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Photo by Caroline Seidel Michael Wittmann at Fakuma.
Wittmann Battenfeld is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year — and officials are planning a celebration in Vienna in June.
The founder, Werner Wittmann, is an engineer-type who speaks several languages and enjoys going to China. In those four decades, he has led an expansion of his company from a maker of water-flow regulators for mold-chilling water, and mold temperature controllers.
Then came Wittmann robots, as the company bought a robot maker in 1983.
Through a series of acquisitions, Wittmann grew into a full-line manufacturer of auxiliary equipment.
Then in April 2008 came a blockbuster deal: Wittmann bought the Battenfeld injection moulding press business in Kottingbrunn, Austria. Battenfeld was insolvent, and a previous owner had closed a factory in Meinerzhagen, Germany, that made large-tonnage machines over 1,000 tonnes of clamping force.
Battenfeld had undergone a tumultuous few years, gone through several owners and faced lots of uncertainty. But Battenfeld played a key role in new developments in injection molding technology, as one of the European pioneers of important gas-assisted moulding, water-assist, all-electric machines, micromoulding and other innovations. The company also was an early machinery supplier to target injection molded polycarbonate car windows.
Ownership by Wittmann brought stability. And, as a family-owned business, Wittmann Battenfeld has a big advantage, according to Sonny Morneault, vice president of sales at the operation in Torrington, Connecticut, Wittmann Battenfeld Inc.
“There are many advantages, but I think the most important is the ability to be nimble,” Morneault said. “We're nimble and quick on our feet. That's an invaluable benefit, for sure.”
Werner Wittmann's sons, Michael and Thomas, play key roles. Michael, the CEO of Wittmann Battenfeld, has become the public face of the company. Michael also is general manager of the Wittmann Group, the sole owner of Wittmann Battenfeld. His brother Thomas Wittmann, who handles production operations, runs the company's manufacturing and assembly plant in the city of Mosonmagyaróvár, Hungary.
And Michael has a school-aged son who has started working in the factory.
A big recent move was Wittmann Battenfeld's 17,220-square-foot expansion in Kottingbrunn — so the company now can make bigger presses, up to 1,600 tonnes.
For Morneault, working at the family-owned Wittmann Battenfeld was refreshing after his job at Emerson Electric, a huge conglomerate, where he held engineering positions at the Branson Ultrasonics operation in Connecticut. He worked at Branson from 1989 until mid-2007, when he moved to Wittmann Battenfeld.
“You were literally just a number, and the customers were just number,” Morneault said of Emerson Electric. “They cared about one thing and that was profits. And for me to leave that company and go to a family-owned company was amazing.
Morneault thinks the company's business could double within the next 10 years. But during the inevitable twists and turns, top executives can answer employee questions.
“If we have an issue Michael is a phone call away, and does not have to consult any other shareholders to make major business decisions,” he said.