Modig Machine Tool – Upside-Down Thinking

It’s been an eventful year since we last spoke with Modig Machine Tool, but it’s been doing well thanks to some outside-of-the-box thinking.

Modig was founded in 1947 to build best-in-class machines for the manufacturing sector. From their home in Virserum, Sweden, Modig’s lathes, universal drills and machining centres soon built a global reputation. By the 1980s they were developing high-speed machining centres and moved onto continuously redefine machining standards the world over.

It has done this as a family-owned company for three generations, providing high-quality machines to the aerospace and automotive industries as the premium machine tool provider. The company has sold over 11,000 of its machines, and when we last spoke to them, they were still going strong.

2020 has been a challenging year for everyone, but when we speak to David Modig, Modig Machine Tool’s CEO, he is optimistic.

“I would say it’s been fairly okay. We have obviously not achieved our targets for sales, due to the unique challenges 2020 brought with it,” he admits. “The reduced aerospace activity, then COVID-19 came along. But all in all the results for the year are good, we’re happy where are.”

An Inverted Perspective

While Modig has undergone a year of challenges, however, it’s also been a year of achievement and innovation. Recently the company unveiled the world’s first inverted machining tool.

Innovation has always been a core part of Modig’s identity, allowing the firm to punch above its weight through a never-ending cycle of development and improvement. But while there’s a strong business case for this emphasis on innovation, talking with Modig it’s clear that this approach comes out of his personal passion as much as anything else.

When asked where the idea for the inverted machining came from, Modig immediately admits, “The idea came out of a dream of mine- I think too much about machines!”

That Modig is able to move so quickly from notion to fully realised product is a key part of what makes the company so special. Because it’s a smaller company it can develop a new machine without having to go through the gauntlet of decision-makers new products in larger organisations face. Modig himself designs the machines and has the deciding say in what direction to take. It’s an approach that frequently places Modig four or five years ahead of its competitors in terms of technology.

With the Inverted Machining Tool, the problem Modig was considering was the one of how to enter competitive markets where the price was a major differentiator. How could you offer a unique selling point without increasing your price to uncompetitive levels?

“These markets are a bit more price-sensitive, so I was interested in how to be competitive in terms of price but still have an innovation that interests the market,” Modig explains. “Then I came up with this inverted machine, which is upside down.”

The inverted design has quite a few benefits. The inverted design brings increased stability, and much-improved handling as chips fall straight down rather than getting stuck inside the machined parts.

“The last really important thing is the throughput of the machine,” Modig tells us proudly. “It will be about 15% faster than other machines on the market with this architecture.”

As well as launching the Inverted Machining Tool, Modig has also been making progress in new markets, and despite the challenges of the last year, Modig can roll off a list of the company’s achievements.

I would say the progress we’ve made in the EV Market is one of our proudest achievements. We’ve also seen increased recognition for our profile machines, and our machines for manufacturing battery trays, that has been the biggest change for 2020,” he says. “Everyone’s talking about battery trays nowadays. We have had a tremendous number of orders, and it seems 2021 has started even better with respect to these machines.”

New Pastures

These new markets are more important, especially in the face of the new challenges Modig’s other market sectors have been facing.

“Our biggest challenge at the moment is selling the bigger machines, especially for the aerospace industry, which hasn’t been doing well in general,” Modig points out. “It’s a market that’s very much suffered due to this pandemic and the impact to aerospace demands. Our main target customers are living in North America, so are connected to the aerospace market.”

Fortunately, Modig has been able to expand its business in new markets, including the EV market, which has grown a great deal this year.

“We also focused a bit more on the military side of aerospace,” Modig tells us. “Another sector that has increased in demand is the space sector, building satellites, which needs machines everywhere.”

Commercial aerospace is still an important part of Modig’s portfolio, but the business is always expanding and diversifying.

We will absolutely return to commercial aerospace. We’ve had interest already this year. But if our portfolio was 80% commercial aerospace before it will be 50% now because we’re expanding our portfolio going forward,” Modig says. “The new inverted machines are seeing a lot of demand in the automotive machining sector. We predict 50% of our revenue will be aerospace, 30% will be automotive and 20% will be military and others.”

Indeed, talking to Modig it’s clear we’ve only scratched the surface of the innovation the company is bringing to the market.

“In addition to the new machines in the inverted machine series, we’re releasing a new machine for larger extrusions,” Modig says. “We have also added a machine called the HHV DUO, a twin-spindle machine dedicated to the automotive EV market.”

As well as expanding its range, Modig’s facilities themselves are receiving an upgrade with the building receiving a significant expansion.

“The demand for our machines has increased even during the pandemic and we have now decided to expand the building for the second time in two years,” Modig says. “The next expansion will be 10,000 square metres. We’re also employing more people. I think this year we have a target of employing 40-to-50 more people if everything goes well.”

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