While the pandemic has had a profound effect on its customers and markets, Nordson Polymer Processing Systems Asia has embarked on strategic in-region sourcing of the supplies needed to maintain production levels, cross-training of workforce to make them more versatile, and taking advantage of the global footprint of Nordson Corporation. “Other than a brief 11 day shutdown of our Shanghai facility mandated by the Chinese government, our manufacturing capabilities have been running at 100%. Nordson’s global capabilities have enabled us to leverage and rationalise production capabilities to meet our customers’ requests in different world areas,” according to Teong H.K., Vice President at Nordson Polymer Processing Systems Asia.
While some of its employees were unable to travel to work as a result of the pandemic, Nordson has upgraded its workforce whenever possible by means of cross-training and virtual instruction. This has given the company greater flexibility for timely fulfillment of orders. Travel limitations caused by the pandemic have posed a challenge for customer service and technical support teams. Experts who could not come to Asia from Germany to work on the installation of BKG® projects have met the challenge by using virtual-reality links in working with local service teams. In addition, Nordson installations that have remote-access capabilities as an option (if selected by the customer) enable the team in Germany to dial in and monitor machine parameters and suggest process changes. These ensure that installation of equipment is met with minimal delay.
“While some customers—polymer producers for example—have continued to invest for the long term, others have reduced their stocks during the pandemic and re-examined their needs for maintaining productivity. We have been able to help them to upsize or downsize their injection moulding lines without having to invest in completely new machines,” Mr. Teong explains.
Nordson manufactures BKG® pelletisers, gear pumps, and melt filtration systems; EDI® polymer dies for sheet and film; Premier™ fluid coating dies; and Xaloy® screws and barrels for moulding and extrusion. All of these components are used in the manufacture of products that are essential for combating COVID-19. Some obvious examples are medical devices, personal protective equipment, virus testing materials, shields for social distancing, and packaging containers that have made it possible for people in lockdown to get fresh food and hot meals. Mr. Teong expects to see continued strong demand for these products in 2021.
Mr. Teong H.K., Vice President, Nordson Polymer Processing Systems Asia
While automotive was initially one of the markets hardest hit by the pandemic, it has begun to recover, starting in August 2020. Tier 1 and 2 suppliers to this market are now showing good recovery, and Mr. Teong believes the market should return to normal in 2021. Helping to speed up automotive recovery in China is the multi-year government programme providing incentives to ownership and development of electric vehicles. “The growth that we anticipate in the major markets of automotive, packaging, and medical will continue to stimulate innovations at Nordson,” Mr. Teong says.
Four special areas will generate product development for Nordson. Demand for recycled material, especially rPET. BKG® product innovations for the rPET market include: screen changers that reduce downtime by extending the working life of the screens and cut back on material loss by reducing both the amount of polymer expended per backflush cycle and the number of cycles needed in a given period of time; and the CrystallCut® inline crystallisation system for use with the underwater pelletisers. The CrystallCut system reduces energy costs by combining the pelletising and crystallisation step in a single integrated process. Another area is the switch from single-use plastics as from end-2021 through 2022, China will be phasing out such products. Companies are investing heavily in production systems with biopolymers such as PBAT and PLA. For Nordson this means demand for BKG® pelletising systems and melt delivery products, EDI® dies for film and sheet, and Xaloy® components for extrusion and injection moulding. The 5G implementation across Asia is also one opportunity as Nordson is offering the Xaloy® “5G solution package” for connectors and other moulded parts. In addition, the company’s screws and barrels for extrusion will be needed for the wire and cable used in installing 5G capability. In the fuel cell and lithium-ion battery development, Nordson is working with processors and OEMs on innovations in these technologies. Both EDI® and Premier™ die systems play key roles in these areas, providing separator films, electrode coatings, and other specialised components.
Nordson is also expanding in both China and Thailand. As Mr. Teong puts it: “In Chonburi, Thailand, we will complete the installation of new Xaloy® barrel casting capacity in 2021 and also add finishing capacity. We will be able to increase the size range of our barrels to support large format moulding. In Shanghai we are continuing with our strategy of building Premier™ slot dies for global needs. We are adding new equipment to boost manufacturing capacity and product capability. At the same time, our production of EDI® polymer dies is expanding for use in emerging countries within Asia. Our Asian sales team is also being expanded with additional agents in Vietnam and Indonesia.”
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