Carefully considered decisions enjoy top priority for Kwak Yun Chon. One result is automated manufacturing that makes a big impression.
Once again, Kwak Yun Chon was absolutely right. In Siheung, 20 kilometers to the southeast of Seoul, he stands in his new plant and peers through a window overlooking the manufacturing hall. A satisfied smile flashes across his face. Everything is running exactly according to plan. Anyone who knows this Korean businessman will hardly be surprised, since all his decisions are carefully considered. And he also likes to think at large scale. This is evidenced by a Chicago branch, by an ERP system developed for his facility, and by automated manufacturing that is quite simply unique in Korea.
The outcome of his strategy is a flourishing company. Laser Center is one of Korea’s top component manufacturers and processors of sheet metal. “I started out in steel trading,” Kwak Yun Chon explains. “But the market no longer offered enough growth potential. In order to secure my company’s future and continue to be competitive, I decided to transform the firm from a steel dealership to a job shop. And of course I wanted to do it right. That is why I chose laser processing. I had already seen the huge demand for laser-cut parts.” This put behind him his days as a trader. That was in the year 2000.
A clear concept
His personal roadmap was accurate and his job shop set out on a growth course. Today Laser Center is supplying to customers — largely from the mechanical and systems engineering sectors — high-quality, laser-cut and bent parts made of mild steel and stainless steel sheet. One thing was important to him from the very outset: clear structures. “Our corporate philosophy is built on adhering to our principles. Every strategy incorporates those strict principles. We strive not to deviate from our internal regulations and specifications,” he points out. Among those principles are integrity and transparency. His eighty employees have taken this philosophy to heart.
Kwak Yun Chon cites the development of his own ERP system as the firm’s turning point. “We are better able to dovetail and control sales, production, management and administration,” he explains. “Once the ERP system had reached full maturity, it was clear that I would have to create a matching technological setting to achieve efficient production.” The major stumbling block was the flow of materials.
The machines already made use of automated loading and unloading units. Staging the materials ready represented considerable logistic effort, however, since they were moved manually. As a result, Laser Center could no longer respond quickly enough to rising demand. “And so I decided to rebuild completely, focusing on optimized processes and automated machinery,” Kwak Yun Chon recalls.
Thinking in global terms
The manufacturing line went into operation in June 2012 — after three years of intense planning. And Kwak Yun Chon was willing to travel great distances. Fascinated by the TRUMPF manufacturing landscape, he took his architect to Ditzingen, gaining inspiration right at the source. Visiting a number of TRUMPF customers in Germany, he collected suggestions for automation concepts and ideas about the new technologies. Looking beyond local boundaries comes quite naturally to Kwak Yun Chon since his is a job shop with an international orientation. “We export many of the parts we produce. And we have already set up an American branch near Chicago. This has been a major milestone for us and contributed to Laser Center’s success,” he explains, quite self-assuredly. In his eyes, short lead times and maximum quality are simply a “must”.
This has now been achieved in Siheung. The key here is a Stopa storage system, 5.7 meters tall, offering space for 345 pallets. This high-rise storage concept delivers — entirely automatically — feedstock material to four TruLaser machines and then stores the parts after cutting. In addition to handling materials, this storage system is a logistics center with integrated administration for the finished parts. Here, too, Kwak Yun Chon is a forerunner, since there is no other storage system of this dimension in Korea.
“With the Stopa storage system we can significantly boost productivity, thanks to automated material administration.” This helps Laser Center stand out from competitors. “Competition in sheet metal fabrication is great,” says this businessman. “We face tremendous price pressures.” His answers are reliable deliveries and high parts quality. “We attempt to increase efficiency not only in our own operations, but for our customers, too.”
Open to new ideas
Touring the facility reveals highly economical concepts at every corner. One example: Kwak Yun Chon selected the so-called platform configuration for all the laser cutting machines. The switchgear cabinets are mounted on platforms above the machines instead of next to them. That saves floor space and makes it possible to install the machines closer together in the production hall — an idea he picked up during his trips to Germany. What’s more, the first machine with a solid-state laser — a TruLaser 5030 fiber — is already at work in his shop. He quickly saw the benefit of that machine and ordered one soon after it became available.
His TruLaser 7040 units also fit right into the concept. “These machines’ enormous productivity sold us right away,” Kwak recalls. “This is true not only in mass production. The machines are made more efficient since they can nest shorter production runs perfectly. And the capacity to work sheet metal up to four meters in length — well, that’s something we just couldn’t pass up.”
But it’s not only in laser cutting that he places great emphasis on economical solutions. A BendMaster 150 also makes for lean processes and high quality in the finished parts. For Kwak Yun Chon, all this merges to create a thoroughly harmonious overall picture, proving that his strategy paid off. Laser Center can now hold to the promise — “Ordered today, delivered tomorrow”.
Contact us: MastersofSheetMetal@trumpf.com
This article was first published in summer 2013.