Jun 12, 2023

New US facility a growth opportunity for equipment maker Brückner Group

Dover, N.H. — Brückner Group USA is only moving about 15 minutes up the road from Portsmouth to Dover in New Hampshire. But the relocation will make a world of difference when it comes to the company's ability to serve U.S. customers from U.S. soil, company officials said.

The plastics equipment maker, which started to refurbish the new site just about a year ago, officially opened the 72,000-square-foot facility May 17, with a gathering of company officials, customers and invited guests from the plastics industry.

Making an investment in the new facility makes a lot of sense for many reasons, said Axel von Wiedersperg, managing director and CEO of Brückner Group SE based in Siegsdorf, Germany. The private company wouldn't say exactly how much Brückner has spent on the project, but the investment is significant.

Von Wiedersperg was on-site in Dover, along with Brückner Group USA CEO Matt Sieverding, to help unveil the new location that will service North America.

The United States is Brückner's third-largest market, trailing only China and India in sales for the maker of equipment including machines for film stretching, thermoforming and tube making.

Investing in new facilities with added capabilities only makes sense, von Wiedersperg said.

"We have roughly, last year, 25 percent of our overall revenue was U.S.-based, especially in the field of packaging, food packaging, fiber and medical. That's the main drivers in the U.S.," he said.

Having additional space and capabilities beyond what the company was able to offer in its previous 20,000-square-foot site in Portsmouth will heighten customer service, raise Brückner's profile in the market, better showcase equipment and attract employees with modern amenities, the company said.

Work in Dover included installation of several pieces of full-sized equipment previously not on display on U.S. soil. This will allow customers to get a better understanding of Brückner's product line without having to travel to Germany, where manufacturing takes place.

"We have a strong customer base in the U.S. We have the feeling that in industries and in countries there are investment cycles. I think there is the need and, nowadays, the understanding in the U.S. that investments are needed. For us having a stronger footprint, that market, was well timed," von Wiedersperg said.

Brückner is tapping into a "deglobalization" trend where customers are looking for goods and services closer to home, he added. The new location also provides additional room to triple spare part inventory, a move that will allow Brückner to more quickly serve U.S. customers.

Brückner only had what the company called a "sales and service hub" in Portsmouth, but it considers the new facility a "customer innovation center" with more offerings designed to bring the company closer to clients.

Brückner has been thinking about a larger space for about five years, von Wiedersperg said, but it took time to find the right building and execute a plan. Renovations began on the building, which previously served as a space to process standardized educational testing, about a year ago. The extra space also provides room for a laboratory and repairs.

Like others in the plastics industry, COVID-19 provided a boost in business for Brückner as consumers turned to more packaged goods while hunkering down in their homes. This brought on higher demand for the firm's machines that are then used by other firms to make the packaging.

"We saw a lot of growth during COVID in the market, and we believe that growth will continue and, hence, the decision was made to invest here," Sieverding said. "We see a lot of potential in the U.S. market."

The U.S. accounts for about 300 million euros ($323 million) of the company's 1.2 billion euros ($1.29 billion) in sales last year. "For Kiefel, the U.S. has always been the dominant market globally, traditionally, since 20 some years," Sieverding said. "Specifically for the Kiefel branch, the new investment here in Dover allows us much bigger showrooms."

U.S. employment at Brückner has just about doubled in the last two years and now sits at about 90. That includes technicians and sales people scattered around the country as well as staff at the new building.

Along with creating a new headquarters, Brückner has started warehousing machine inventory on U.S. soil in recent years, a move that allows the company to more quickly respond to customer need. Having machines ready to go in the U.S. — and not always have them built to order and shipped from Germany — dramatically cuts delivery times.

Brückner said it was important for the company to find a new location close to the company's previous facility. This allowed existing employees — and their expertise — to remain with the firm. Because of this desire to retain staff, the company limited its search to a radius of about 25 miles from its previous location, Sieverding said.

The company's product lines include film stretching machinery manufacturing and service under the Brückner Maschinenbau name, thermoforming equipment through the Kiefel Technologies brand, and tube making as well as folding and slitting machines for plastic caps under the PackSys Global line of business. The company also services film stretching machines through Brückner Servtec.

"The hope is that we're connecting even closer to our customers. We have been very good to customers who are willing to buy internationally made equipment. But there are some potential buyers in the U.S. who didn't really open up to European equipment so far. By having a stronger footprint in the U.S., I hope that we can open up some of these accounts," von Wiedersperg said.

The new location also helps with what he calls "employer branding."

"In today's time, finding good people, skilled people, is really difficult. I think having a building like this, investing into a building that has offices like this, having a canteen like this, it attracts people," the CEO said.

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