Haas Automation Staying in the fast lane in Europe

Editor: Barbara Schulz

In an exclusive interview with ETMM, Jens Thing, managing director of Haas Automation Europe, explains the company’s extraordinary growth in sales, which exceeded 20% in 2014.

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Optimistic: Haas Europe MD Jens Thing plans another 20% growth in European sales in 2015.
Optimistic: Haas Europe MD Jens Thing plans another 20% growth in European sales in 2015.
(Source: Haas)

ETMM: Jens, last year you predicted 20% growth in sales for Haas Automation Europe in 2014. Did you reach that target?

Jens Thing: We actually exceeded the 20% mark last year. So yes, we reached the target! Worldwide, Haas Automation recorded a total of more than $1bn in turnover, which makes us number 14 in the world’s machine tool production ranking. Ten years ago we were ranking around 28th. This shows our aggressive growth. And what’s more: our unit volume of nearly 14,000 Haas CNC machine tools produced and sold last year puts us at number two in the world.

ETMM: How do you explain these figures? What differentiates you from the competition?

Thing: I think more and more customers understand the value of Haas products and services. Haas offers its products at a fair price. We are the only machine tool builder worldwide to display prices on the internet. The price is available for everyone, no matter whether we talk about small or large customers. Furthermore, as of 1 January 2015, all customers can check out our spare parts price list on www.haasparts.com. We are the only company in our industry that offers full cost transparency, displaying the low cost of ownership of Haas CNC machines and how this achieves production of parts at a low cost per part. This is to the benefit of our customers.

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ETMM: The Haas Factory outlet concept of dedicated Haas distributors probably helps by being close to your customer and understanding different markets?

Thing: Yes, the concept offers many benefits. Meanwhile, we have 179 HFOs worldwide. All factory outlets operate similarly with the benefit of the local support, spirit and knowledge in each country. At the same time, each outlet benefits from the large network and support in the background.

ETMM: So the concept seems to work well in Europe. What countries experienced most growth last year?

Thing: We had growth across all of Europe - Italy, Spain, France. Everyone thinks that the French economy is far from being good, but our sales in France were very good. We also predict a positive trend for 2015 - Haas Automation is continuously winning additional market share in Europe.

Market share in Europe growing

ETMM: What is your market share in Europe and also in Germany?

Thing: Germany is a strong but not the easiest market, as we have strong local competition. Here we have a market share of roughly 6%, which still offers opportunity for growth. Haas Automation has a 25-year history, and is gaining momentum. It will take a while to convince all customers throughout the world about the total customer value – but the competitiveness of Haas products and services has meanwhile been accepted by many industries in Germany, including for example mould and die, aerospace, medical or the machinery industry, as well as many job shops in general.

ETMM: How many machines did you sell in 2014?

Thing: Haas has nearly sold 14,000 machines worldwide last year.

ETMM: The recently introduced Haas UMC-750 universal machining centre, for simultaneous 5-axis machining has been very successful. Do you see growth potential in that area for Haas?

Thing: The UMC-750 has been a very successful model and we are currently building around 40 units per month. Due to the success we will strengthen that line of products in future.

ETMM: Do you have plans to introduce more full 5-axis models or expand the series?

Thing: On its way: currently we are introducing the new UMC-750SS “Super Speed” version with higher feed rates, an approximately three times faster tilting and swivelling table, a main spindle with 15,000 rpm and further benefits. Additional sizes of machines will be added in future.

ETMM: You’ve said that the UMC-750 is the most commonly purchased full 5-axis machine worldwide today. Is that true and what other developments can we expect?

Thing: I think no one is currently building more machines of the same full 5-axis machine model. But Haas continues to refine its existing products, too. We now have 15,000 rpm available on all VMCs, we have live tooling on our lathes featuring 6,000 rpm, just to mention a few of the current developments. We are continuously making sure that our products are in line with the major market demands.

ETMM: TU Darmstadt have conducted a study proving that a machining cell consisting of several lower-end CNC machine tools can be more productive than using multi-tasking special purpose machines (see p.38). What is your opinion?

Thing: By breaking down the complexity of a certain job in several tasks, you can lower your costs and lower your exposure to risk. Currently, many machine tool makers are focusing on decreasing the complexity of their machines and argue that it can be a competitive advantage.

ETMM: Yes, but it also strongly depends on the required precision, what machines you use and how many set-ups you can afford in terms of accuracy, doesn’t it?

Thing: Yes of course, if you require high precision and have large runs, then multi-tasking machines and 5-axis machines do a very good job. But a multi-tasking machine is often very limited in its purpose. For instance when you have a high fluctuation in the amount of parts or shifts to other parts, those machines are limited in flexibility and adjustability to new requirements. Haas machines offer the affordability, flexibility and ease-of-use for almost all needs in efficient production cells. We actually have customers using similar concepts to the one TU Darmstadt is proposing and they make a lot of money.

ETMM: What major industries are you mostly involved in and where do you see most potential for growth for Haas Automation in Europe?

Thing: In Switzerland, we have a lot of machines from our OM-line installed, offering spindle speeds up to 50,000 rpm. The watchmaking industry has also many DT1 in use, meeting the industry’s specific requirements. In Portugal, which is very strong in mould making, we have been selling the VF 7 and 8 series for manufacturing large moulds. In Germany, we are selling machines for example the instrument and medical devices industry, while in France aerospace is quite strong. Haas offers around 90 different machine tool models, which are configurable in terms of options, so the range of applications is huge.

ETMM: How important is the tool and mould making industry for Haas?

Thing: The tool and die market is very important for us. It represents around 20% of the market for machine tool makers in general. Therefore, we will be exhibiting our products at the upcoming Moulding Expo in Stuttgart. We think Messe Stuttgart is very strong, and we will be closer to more of our customers in Germany by exhibiting in Stuttgart.

ETMM: What is your forecast for 2015 in terms of growth?

Thing: Our customers believe in our products and services and that's what it all comes down to. For 2015, we are planning the same growth as in 2014, which gave us a lot of confidence. We will continue to grow by helping customers to make money by offering the lowest cost per part. We believe that more and more customers will recognise that value. In general I believe that the economy in 2015 will be on average around the same as it is now. There will not be in general tremendous growth in Europe, but Italy for instance reported nice growth in 2014 and we will most likely see other countries continuing to strengthen their economic situation.