200 Years of Innovation
Project Manager:Tom Arnold
Boasting 200 years of operations in the Czech Republic and a subsequent status as one of the country’s oldest metal producing companies, Strojmetal Aluminium Forging is leveraging the strengths of its three innovative business arms to retain a strong sense of modernity in a stereotypically traditional industry.
Comprising ICE Industrial Services and CAN SUPERCONDUCTORS to complete the market-leading line-up, Strojmetal’s production of high quality aluminium forgings - as well as machining and assembling - has gone from strength to strength in recent years through the balanced adoption of increased automation and enhanced human labour skills. And as a consequence of this all-encompassing approach, the resultant products continue to attract the world’s elite.
“The Company now employs 430 people and has its own integrated tool shop,” Strojmetal’s Managing Director (MD), Andre Materne says. “Key customers include well-established partners like Daimler, ZF, THK, Schaeffler, Raufoss and Aston Martin. In addition, well-known end customers such as BMW, Audi, Porsche, Fiat-Chrysler and Jaguar Land Rover, are all supplied by our Tier 1 customers.
“Our product range concentrates on aluminium forging products of almost any design and almost any volume. Our products are used in automotive chassis, powertrain, decorative and industrial applications as well as in the mass transportation segment. New production lines allow the Company to also supply automotive parts above three kilograms; for example, front axle knuckles and rear axle wheel carriers.”
Placing unrivalled emphasis on R&D across all of its aluminium and alloy applications, the resultant flexibility and customisability that Strojmetal is able to offer facilitates similarly enhanced problem solving capabilities and an entirely bespoke relationship enjoyed with each individual partner. Compounding this differentiator even more is the Company’s refusal to stand still in the sector, with it always on the lookout for new solutions and new products to meet the future needs of its equally innovative clients.
“In recent years, we have expanded our product range, in particular with the machining and assembling of rubber bearings,” Materne offers as an example. “We already supply customers such as Aston Martin and Daimler with some of these assembled components.
“The longstanding, trusted cooperation with customers and the very good personal relationships with the suppliers, research facilities and universities are important elements in continuing the Company’s growth trajectory.”
An attractive partner
Initially founded back in 1822 as a producer of brass kettle distilleries and breweries, its forging operations didn’t begin until 1928. The following decades saw a nationalisation of the Company, a role in manufacturing defence applica-tions, and the Company’s privatisation in 1998; before Strojmetal in its current guise was confirmed in 2013.
“Now, Strojmetal Aluminium Forging is a 100 percent Czech-owned Company with production and process development taking place in Kamenice and the marketing and sales office situated in Singen,” Materne continues. “As such, the Company concentrates on five major elements in its present day strategy.”
The first of these is a dedication to 100 percent quality despite the large volumes produced. To enforce this element, huge quantities of safety equipment are sold to customers.
An integrated ERP system ensures uncompromising punctuality across its 300 different products and regular new start-ups and prototypes, driven by an entrepreneurial closeness across its production, planning and project management teams.
Thirdly, “the Company must generate enough risk capital to implement innovative processes in new plant engineering. The financially-balanced situation is very important for innovative enterprises like Strojmetal”, Materne adds. “Only with a financeable growth strategy can the Company remain an attractive partner for customer demands in the future.
“Strojmetal also has to understand the market in detail. To this end, the attractiveness of individual market segments must be clearly elucidated. Developments are included at an early stage across our management decisions, our flat enterprise hierarchy, and our short decision-making processes to allow for high flexibility.”
The final element focuses on domestic process development in order to remain a sustainable business across its innovative production lines, and to meet this requirement, Strojmetal coordinates closely in regards to its plant concepts with machine builders and its ICE arm.
Underpinning each of these strategies are a host of annual investments to keep the business moving forward on an internal note, and in line with the most contemporary of industry trends for the sake of its customers.
“We have invested in seven fully-automated forging lines during the past few years, with integrated heat treatment and surface treatment processes and a tailored controlled planning system all included,” Materne states. “The lines are mainly designed by our engineering department while the automation of forging processes and heat treatment is secured by 88 ABB robots.”
Complementing each and every new inception of automation and every technological improvement is a highly-skilled workforce bringing the personable element back to a Company that has always prided itself on positive relationships and flexible collaboration.
Given the highly specialised area that Strojmetal is operating within though, there is inevitably a heightened focus on specific training and development to compound this personable advantage.
“Strojmetal puts together a special training agenda for our blue and white collar employees in the Czech Republic, Materne details. “The training for the automated lines is done on a dedicated robot cell, and R&D and engineering work is carried out closely with the Czech Technical University in Prague and dedicated research centres in Czech Republic and Germany.
“In addition to this agenda, the German site in Singen started a junior management programme for the younger generation of employees in 2016.”
The formation of new apprenticeships will facilitate this ongoing flow of new artisans even more concertedly in the future, allowing Strojmetal to be more effectively on the pulse of all new trends dictating the market over the coming years.
In recent times, such trends have largely revolved around regional fluctuations, as Materne explains: “Due to the globalisation of the automotive market and our global-acting key customers, we were able to increase overseas exports by up to 20 percent of our total revenues.
“Long-term relations in North America and Asia have given us a good insight into the respective market mechanisms and if the political and economic circumstances in the respective markets are positive and justify a long-term investment, we can imagine further production facilities there.”
Notions of more concerted vertical integration and a stricter adherence to eco friendliness present Strojmetal with vital areas of consideration moving forward, as the Company strives to honour the past 200 years of innovation and reinvention with even more extensive and successful developments still to look forward to.
“Strojmetal Aluminium Forging is one of the most innovative companies in this market,” the MD concludes. “The Company was named the most innovative Company in central Bohemia in 2016 and this focus on innovation, quality, in-time supply and highly flexible production for all volume sizes is compounded by a huge range of aluminium forged products to attract customers.
“Strojmetal will continue to follow this way with new intelligent solutions over the next five years and beyond, with a clear and defined strategy for investment activities in order to ensure higher performance