Founded in 2004, TOBSTEEL GmbH has experienced a meteoric rise from a two-man operation to a thriving business with a 9,000m2 warehouse capacity. Editor Will Lowry visited the company’s headquarters in Öhringen, Germany, to find out more about this expert in stainless steel and special materials.
Alexander Gebert, sales director at TOBSTEEL, is very open when it comes to how the company was founded: “It was crucial we differentiated ourselves. There are a lot of stainless steel suppliers in the market, in fact there are a lot in the local area of Germany. We needed something to make us unique, which is why we decided to focus on a small assortment of products but in large quantities. This was our only chance to grow in the market.”
TOBSTEEL focused on stainless steel fasteners, screws, as well as DIN and standard parts – targeting predominately customers in the façade and window frame, aluminium profile, wooden construction, bridge and tunnel construction, solar and offshore, as well as membrane construction markets.
“Initially we started with products in A2 and A4, which was similar to a lot of companies in the market,” mentions Alexander. “However, we realised there was an opportunity for specialist materials that are stronger than A4, such as 1.4571, 1.4462 and 1.4529. These special materials, which are used in extreme everyday applications, require special knowledge, as well as very high and reliable quality. The products have to withstand extreme conditions such as a challenging climate, the huge forces experienced in buildings, and special hygiene requirements. That is why the selected material and quality must be just right. It’s a huge responsibility as a company to ensure you are providing products that reliably meet the necessary standards.”
To guarantee it is providing the perfect solution, TOBSTEEL works closely with its customers on what they need from the products and then it suggests the right class of material. “Quality is very important, as is the trust of the customer,” states Alexander. “We work with multinational companies that have the highest requirements for products and service. At TOBSTEEL we have the knowledge and experience within the company to understand the materials and approvals to provide products that meet these exacting standards.”
TOBSTEEL recently worked with a customer where its knowledge of the the DIBt national technical approval (No. Z-30.3-6) for ‘Products, fasteners and structural components made of stainless steels’, which was introduced in 2014 and gives a clear breakdown of the corrosion resistant classes, helped a customer on a critical application.
“The customer was unaware that the national technical approval (No. Z-30.3-6) states that for applications in a splash water zone with very high chloride content, companies now requires Class IV corrosion resistance. Where exposure of SO² is very high in a road tunnel, corrosion resistance Class V is required and also that load bearing parts in swimming pool atmospheres have to be fixed with materials in CRC 5 (corrosion resistant class),” explains Alexander. “We were able to work with the customer and advised them to use the correct Class of material for the application.”
Alexander adds: “Quality is an important factor in the market, customers need to be confident the products they are receiving meet all the necessary requirements and tests. That is why we also recently added a material analyser machine to our quality department, to add an additional check on the different materials used in our products – to guarantee the highest standards.”
In addition to ensuring the quality of the products, TOBSTEEL also focuses on providing an efficient and effective delivery service. “It is always the situation that a customer needs a product urgently and it is our job to make sure the products are where they need to be. Our customers do not want to be waiting on products, they need them on-site and we ensure delivery. In fact, we can deliver products straight to the construction sites if necessary – helping to shorten the delivery times. Plus, we select the right suppliers for the shortest deliveries for our customers.”
Another key factor in TOBSTEEL’s success is its blend of a young and energetic team, with experience and knowledge of the industry. “At TOBSTEEL we have a lot of passion in what we do and we want to always keep our customers happy,” says Alexander. “They depend on us and we want them to feel safe with us.”
Having established itself within the sector, what is the next step for the company? “If you had asked me ten years ago if we would be sat in a new building, with 74 employees and a 9,000m² warehouse, I wouldn’t have believed it. We have always been ambitious and we have developed a lot in the last 13 years. We are growing with our customers – who are involved in a lot of projects for the future – and we are looking to continue to grow. Our customers trust us and we can offer them the flexibility they need, but also importantly we are a dependable partner for the future.”
TOBSTEEL can provide a variety of special materials including:
A5 (1.4571 – AISI 316Ti): A5 steels are more resistant to corrosion because they are alloyed with titanium (>5xC to max 0.8%) for stabilisation. They also belong to resistance Class III. They are used in inadequate constructions and constructions with moderate levels of chlorides and sulphur dioxide.
1.4462 (AISI 318 LN) Duplex: Steels of 1.4462 grade belong to the stainless austenitic-ferritic high grade steels. The ferritic high grade steels, known as chromium steels, are steels with a chromium content between 12% – 18% and a very low carbon content (<0.2%).
These steels combine the greater strength of ferritic chromium steels with the corrosion resistance of austenitic chromium nickel steels. Belonging to resistance Class IV, steel grade 1.4462 offers particular good resistance to pitting and intergranular corrosion. This high corrosion protection, coupled with the favourable mechanical properties, means that it can be used for a huge number of purposes.
1.4529 HCR (High Corrosion Resistant): This is the highest of stainless austenitic high grade steels and therefore offers particularly good resistance to chlorine-induced stress corrosion (in accordance with DIN EN ISO 3506) and to local signs of corrosion such as pitting or crevice corrosion. The 1.4529 steel grade therefore also belongs to the highest resistant Class V.
Will joined Fastener + Fixing Magazine in 2007 and over the last 10 years has experienced every facet of the fastener sector - interviewing key figures within the industry and visiting leading companies and exhibitions around the globe.
Will manages the content strategy across all platforms and is the guardian for the high editorial standards that the Magazine is renowned.