Steel instead of stalls
It was love at first sight. Martin Krämer and the new TruLaser 1030 were destined for one another. The job shop owner bought the machine “right off the lot” when it premiered in Stuttgart at the end of 2009. Today that laser cutting machine is located in what used to be a cow barn.
Some truck drivers have their doubts as they wind their way over country roads to Krämer Brennteile. The idyllic countryside surrounding the farm in the Black Forest is more reminiscent of a vacation area. But you would search in vain for a hotel — or cattle, for that matter. Instead you will find a substantial manufactory for sheet metal processing. In addition to construction steel and a flame cutting machine, a TruLaser 1030 has found space in the outbuildings.
In spite of a classic vocational education in agriculture, Martin Krämer did not work as a farmer for very long, “because there just wasn’t enough money in it,” he recalls. As a result he started doing odd jobs at construction sites, had a job in advertising, and finally worked his way up to production manager in a sheet metal processing shop. Nine years ago he decided to hang out his shingle. “In my positions I had always assumed so much responsibility. And at some point I realized, ‘You can do this yourself!’” No sooner said than done! The farm equipment was cleared out in 2001 and Krämer invested in a flame cutting machine.
A reliable partner
This daring initiative paid off. Krämer Brennteile grew quickly, even though the company’s founder never did any active advertising. “On the first day in business I called up a few companies I knew and told them I had opened my own shop. That’s all.” A down-to-earth attitude and professional proficiency are what make this businessman so convincing. His approach is simple. He turns out short production runs both quickly and reliably.
But Krämer’s team is not made up solely of metalworkers. Two masons and two carpenters also work steel on the farm and seven part-timers land a hand when needed. They all know about flexibility in their working hours and punching the time clock is out of the question. It’s usually a matter of getting the work out when it’s on hand, day by day. “Sometimes a shift can last ten or fourteen hours,” explains the boss with a grin. But word of the company’s willingness to pitch in has gotten around. Today the farm serves 170 customers in the region.
Krämer’s clientele is widely diversified. Among them are vehicle builders and mechanical engineering companies, but also small fitter’s shops and tradesmen. It sometimes happens that a new part is made up based only on a cardboard model or a fragment of a broken machine part. The firm’s own truck makes deliveries to customers, mostly small and medium-sized companies nearby in the Freiburg and Offenburg districts.
Gradually the company started offering welding work and coatings, and it soon became apparent that in order to keep customers satisfied over the long term, Krämer was going to have to add laser cutting to his offerings. Choosing the machine manufacturer was not difficult. “I knew TRUMPF machinery from the past and quality was always spot-on.” The problem was the limited size of the barn. All the systems available on the market to date were too large. That wasn’t true for the TruLaser 1030, unveiled in 2009.
Easy to operate
Space-saving, easy to operate and with a good cost-benefit ratio — this innovation was convincing from the very start. Krämer, the first customer in Germany to purchase the TruLaser 1030, bought the machine during the Blechexpo trade fair. The timing turned out to be perfect. When orders lagged in 2009 the employees rebuilt the former cow barn to make space for the machine. The remodeling was completed just in time for delivery in June 2010.
The TruLaser 1030 clearly survived the journey to the remote farm. Working in ten-hour shifts, the company primarily works construction steel from one to twelve millimeters thick. Familiarization was no problem for Krämer’s team. “It’s almost as easy to use as a coffee maker,” Martin Krämer notes. Only three days of training were necessary to make a full-fledged entry into the laser business.
On a normal workday the boss will also be in the shop, in his overalls, while his wife takes care of paperwork in the office. The family fully supports the project wherever possible. Even granddad helps wherever he can. Almost eighty years of age, this former farmer stands entirely behind his son’s company, even though the cows had to give way to the machinery. In spite of the fact that business is good, Martin Krämer has not yet thought about expanding.
In the near future he wants to try his hand at cutting stainless steel. For this father of three, working at home is ideal. It’s no surprise that he intends to stay right there on the family farm. It makes sense enough. Who would want to abandon such an attractive workplace?
Contact us: MastersofSheetMetal@trumpf.com
This article was first published in autumn 2010.