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September News in Brief
Published:  01 September, 2009

♦  Siemens is reported to be planning to sell its proximity switches business, saying that there are too few synergies with its other activities and that its market share is too small. The business, which is part of Siemens’ industry automation division, employs around 150 people.

♦  Sales in the Lenze Group have fallen by 19% from €621m in 2007/08 to €505m in 2008/09. The company has reduced its workforce from 3,449 and 3,203, mainly by allowing fixed-term contracts to expire. It has also introduced short-term working at its German sites. Chairman Dr Erhard Tellbüscher expects staff levels to drop to around 2,700 “in the coming years”. But Lenze considers itself “well positioned” and says it was able to react in time to decreasing demand. Its investment in r&d has fallen only slightly.

♦  The machine vision specialist Cognex has accepted a settlement offer from the German company Multitest Elektronische Systeme and its US subsidiary in a dispute over equipment containing MVTec Halcon machine vision software. Cognex has alleged that the Halcon software, marketed by MVTec Software, infringes at least three of its machine vision patents. The US International Trade Commission is investigating 20 other companies for alleged violation of Cognex patents.

♦  Production of plant and machinery in Germany will be about 20% lower in 2009 than in 2008 and is likely to stagnate in 2010, according to the sector’s trade body, VDMA. The organisation reports that orders in July 2009 were 43% lower than a year before. But the VDMA reports that the rate of decline is slowing and is near the bottom.

♦  The US sensor manufacturer, PCB Piezotronics, has acquired most of the assets and intellectual property of RS Technologies, which supplies load cells, torque transducers and wheel force transducers. The acquired business will stay at its existing headquarters in Michigan and operate under the PCB Load & Torque name.

♦  Schneider Electric has sold its Swiss rail vehicle automation business Selectron Systems to its management and employees, backed by private and venture capital investors. Schneider acquired Selectron in 2001 as part of Berger Lahr. Its sales in 2008 were worth around CHF24m (£14.5m), with 80% of this coming from the rail sector.

♦  Sixnet, the US-based supplier of machine-to-machine communications products, is buying JBM Electronics, which specialises in network connection systems, including embedded protocol converters. Together, says Sixnet, they will offer “the broadest range of industrial and commercial wireless networking solutions available on the market”.

♦  The Chinese market for industrial automation instrumentation will break through the $14bn mark this year (up from $12.6bn in 2008), according to a report from China Research and Intelligence. The report says that the industry is about 10–15 years behind Western countries in its development, but it is benefiting from support from the Chinese government for major projects.

♦  The Eaton Corporation has acquired the remaining 50% of the Swiss company Micro Innovation Holding which manufactures HMIs, PLCs and I/O devices. Eaton acquired half of Micro Innovations when its bought Moeller in 2008. The Swiss company employs about 80 people and had sales worth $33m in 2008. 

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