R+FK Schulte is a family owned washer manufacturer that is taking on the challenge of becoming a ‘one stop shop’ for both standard and special washers – looking to utilise its ability to produce parts quickly and cost-effectively with ‘Made in Germany’ quality.
R+FK Schulte points out that its capability to offer such a wide range of standard and special washers – from 0.05mm up to 12mm – is down to three vital elements: The machines, the tools and the employees. “It is vital as a business you are able to meet the demands of your customers and produce a wide variety of quality products,” states Carl Philip Schulte, deputy CEO at R+FK Schulte. “To do this you need to have the right machinery capabilities, which is why we previously added an 800 tonne stamping machine – to add to our core competence in stamping parts; make us more productive; and improve the cost-efficiency of producing larger washers.”
An important part of R+FK Schulte’s production is its tooling capabilities, with the company recently increasing the capacity of the tooling department, as well as creating more space for machinery and additional employees. “Tooling has previously been one of the bottlenecks for the stamping sector,” mentions Carl Philip. “This means the design and quality of the tooling can play an essential role in the production process.”
The company’s tooling knowledge and experience also plays a crucial role in its ability to work with customers on special parts. “We have two sides of the business – standard parts and special parts. For standard products it is about meeting the specifications and producing large quantities at a set quality. However, for specials you need 100% controlled parts with zero defect targets,” explains Peter Schlütter, sales manager at R+FK Schulte. “That is why the whole business is involved in the process. Our quality department highlights potential concerns with a drawing; the tool shop makes the technical evaluation on what tooling is required; production looks at the production cycle and how it can ideally be produced; the purchasing and the sales department makes a commercial evaluation depending on any special materials required; and finally the proposal is made to the customer.”
When evaluating the feasibility of a special part the experience of the tooling is a crucial factor in the overall process. “Customers can come to us with a small sketch or finished drawing and we can evaluate this and work with them on whether the part could be produced by stamping. A lot of the time, with only a few minor changes, a part that is normally turned or hot forged can be stamped,” adds Peter. “For parts from 6mm – 12mm, we are very competitive and with only a few slight changes or adjusted tolerances we can reduce the price significantly – sometimes up to 90% – whilst still guaranteeing the quality.”
Improving the knowledge of its customers on the capabilities of stamping parts, and the efficiencies of the stamping process, is a key target for R+FK Schulte. “We have been involved with many new projects for special parts and we have steadily grown with the manufacturers and end users on the design,” explains Carl Philip. “After every project we analyse what we learnt and how we can improve for the future.”
Carl Philip continues: “Whilst we are growing our special parts market, we are still very committed to standard parts. The standard market has been very strong in general – all over Europe – and we look to ensure we are always able to meet market demand and guarantee efficient lead times. As a business we live in two worlds – the standard world, which is super competitive and repetitive business that is very focused on cost efficiency. The other world is more bespoke and technically demanding, not only in the construction of the production, but also the production process itself. You have to work on it every day and every week.”
Just as important as the parts is the delivery to customers. “We work daily on our delivery service,” states Peter. “This sounds easy, but it is not. It is daily work to ensure we do not grow a back log of deliveries. Three or four years ago we decided to really focus on delivery times, especially with our own staff – so they understand the mindset behind the target. We need to be competitive within the market, and delivery is a big factor. Obviously, price is always crucial, especially for standard parts. However, other factors that are imperative include reliability and the trustworthiness of the business, as well as shorter lead times. At R+FK Schulte we believe these factors are key to retaining and growing business.”
At Fastener Fair Stuttgart R+FK Schulte plans on meeting with both new and existing customers to showcase the company’s products and capabilities. “Fastener Fair Stuttgart is a great network opportunity for us and enables us to interact with customers and find out how they are doing,” concludes Carl Philip. “Through our improved production and in-depth standard and special parts ranges, as well as our worldwide service options, we offer a high class service. We want to be the number one for quality, reliability, teamwork and customised service.”
Find R+FK Schulte at Fastener Fair Stuttgart on Stand 3.2070
Will joined Fastener + Fixing Magazine in 2007 and over the last 12 years has experienced every facet of the fastener sector - interviewing key figures within the industry and visiting leading companies and exhibitions around the globe.
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