Since 1945, Burghardt + Schmid GmbH (B+S) has been known for highest precision when cutting and leveling a wide variety of metal strips - even with complex or sensitive materials such as aluminium and other non-ferrous metals. The company has become one of the most successful market leaders in the field of slitting lines and the world market leader for stretch-bend-leveling lines. It pays attention to innovative research and development regarding all its machines, as well as close cooperation with its customers. The service includes, among other things, the implementation of special requests, individual upgrading of outdated plants and machines and an analysis of the profitability of the latter.
B+S is now celebrating its 75th anniversary and can look back on a tenfold increase in sales over the last 25 years. In the following interview the Managing Directors, Thomas Baral and Achim Kunz, talk about the recent past and future challenges.
Since the laying of the foundation stone in 1945 in Singen, B+S has developed continuously. What were the most important changes until today?
Mr. Kunz: Looking at the history of B+S, the roots of our company lie in the narrow field of precision slitting lines and slitting machines for longitudinal slitting. Therefore the expansion of the product range and the increase of our vertical range of manufacture were essential for our success today.
Special mention should be made of the integration of Schnutz GmbH, a traditional German company for high-performance levelers, and DAA DELTA Technik GmbH, our expert for automation technology. This enables us to supply our customers with complex systems from a single source. It also simplifies the logistical processes and enables individual production of machines and plants.
Special developments, such as the vacuum brake rollers are now also among the central measures for gentle processing of sensitive surfaces. As a result of our growth, we have adapted our structures to the current situation and therefore also doubled our production and assembly areas in 2005.
As a family business, B+S has been improving the quality of its systems for 75 years. How do you assess the current situation of the company?
Mr. Baral: Thanks to our innovations, we are currently the market leader and are continuously developing our technologies further: Particularly noteworthy here are our slitting lines, which are individually tailored to customers' needs and thus also deliver the best cut quality, the most precise width tolerance and high winding quality.
In the field of leveling machines, the B+S group also holds four patents for stretch-bend-leveling machines, which are also very popular with our customers. In addition, our customer-oriented service with comprehensive consulting clearly distinguishes us from numerous providers in the industry and offers advantages for our customers such as the high adaptability to customer-specific requirements. We are therefore the first choice in terms of quality and service – especially for slitting lines and stretch-bend-leveling lines.
In the last ten years, the company has been able to increase its turnover tenfold. What do you think is the reason for this success?
Mr. Kunz: We are a medium-sized company that relies on a high-performance team of 65 employees and the location - Germany. The know-how of this competent team is our great capital. That is why we attach particular importance to a high vertical range of manufacture, produce in-house if possible and avoid outsourcing.
Our core business is also assembly and consulting - both in pre- and after-sales service. The fact that the next family generation is already in the starting blocks and actively supports us in our daily business also makes long-term planning easier. Our customers reward this accordingly, because this reliability and constancy also creates the necessary trust for a good cooperation in a personal conversation”.
In 25 countries there are more than 1.350 plants and machines from the hands of the B+S group. Which developments do you see at the moment on the world market and how do you plan to react to them?
Mr. Baral: Although a large part of our market is naturally located in Europe, the demand for reliable machines and plants from B+S group is increasing. Therefore, we are currently considering expanding our production and administration areas and to further expand our international locations - China and the USA are large and interesting markets in this respect.
There is also an increasing demand for high-precision slitting lines in Brazil, Vietnam and India, and we have recently started negotiations with Mexican companies. In addition, we plan to supply South Africa with a free trade agency, but these are only initial considerations. We don't want to rush into anything here, because personal contact with our customers on site is important to us - this is the only way we can guarantee perfect service and maintain our high quality standards.
At the moment, many industries are in a state of upheaval: in the automotive sector, more and more emphasis is being placed on hybrid drives, hydrogen and e-mobility; in other sectors, industry 4.0 and digitalisation are advancing more and more. What does this mean for the B+S group?
Mr. Kunz: We see each of these developments as an opportunity for our company. Because they all have one thing in common: they require electricity. And where electricity is needed, copper must also be processed, precisely and to a high standard. This sector and the corresponding alloys is one of our specialties. In the automotive sector, for example, 48-volt technology will generate an increasing demand for our systems, as will the increasingly important use of lightweight aluminium for car bodies.
As far as the so-called Internet of Things, Digitalisation and Industry 4.0 is concerned, we have had our eyes on the integration of peripheral systems for several years now and are therefore well prepared. It is precisely these aspects of preventive maintenance and plant safety that must not be lost sight of, and we are continuously working on this. This is where the B+S group keeps its finger on the pulse of time and looks confidently into the future.
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