Like father, like daughters
Christel Schreiber is part of the second generation to head up MKS Metallbau Schreiber GmbH and can depend on triple backing — her sisters also work in the business.
Christel Schreiber proudly presents the manufacturing operations at MKS Metallbau Schreiber GmbH in Wolfschlugen, Germany. There she points out two TruBend press brakes and a TRUMPF laser cutting machine. “We have virtually no limitations in regard to sheet metal gauge and manufacturing techniques,” the general manager explains. “It’s just this simple: We make what our customers order!” This family firm with its 60 employees specializes in complex assembly groups destined for construction machinery, mechanical engineering and the railroads.
Large orders can’t scare off MKS. Parts for concrete pumps, fan wheels for the railways, and components for rolling stock used in emergencies can be seen in the shop. And when Christel Schreiber talks about the challenges she and her coworkers have already solved, then you can sense the passion she feels for her work. It seems to be a family trait. Her three sisters also contribute to the company’s success: Karin Künstner, Petra Laukenmann and Andrea Einsele manage the firm’s commercial affairs.
Truly a family business
Only a few people reckoned on this degree of womanpower in 1969. When Karl Schreiber opened his own job shop, he was already the father of three daughters and his peers greeted the project with skepticism. What was to happen to a family business with three girls growing up to take the reins? Among his acquaintances, some counted on future sons-in-law to preserve the company.
And even though two sisters’ husbands do work in the firm, things turned out differently than expected. One fine Sunday morning at breakfast, the youthful Christel announced to her family that she wanted to learn the metal processing trade. That began her career at MKS. Having completed her apprenticeship, she worked in manufacturing for several years before she launched into her education as a qualified machinery technician. One by one, her sisters joined the company on the commercial side.
Friendly and cordial management style
Beginning in 2004, Christel Schreiber joined her father in company management. In 2012 she took over the helm as general manager. She used the transitional period to grow into her new role. “And so that the customers could get used to dealing with a woman,” she explains with a laugh. “Especially as a young woman, I often had to achieve more than my male colleagues in order to be accepted. Even today, customers on the phone ask me to transfer the call, since they have a technical question.” But she quickly dispels any doubts.
Especially technical challenges spark her enthusiasm. Then she sits down with her employees and seeks solutions. She appreciates her workers’ tremendous dedication. Since Schreiber worked with many of them on the shop floor, her management style is friendly and cordial. “That comes naturally enough when you’ve known the people in production for such a long time. And that is something that distinguishes our firm — the employees are part of our ‘extended family’.”
Flexibility and diversity
Continuity is very important to Christel Schreiber. That is why, after taking over the firm, she did not make any significant changes but consistently follows the same time-tested strategy. Flexibility and quality continue to make their mark on the company strategy. “Over the past years we have invested in a variety of technologies.” When making any new purchases, she always considers what the market is calling for. “We have to keep up with the state of the art and that is one reason why we are always ready to buy new equipment. If a new technology promises to respond more readily to customer needs, then we invest. That is essential for our survival as a subcontractor. Because — as they say — standing still is tantamount to falling behind.”
This job shop’s capacity is broad and includes laser cutting, bending, milling, manual and robot welding, painting, and powder coating. Here certified quality is a necessity — and customer expectations are always on the rise. Certification as per ISO 9001 goes without saying at MKS. To be able to manufacture unusual orders, as well, this family firm has also achieved numerous other qualifications. Consequently, MKS is certified, holding the top CL1 classification, to manufacture components for the railways. It also holds HP0 approval for the manufacture of components used in pressurized equipment.
Investment in the future
MKS puts its faith in machinery built by TRUMPF whenever it’s a question of laser cutting and bending. “We have worked with TRUMPF machines for twenty years. I actually learned my trade working at one, and the quality is always perfect,” Christel Schreiber reports. That is why her manufacturing operations make use of a TruLaser 3030, a TruBend 5230 and a TruBend 5085. This subcontractor uses the laser cutting machine to work not only mild steel and aluminum, but stainless steel, as well. Depending on the materials being handled, gauges range from one to 25 millimeters. This highly flexible machine perfectly matches the broad manufacturing range pursued by MKS. The quality of the parts and the precision of the cuts impress Christel Schreiber and her customers to the same degree. And the general manager also appreciates the good technical service. “Should we ever need assistance, the TRUMPF support staff is always quick to respond.”
A Stopa storage system efficiently supplies material to the machines. Since the customers place high priority on precise documentation of all the materials used, MKS even stores sheet metal of the same type segregated according to production batches, so that the provenance of the material can be positively tracked. But the storage system, expanded in 2012, might soon become insufficient again, as Schreiber reports. “We are pushing the capacity limits once more.” It’s a good thing that there is space available to build an addition to the storeroom.
Contact us: MastersofSheetMetal@trumpf.com
This article was first published in summer 2013.