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Yudo wants US customers to have royal treatment

Issue: July 2018

Who is the biggest hot-runner manufacturer in the world?

You may be surprised to learn it is South Korean manufacturer Yudo Group, which says it sells more hot runners worldwide than the second and third largest manufacturers combined.

But Yudo, based in Hwaseong, is an interesting company for more than just its size. It also manufactures smart factory solutions, robots, automated guided vehicles (AGVs), molds and post-mold cooling systems, mold temperature controllers, supporting auxiliary equipment, injection molding monitoring and control systems, and more.

Ron Shinn, editor

The company has an ambitious worldwide growth plan, and North America, where it currently has relatively modest sales, could play a key role. Yudo plans to start building robots in North America next year but declined to say where.

John Yu, president of Yudo Inc., runs Yudo’s business in the Americas from his office in Concord, Ontario. He said during an interview at NPE2018 that there is a big difference in how Yudo’s family-owned business treats its customers.

Rather than treating them like good friends, Yu said Yudo treats its customers like royalty. “If something goes wrong in a customer’s plant, we dispatch technicians immediately to help solve the problem even if we are 99 percent sure it is not our fault,” Yu said.

Another example of Yudo’s customer service: A large molder found a cracked manifold on a hot-runner system that was not built by Yudo. The mold maker said the fastest it could make the repair would be four weeks.

“The molder was desperate when he called Yudo, and we told him we could do it in 10 days,” Yu said. The molder had drawings sent to Yudo, and Yudo delivered the manifold in 10 days. “But we found some mistakes,” Yu said. “It was OK to run for a few months, so they ran it. Later, we delivered a new optimized-design manifold for free, and they switched it during their next scheduled maintenance.

“It is hard for a customer to change suppliers, but, once they start working with Yudo, they are pleased with our speed and customer service.” 

Yudo was launched by John Yu’s father, Francis, in 1980. He had previously sold injection molding machines and had some familiarity with hot-runner systems. He decided he could build his own hot runners.

Yudo expects $800 million in sales this year (up from $755 million last year) and is aiming for $1 billion in three years. Francis Yu now lives in Singapore and serves as chairman. John’s older brother, Yujin, is vice chairman and oversees the Asian operations from his office in Seoul.

North American sales last year were about $15 million, primarily in the automotive market. The company estimates that another $30 million a year in Yudo products are sourced in Asia and shipped to U.S. manufacturing plants.

Hot-runner sales are growing by 10 percent this year, Yu said.

Yu plans to grow Yudo’s packaging-related business in North America, particularly PET preform molds and hot runners. The company has been selling PET products in Asia since 2009 and this year brought those products to this market.

Yudo has a manufacturing campus in Seoul that is highly automated. It uses Japanese-made Mazak machining centers and has more than 1,000 machines worldwide.

“Every 10 years, we buy all new machines,” Yu said. “We believe technology upgrades in machines are occurring very fast. The new machines are stronger and faster. So, our idea is to buy new, identical machines every 10 years.”

The use of automation allows Yudo to quickly fill large or custom orders. As customers face ever-shorter product development cycles, Yudo’s quick response is an advantage, Yu said.

Yudo can build a complete mold and hot-
runner system, but, if a customer prefers its mold to be built in the U.S., Yudo will work with the mold maker to supply the hot end. “We support the mold maker and help them with the latest technology advances,” Yu said. “We want the tool to be successful for the molder.”

Yudo-Suns, a sister company, manufactures robots, auxiliary equipment and factory automation equipment. It has a steady stream of new products but, surprisingly, like the hot-runner division, does not have an R&D budget or designated R&D staff.

“Our R&D people work in different regions of the world.” Yu said. “We develop what customers want in a specific region, then make it available everywhere.” He said most new automotive hot-runner products originate in Asia, and packaging and PET products in Korea.

Yu said he already has started hiring engineers for robot production in North America that will begin early next year. The initial focus will be on high-speed, side-entry, in-mold-labeling and take-out robots.

“We will be able to provide complete systems,” Yu said. “We have had success doing this in other markets.”

Yudo has solid credentials to be a bigger player in the North American market. Don’t expect the company to be flying under the radar much longer.

Ron Shinn, editor