“The Perfect Cut”
Krug & Priester have been developing and producing paper cutters and shredders for six decades. Plant manager Wolfgang Schuppler and Wolfgang Jetter, foreman in the sheet metal department, report on fully integrated production and laser cutting.
Mr. Schuppler, hardly anyone outside Balingen has heard of Krug & Priester, although your products are found in almost every office …
Wolfgang Schuppler: The reason for this is a consistent brand strategy. With our IDEAL and EBA brands we are known as a leading manufacturer, all around the world. In some fields, such as guillotine paper cutters and professional document shredders, we have even reached the very top. With some 785 different models, we offer solutions for every challenge found in paper processing and data security.
What distinguishes your company from others?
Schuppler: Ever since the company was founded we have never terminated someone for operational reasons; we employ no temporary workers; we have no locations in low-wage countries. We offer excellent quality with a 0.2 percent reject rate. We are very fond of words like “none”.
And where are your suppliers located?
Wolfgang Jetter: 70 percent of all our suppliers come from an area within a 100 kilometer radius. Only ten percent are located further than 250 kilometers away. We are not joining the caravan that’s looking for cheap items; we prefer to buy local and be faithful to our region. An additional factor is that we are firm advocates of fully integrated production. We have 90 percent vertical integration. Fully integrated production is a unique selling point that lets us maintain our high quality standards.
What does this extremely high level of in-house production entail?
Schuppler: Naturally it implies the need to continuously reexamine our processes, so as to stay competitive. Although our customers are prepared to pay a bit more for quality recognized around the globe, our prices must still be in line with the market. Our wish is to further promote the “Made in Balingen” slogan. This makes it necessary for us to further refine our production and logistics systems. An additional challenge is that there is an increasing demand for a larger number of product and model variants, in ever lower batch sizes. This demands great flexibility and a new approach in terms of production control and organization.
Did this have any effect on your sheet metal processing?
Jetter: Indeed it did. We used to purchase about 1,000 tons of laser-cut and bent sheet metal components from a supplier located 40 kilometers away. Every week, two or three trucks trundled over the nearby hills. This can hardly be called sustainable. And it wasn’t cost-effective, either. We had to put the incoming materials into temporary storage. Processing in several phases, plus storage costs, plus in-house transportation, plus tool set-up times — our throughput times were simply unsatisfactory.
Schuppler: A laser cutting unit had long been our wish list. However, we first had to make room for one. With a new building in Plant I, we were able to relocate the welding section and make room for our own 2D laser machine.
This insourcing exercise certainly affected your supplier?
Schuppler: He did have trouble coming to terms with it. But we didn’t make the decision overnight. We forewarned our supplier about 18 months in advance so that he could adjust to the new situation. This is one of our principles. We favor long-term, fair and trustworthy partnerships that hold up even when the economy is wallowing through tough times.
Did you use this period to decide which machine you were going to buy?
Jetter: Yes, we did. The only thing definite was that it would be a machine from TRUMPF. But which one from their broad range? So we decided to select about a dozen of our typical components and did some comparison testing with them at TRUMPF’s demonstration center. We investigated the production times, quality and possible costs for reworking. It comes as no surprise that we chose a TruLaser 5030 fiber with a 3 kW solid-state laser. 80 percent of our sheet components are within a range of from one to four millimeters thick. In addition to this, we were interested in the energy efficiency of the TruDisk laser. All in all, the machine that promised a perfect cut.
This machine has been in operation for a good two years now. Are you happy with it?
Jetter: We launched real operation after an eight-week installation, commissioning and testing phase, which included training our coworkers and showing them the ropes. Producing individual components or small batches is now no longer a problem since, with this unit, set-up times have dropped to almost zero. In the meantime the laser unit has been operating on double shifts. By introducing a third shift we can run around the clock, if need be.
Does the machine have any special characteristics?
Jetter: We are inclined to favor automation and decided to acquire a SortMaster to relieve our operators of the strenuous work of removing parts. The target was to remove 80 percent of the parts automatically. We have achieved this goal. Also, we drill 0.2 mm precision holes in the oil distribution pipes (see the upper left illustration). To do this, the pipes are fixed in a fixture of our own design and its position is monitored by a camera during processing.
The bottom line, Herr Schuppler: Has the investment been worthwhile?
Schuppler: We keep a very close eye on productivity and profitability. We have set ourselves a target — to achieve machine productivity in a range of from 70 to 80 percent. Our primary productive times are rapidly approaching the 80 percent level — operating the machine roughly 120 hours per week. Goal achieved.
Contact us: MastersofSheetMetal@trumpf.com
This article was first published in summer 2015.