Always ready to listen
Ripleg, a family owned and operated company in the Catalan region, has grown from a two-man shop to become a highly automated supplier of complete systems. The recipe for success? Always listening closely to customers, employees and partners.
When Eduald Batlle left his post as sales manager for a maker of industrial blowers 22 years ago to set up his own job shop, he was wise not to heed the handwringers. Instead he listened to his wife Teresa Falcón, his daughter Pilar and his son Jordi. The family supported him from the very outset and today all of them assume a share of the responsibility for the company. Mr. Batlle also had an open ear for his customers’ wishes and needs, for his employees’ ideas and for new technological trends. This is augmented by the courage to adopt new concepts. These have been the main ingredients for Ripleg’s success to date.
Listening and planning
Ripoll, a town of 10,000 residents, located about 100 kilometers north of Barcelona, has a long industrial tradition. Metalworking and textile companies settled near a Benedictine abbey founded in the year 880, so Eduald Batlle had no trouble finding qualified employees. Making use of contacts from his earlier sales efforts, he first concentrated solely on acquiring customers.
Daughter Pilar and son Jordi were involved in the company even while they pursued their collegiate studies. Today, Pilar handles the firm’s administrative affairs while Jordi is responsible for production, marketing and customer care.
In parallel to establishing a customer base, Eduald Batlle expanded the range of services gradually and systematically by purchasing new machinery. Procuring a TRUMPF punching machine in 1990 marked the beginning of a long partnership, which continues to this day. “It was TRUMPF consulting and service that ultimately convinced us and nothing has changed in that respect. We always know we’re in good hands,” says Jordi Batlle, who continues: “One vital success factor for our company, right from the very beginning, has been listening closely to our customers and exactly implementing their wishes and needs. To do that we first require machinery that covers all the technical aspects and then experts who can shepherd customer ideas from the prototype stage through to the finished product.”
Listening and growing
The strategy is accomplished with a fully automated manufacturing line, and a highly motivated staff of eighty-four. According to Batlle, it was their perseverance and involvement that made business success possible in the first place. After purchasing the first laser cutting machine and a welding robot in 1996, Ripleg installed the ProEngineer 3D software as early as 1998. “This represented a decisive advantage since we were able to identify design deficiencies at an early point in time.”
With the acquisition of a TruPunch 5000 and the SheetMaster it was in 2003 that Ripleg made the shift to automated manufacturing. “That was a quantum leap and showed us how important automation is,” recalls Jordi Batlle. And then things really took off. In the following year the company purchased a TruLaser 5030 classic with both LiftMaster and SortMaster, followed by a second automated punch press, both linked to a fully automated Stopa storage system.
The TruBend 5130 and BendMaster and the TruBend 7036 mean that the press brake technology is completely up to date. “A further milestone in our company history was passed in 2004 when the engineering department transitioned to programming separately from production periods,” notes Jordi Batlle.
Today Ripleg operates in three shifts, in some cases unmanned, with production runs numbering between 20 and 500 items. That requires flexibility and confirms the decision to move toward automated systems. In Batlle’s view, “That’s the only way to remain competitive.”
Listening and implementing
With the expansion of its equipment, Ripleg has, over the years, quite purposefully advanced from a pure job shop to become a supplier of medical equipment, household appliances, and plug-and-play systems for the HVAC sector. As a sheet metal manufacturer, specialist in electrical wiring and maker of electro-mechanical components, the company is set up to offer a broad range of services from a single source.
But that is only a part of the recipe for success. “Close cooperation with our customers, in a spirit of true partnership, is what puts us in a position to manufacture highly technical products. Examples include ovens for supermarkets that turn deep-frozen rolls and loaves into fresh baked goods. We profit from our customers’ loyalty and confidence and show our gratitude with quality, reliability and innovative ideas — from the planning phase to the production line,” Jordi Batlle emphasizes.
Listening and thinking ahead
The company’s export business also illustrates its courage to launch new projects. “Dad’s contacts in France, Belgium, the Benelux countries and Portugal made it fairly obvious that we wouldn’t be concentrating exclusively on the Spanish market.”
And because the Ripleg company takes the concept of “close to the customer” quite literally, the family last year started planning for a branch location in South America. “We see tremendous chances there. On the one hand, this is because a part of our company philosophy is: Service includes being on site when and where the customers need us. On the other hand, we feel it would be an error to focus only on Europe. We can stabilize our position only if we set up additional, international business channels.” Batlle also realizes that some risks are involved. “Augmenting the professionalism of our own family members, we also listen to outside consultants and get ‘a second opinion’ whenever we make decisions on strategy.”
Management consistently looked forward during the economic crisis, too. Jordi Batlle is quite satisfied: “We practiced uncompromising cost management. We also used any slack periods to seek new business contacts. We are sure that this will pay off handsomely in coming years.”
Contact us: MastersofSheetMetal@trumpf.com
This article was first published in spring 2013.