Founded in 1848, Davis-Standard has its headquarters in Pawcatuck, Connecticut. From those humble beginnings, the company has expanded to where it now has a global reach supporting plastics processors in all major market sectors.
PRW: You’re the managing director of Davis-Standard’s UK aftermarket division. Can you explain more about the company?
Mark Woodgate: We support customers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa [EMEA]. We deal with anything from new equipment through to machine rebuilds, replacement barrels and screws, spare parts, upgrades and conversions to small specialist tubing and profile lines. We do a bit of everything, including upgrade and services for customers who don’ have Davis-Standard brand equipment.
We work with trade extruders through to global PLCs. So we can do anything from stripping, cleaning and rebuilding your blown film dies to restoring your 40-year old Floataire pipe and profile bath. We even hold standard extruder sizes in stock. We’ve also got service engineers and technicians to look after our heritage brands.
What do you have on the Davis-Standard stand at the K show?
We have a range of equipment, but even more importantly I think our stand really highlights our global presence and strength. Over the show we’ll have about 40 people from Davis-Standard and 30 from Maillefer, Brampton Engineering and TSL; the latter being recent acquisitions. As a group, we’ve grown over the years with the help of the sensible acquisitions just referenced. It’s a credit to the leadership of our management team.
Following on from your core offering, are extruders hanging on to their machinery longer now?
I think they are, it’s simple economics. There’s also the basic mechanical longevity of an extruder and associated downstream equipment. If a barrel or a screw wears out, they can be replaced. If the gearbox fails, that can be rebuilt. Electrically, we can upgrade heaters, do motor and drive conversions, etc.
We can even upgrade control systems, though they’re probably the most sensitive when it comes to overall longevity. Technology moves on and whilst you can retrofit new control systems onto an older machine, sometimes you need to strike a balance between extending support for an existing system. This is the case with our blown film Extrol system, where we have invested in extensive spares, board testing facilities, to give our customers time to plan for change.
It’s common to see machines which have been in use for 30 or 40 years. I started with Betol just over 25 years ago. Davis-Standard acquired us in 1998. I’ve still got records for machines produced in the 1980s, people are still asking for spares.
How do you support that? Can you salvage parts from old machines, like an auto breakers yard?
We can do that, but it’s not common. We prefer to use genuine spares and replacement parts. However, most older machines can be rebuilt. Providing they’re mechanically sound, it can generally be fixed.
How much can an extruder save by rebuilding a machine?
That’s not far away from asking how long is a piece of string! It depends on the size of the machine and its complexity. If you’re talking about a simple, small extruder, you’re probably going to replace that, the labour and parts will be more expensive than a new one. However when you get up to the larger machine systems, there are savings to be made.
Surprisingly, I’m sometimes offered extrusion machines in part exchange. If I have the technical records to support it, I’ll take those, rebuild them and put them back out onto the market. However, we are selective in what we do as it needs to make economic sense for everyone.
I recently spoke with a thermoforming machine manufacturer and was advised used hardware is not a great investment. The machines get worked hard and aren’t worth the money. How do you respond to that?
If you’re looking at a Davis-Standard extruder, we manufacture all the core parts. The thing I would worry about the most in a second-hand extruder would be the gearbox and its thrust bearing. We design and build our own gearboxes. When you look at our extruder gearboxes, they look like they’ve been built for a machine size larger. They are really robust. We’re leaders in barrel and screw technology, so combined I think they make a good choice.
It’s a case of quality translating to longevity?
Yes, we have the quality. They’re not the cheapest machines in the world, but we have a tremendous reputation for quality, reliability and service. And you can fit new parts onto an older machine and still get the benefit of increasing equipment life.
Has Brexit caused any issues with business, perhaps customers looking at used machines due to the reduced investment?
Personally I believe it has had a significant impact on our UK industry. I don’t think the situation puts any UK manufacturer or exporter in a good position, particularly with the timing of the K show. You can argue for or against, but when it comes down to it, has it been detrimental to our business? You bet. People are sitting on the fence about making an investment and that always happens in times of political uncertainty.
We’ve got a lot of competitors around Europe. Good companies with good people. Instead of making it easier to compete with those companies, Brexit has made it more difficult. Davis-Standard is still in an extremely good position, globally, but I can measure the effect Brexit has had on my little business. I’d say UK business is down by 20 percent following record years of growth.
Do extruders lend themselves to refurbishment more than other plastics machinery, thermoformers, injection moulding machines?
I would imaging most machinery has a break-even point. But extruders are relatively simple and if you can add some new tech to that, it’s probably worth doing. Things like taking a look at upgrading the screw profile so it’s more efficient and can process a broader range of materials, achieve higher outputs with improved quality, etc. Changing out some of the inefficient electricals and looking at the control systems. Companies are looking more at reporting to analyse performance and control the process.
Is upgrading the screw one of the key elements to reducing energy consumption?
We’ve been looking at this globally for a number of years. Yes, screw design can save energy by delivering more efficient material processing. We also have screw designs for bio-degradable materials as well.
We also offer a range of direct drive machines. In most cases they can be more efficient than machines with a gearbox. We’ve sold quite a few [direct drive] machines in the US.
In my area, we’ve been looking at getting customers to convert from DC to AC drives for greater efficiencies, aftermarket retrofits for heaters with jacketing systems, so you don’t lose that heat energy.
Can you retrofit new control systems to get Industry 4.0 functionality?
If customers visit the Maillefer part of the stand, they will see the Bluebox. It’s a ready-made solution for extruders to gain Industry 4.0 capability. It’s an excellent product and gives quality teams what they need in terms of analysing historic data and providing management with the reporting they require.
The other thing people need to realise is that Industry 4.0 is not a defined standard; it’s very much open to interpretation. We have worked on a number of projects recently where the expectations were different. At what point do you stop? However, in countries like Italy you can already see incentives for its adoption.
In the end you’ll end up with diminishing returns, the work needed to make those incremental gains won’t be worth it?
Well, another product we have at K is the DS Activ-Check. It’s an option with the Epic III systems to support predictive/preventative maintenance. That helps to reduce downtime and improve functionality.
Machine operators are alerted to issues before they happen, reducing unplanned downtime while also collecting valuable data. Users receive notifications via e-mail or text; continuous monitoring of production machine status is available on smart devices and remote PCs. Key parameters we can monitor include extruder reducer, lubrication system, motor characteristics, the drive power unit, barrel heating and cooling.
There’s a big push at the show to highlight developments made to support the circular economy. But as a machine re-fitter, Davis-Standard is already supporting those efforts by keeping older machines up and running and making them more efficient?
You could look at it that way. But to be fair, we do sell more new machines globally than rebuilds. However, when rebuilding extruders, there are many things we can look at to make the machine greener. We have touched on a number of these including replacing drives, new feed screw designs, more efficient heaters, etc.
Of all the extrusion machine providers here at K, what would you say is the unique selling point of Davis-Standard?
Our global reach is by far our biggest advantage. The equipment and R&D resources we offer are impressive, along with 24/7 service and support for customers. We’re truly a global operation that’s ready to support other global business as well as individuals.
Other than that, we’re committed to moving forward with the development of new technologies, upgrading and planning for the future.