European correspondent Mike Page, Cambridge, U.K.
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Publication:Metalworking Insiders' Report
Date:Nov 25, 2003
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