Johannes Schwarz has been head of sales at W. MÜLLER GmbH, manufacturer of heads for extrusion blow moulding, since February 2020.
Schwarz is an industry professional with over 20 years of experience, among other things as managing director, production manager and sales manager at large European blow moulding companies. We spoke to the 53 year-old about strategic plans for the years ahead, his first impressions of W. MÜLLER and his expectations for market development.
Mr. Schwarz, what were your first impressions when you took up your new position at W. MÜLLER?
Schwarz: The family atmosphere here in the company inspired me right from the start. While I was then familiarising myself with my new environment from a technical and organisational standpoint, it became increasingly clear to me that our products need not shy away from comparison on the market, and in many cases there's even no real alternative to them.
What distinguishes W. MÜLLER products?
Schwarz: Thanks to our decades of experience and our intensively trained staff, our extrusion heads are of a very high quality, and this makes them sturdy. This means that the purchase price is quickly recouped. Our solutions are also compatible with all common blow molding machines, including as retrofit kits. This greatly extends our customer base. We test new developments in our own laboratory. This makes us agile and independent. In addition, we can support our customers with product developments or small series production, all in an atmosphere of great confidence.
Where do you see starting points for further extrusion head developments?
Schwarz: The market demands packaging and other plastic items with the highest possible proportion of recycled material. There are two approaches here - the use of 100% recycled material, which places relatively high demands on the quality of the material, and three-layer coextrusion with new material on the outside and inside and a recycled middle layer, which we at Müller call "ReCo3". The ratio of the layers is traditionally 20-60-20, meaning a total of 40% new product with 60% recycled material in between. Post-consumer recycled materials (PCR) are the focus of interest here. Processing these materials using the blow moulding process is not a trivial matter, since the process reacts even more sensitively to material property fluctuations and contaminants than is the case with injection moulding. We have been dealing with this topic for many years and can advise our customers in every respect and supply them with components.
In practice, the processor is faced with the problem of getting sufficient quantities of recycled material of the same quality on the market. Obviously, material flows are currently going to other areas.
Where do you see potential beyond extrusion heads?
We have a large product portfolio that is ideally suited for the production of an optimum plastic parison, for example our proven extruders for almost all materials and applications. We can offer conversions, extensions and retrofits up to complete extrusion units on all blow moulding machines and, if necessary, also fit them with their own controller. And all of that in the usual W. MÜLLER quality. I'd like to make this known to our existing and aspiring customers alike.
W. MÜLLER is an international company. Where in the world do you see particular potential?
Schwarz: We are very well established on the European market. The company has almost as strong a presence in North America. W. MÜLLER USA Inc. was founded in 1997 and serves customers in North, Central and South America. We are currently analysing the international market potential, while working out opportunities in Asia. However, China is not at the centre of these considerations - it is less a matter of worrying about exporting our own technology than because on the Chinese market, there is currently only a demand for a few machines of the highest quality. However, the trend is generally such that the processors initially rely on low-cost machines, with enquiries following later about higher-quality products and thus the demand for better machine technology. We are therefore quite prepared to deliver to China in the future.
Are you considering another production facility?
Schwarz: No. We intend for all production to continue in Troisdorf in the future too, because here we can ensure the aimed-for highest quality. The US market will also continue to be served entirely from Troisdorf Spich.