100-Percent Trust

“Our customers must be able to trust us 100%”

The acquisition of a new servo press for the production of fastening elements, with a total volume of around 900,000 euros for the family business FKB GmbH, was the most significant machine investment in the company's history. Full order books, decreasing batch sizes, the increasing complexity and variety of parts as well as a reduced - and therefore less capital tied up - inventory made it necessary to invest in a more economical machine with state-of-the-art technology. To optimize set-up times, FKB simultaneously invested in quick clamping and changing technology. In a discussion, the FKB managers explain the advantages.

Answers from Wolfgang Schatz (W.S.), sole managing partner of FKB GmbH, Robert Kaiser (R.K.), trained steel construction fitter, head of the punching and welding department and with FKB for more than 20 years, and his deputy Siegfried Widmaier (S.W.), industrial mechanic and industry master for metal. The interview was conducted by F. Stephan Auch, freelance specialist journalist from Nuremberg

How do you achieve short set-up times when changing dies?

R. K.: The dies we use to manufacture our products weigh between 200 kilograms and one ton and are from 250 mm to 1,000 mm long. To make the exchange simple and safe and to avoid unnecessary strain on the operators, we use hydraulic sliding clamps, ball bars with hydraulic lifting and die changing consoles. The sliding clamps alone can drastically reduce the time required for clamping the dies.

S. W.: The sliding clamps are particularly compact and therefore require little space, and there are no interfering edges when inserting the dies. The clamping elements have a stable T-slot base, with which we can insert them into the T-slots of the press bed and adapt them to the various die sizes.

How does a die change work for you?

S. W.: With a crane, we move the dies to the press. There we have carrying consoles, which are attached in appropriate hooks to the press. The die is placed on top of the consoles. We first push the hydraulic ball bars into the T-slots of the press bed. The die is then pushed over the rollers of the carrying consoles onto the balls of the bars, there it is lifted and can be precisely positioned horizontally and vertically by the operator without great effort. Once this has been done, the balls are lowered and the die is fixed with the sliding clamps.

You are a specialist in systems for fixing pipes and hoses, and your main product are pipe clamps. It sounds as if they are simple workpieces whose accuracy is of secondary importance.

W. S.: We produce high-quality elements for fixing pipes and hoses. Fields of application are heating and sanitary technology as well as sprinkler system construction in the industry. Pipe clamps as per DIN 3015 are used in mobile hydraulics such as wagon construction, shipbuilding, wind power plants and plant construction.

Where pipes and hoses are fixed, FKB pipe clamps are used. Depending on the application, there are different requirements. Therefore we process materials from unalloyed to high-alloyed special steel, in very different lot sizes and for many purposes. You will find our pipe clamps in the Eurostar trains connecting Paris with London through the Channel Tunnel and in wind power plants from Siemens Windpower. Faulty products could have a fatal effect on these safety-relevant applications. Our customers must be able to trust us. Of course, our pipe clamps have the appropriate approvals for every special application.

How do you ensure your high-quality standards?

W. S.: Our products are used worldwide in safety-relevant applications. We have been certified according to EN ISO 9001-2000 for almost twenty years. Our employees comply with the specifications and thus meet the quality requirements that we have set for our products. The satisfaction of our customers is our top priority.

How did you proceed with your investment project?

W. S.: Employees are involved in new acquisitions such as the new automatic punching press. They have the know-how as well as the practical experience with different manufacturing processes and can, therefore, decide which brands are suitable for the manufacture of our products. Robert Kaiser has intensively dealt with this task and discussed it with his team. He then contacted the manufacturers at a trade fair. Haulick + Roos is one of the pioneers of servo technology, the stability and reliability of their machines has convinced us. In a reference company, we carried out punching tests with our dies; the results were satisfactory. Thus the decision of the management was made for a machine from Haulick + Roos, the ROP 2000-2000 with 200 tons clamping force. This investment also includes a conveyor system for automated coil feeding as well as ROEMHELD's clamping and changing technology.

R. K.: For the clamping and changing technology, we decided on the products from ROEMHELD, which were integrated by Haulick + Roos. The experience from 23 years of service at FKB speaks for ROEMHELD; the clamping technology already existed here before my time.

S. W.: The quality of ROEMHELD products has proven itself. Also, the uniformity and interchangeability of the clamping elements play an important role. Employees do not have to be trained on different clamping technology from different suppliers. 

Furthermore, the safety in handling and the working speed increase, thus optimal results are achieved. Due to the long-term cooperation, there is high confidence in ROEMHELD products. Thus the decision to use this clamping technology for the new automatic punching press was not difficult.

R. K.: The reliability of the clamping technology makes up for the price compared to the competition. A big plus is the fast and competent support by the field service on site. This means short idle times if there is a malfunction that we cannot rectify ourselves.

How do you assess the future development?

W. S.: Because of the financial and euro country crisis, a forecast is very difficult. However, we are optimistic that we will be able to continue our long-term success. The most significant capital are our competent and committed employees, who have proven their loyalty to our family business even in difficult times. We owe our success above all to our loyal and long-standing customers around the world, with whom we maintain a cooperative partnership.

FKB GmbH, Oberndorf am Neckar, whose initials stand for “precision engineering”, “plastics processing” and “lighting technology”, is a family-owned company with around 100 employees that manufactures fastening systems for almost all industries and applications. The main customers, apart from the heating, sanitary and solar industries, are mechanical and plant engineering, the wind power industry, shipyards and wagon builders, mobile hydraulics. In one year, the company, which is located between the Black Forest and the Swabian Alb, processes around 1,500 tons of raw material - from unalloyed to high-alloyed steel - to produce fastening elements. Plastic processing produces the classic pipe clamps according to DIN 3015 as well as supplementary products for lighting technology. In the “Techmalux” division, FKB manufactures workplace and machine lights. Wolfgang Schatz has been the sole managing partner since 2011. He took over the management from his mother, who managed the company for 27 years after the death of her husband, the founder of the family business.

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