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Interview with Hoffmann Group’s new CEO

Source:KATHRYN GERARDINO-ELAGIO, International Metalworking News for Asia June 2017

Date Published:6/13/2017 04:06:59 PM

Emerging countries in South East Asia is moving itself down a more advanced manufacturing path. 

Much coverage is being given about the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This era takes us far beyond the steam and water that kicked off industry in the 1800s and builds upon the electronics and computers that seemed so high-tech in the 1980s. You can either be scared or be excited that Industry 4.0 is creating exciting changes in everything from how and where things are created to how they’re distributed.

Most manufacturing executives who have heard about Industry 4.0 are sceptical. Others think that this is just another piece of marketing hype or that only big manufacturing facilities need these technologies that promises to reshape the way things are made.  

INTERNATIONAL METALWORKING NEWS FOR ASIA is fortunate to interview Dr Robert Blackburn, the new CEO of Hoffmann Group, during the recent MTA Singapore. Dr Blackburn is considered internationally to be a leading mind with strategic vision and to be a pioneer in the field of digitalisation.

Managing a manufacturing transition

Emerging countries in South East Asia is moving itself down a more advanced manufacturing path. And they need help transitioning to competitive manufacturing environments. But are they ready to enter the next phase in the digitisation of the manufacturing sector?

So what happens to a country when a new manufacturing mind-set becomes reality? How do small companies begin to transition internally, expand locally, or decide to seek opportunities through digitalisation. These are only a few a questions and concerns from small shop owners in Asia that were discussed across conference tables.

The transition to high-complexity manufacturing is not going to happen overnight. What better way to start and be ahead of the game is by using an intelligent dispatch machine that optimises tool administration, and can provide interfaces to the company network including materials management system.

Dr Blackburn, said, "When you’re a small shop owner premium tools are hard enough to get. They’re even harder to keep track. So in a very pragmatic way, we can take the smallest shop and we can provide them a solution, which is of a highest premium standard to protect quality tools from going missing. We always like to talk about the advantages our premium tools provide. But we also have tools in our portfolio that have very pragmatic purposes while at the same time offering a good quality.”

Tool24 Smartline is Hoffmann’s latest innovation for managing tools. GARANT Tool24 Smartline concept is impressively simple: sturdy tool cabinets with up to 90 drawers offer you round the clock access to the desired material. The intuitive software allows you to make your selection quickly, be it by scanner, key word search or article number.

“In a big company what does Smartline do? It allows you to immediately manage your spend on tool and know which worker is using what. But if you’re in a small shop sometimes it can be as simple as protection. You don’t want to be locking everything up. Just like what it does in a big company, the system opens for you and it knows which tool you need when,” he added.

Dr Blackburn explained, “What Smartline is offering sets a real impact in society for the smallest of the small workshops to the biggest most state-of-the-art factory. Let’s say you’re at the port in Singapore and you’re running a rather small business, who got a contract with an oil & gas firm. So instead of locking your tools up or throwing them in the back of your truck, you can put them in your van and inside a Smartline machine.”

Innovation: Market differentiator

He described innovation in Hoffmann’s segment in the tool industry, particularly in Asia, a market differentiator. “The market is moving quickly and developing up the value chain. The trend over the coming three years is all about embedding software or embedding intelligence in the tool. So, our ambition is to further build up intelligence and offer smart solutions that enable efficient communication between the tool and the machine. This is a challenge, but above all it’s a great opportunity for us. Obviously, Hoffmann is at the forefront of that development.”

Dr Blackburn added, “In our Garant tools we have the intelligence already inside. Within our portfolio we offer tools that communicate to the machine and send a signal when replacement is needed, for example. There’s a reason why we are a premium brand, and that’s what our customers can justly expect from a technology leader.”

Dr Blackburn defined the fourth industrial revolution all about connectivity. “But, while focusing on digitalisation and connectivity you have to provide quality, above all. That’s what Hoffmann Group stands for: the highest quality tools in the market.” What is also unique about Hoffmann is the omni-channel approach the company intends to bring to Asia. “In terms of digitalisation, we are continuously improving. We thrive for an integrated approach. That means for example, that we will integrate some of the expertise that our sales team in the field offers our customers in human form into our digital channels. Our consultants will be able to use the new channels to show their “face” to the customer on the website. This approach is unique in our industry.”

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