VOL. 7 March ISSUE YEAR 2006
in Vol. 7 - March Issue - Year 2006
Outsourcing is in!
Marco Heinemann, Head of Sales and Marketing at KST Kugel-Strahltechnik GmbH
Increasing profitability by outsourcing abrasive blasting services. For a long time now, MFN has been eager to interview a member of the corporate board of KST Kugel-Strahltechnik GmbH. KST is one of the largest abrasive blasting contractors in Germany and operates in the heartland, to be exact in the Ruhr Region, with customers all over Germany and beyond. Marco Heinemann, head of sales and marketing at KST, was available to talk and answer questions about this interesting topic.
(?) MFN: Please tell us something about the corporate development of KST.
(!) M. H.: KST was founded in 1982 by my father Eckhard and his brother Eberhard Heinemann. We started our contract blasting services with only one pass-through blasting machine. Both my father and uncle had accumulated the necessary fundamentals whilst working as consultants and salesmen for more than 20 years for a leading German manufacturer of blast abrasives. Shortly after the establishment of KST, we invested in other blasting machines for shot-peening connecting rods and automobile springs. Our current fan blower and compressed air blasting machines, which often were developed and constructed by our own employees, allow us to fulfil almost every single request made by our customers. Now with 30 blasting machines, we are able to offer our customers the most exotic surfaces.
(?) MFN: That sounds like a family business. Is it really like that?
(!) M. H.: You bet, and I believe that the advantages are quite obvious. Customers have direct contact with KST management, which has a particular impact on quality and reliability. As a result, needs, requests or even complaints are addressed immediately. Key functions at KST are filled by family members.
And there is another benefit: Customers and suppliers only have to remember one surname! Some do wonder at first when the phone is answered a second or third time by a Heinemann, but by the nth time they are delighted. One of our corporate principles from the very beginning has been to put our shoulder to the wheel as well, so to speak. That means, not losing track of day-to-day activities and ensuring that our customers are satisfied. Of course, we set the same high standards both for ourselves and our staff, which in turn has resulted in meeting customer requirements as to quality, flexibility and schedule effectiveness.
(?) MFN: Now, let’s talk about outsourcing. What does it entail?
(!) M. H.: Perhaps, I should first break the word down. Outsourcing means nothing more than using outside resources. In other words, services that were once performed in-house are contracted out to independent companies. Over the past few years, outsourcing has become “fashionable” when it comes to efficiency measures and strengthening one’s focus on the core areas of expertise. Outsourcing is not a fad, however, that will disappear after a certain period of time. Rather, it is a vital tool of a profitable company. Typical areas that are outsourced include, e.g., logistics, motor pools, equipment maintenance, commercial cleaning and custodial services, etc. and of course surface engineering with the aid of abrasive blasting technology.
(?) MFN: Is it possible to reduce costs by outsourcing one’s shot-peening needs?
(!) M. H.: Yes, absolutely, since the increasing cost pressure forces companies in all sectors to identify and implement potential ways to save money. Especially when it comes to the rather “bothersome” and sometimes unclean shot-peening process, more and more companies are now focussing on their actual core responsibilities. Many companies do not examine the cost factor of in-house shot-peening. The expenses, which are incurred for shot-peening one finished part, are lumped together in the general costs. Keep in mind though that abrasive blasting machines constantly “destroy” themselves due to their activity. With repair, upkeep and maintenance, we have a main cost factor. Thus, it is necessary to have spare parts on hand and maintenance personnel. Disruptions such as repairs result in downtime, which interrupt or slow down the subsequent stages and unnecessarily increase the total expenditure. Not to forget other significant items like the wages of operating personnel, costs of workshop space and materials usage (abrasive agents), energy costs and costs for waste disposal. All of these things must be calculated, and last but not least the costs for new investments. By outsourcing, customers pass the costs onto KST. They pay a fixed price for each unit, kg, m² or meter and thus their cost accounting remains transparent. If a customer is honest to itself, it will figure out that it is impossible, even for a large-scale factory, to maintain cost-effective in-house solutions. Outsourcing streamlines the internal process of customers, and KST delivers the processing of its products just in time. As I said though, the customer must carefully examine its internal processes and itemise all of its costs as well as be honest, and of course willing to cut costs.
(?) MFN: Is the service limited to any specific sector or product?
(!) M. H.: So far we have been able to offer all of our customers a solution to their problems, and we will strive to do so in the future as well. Customers request KST to supply customised solutions for every part. Optimised production sequences ensure reproducibility and traceability of job orders. Owing to the wide variety of blasting machines and abrasive agents as well as particle sizes, KST is in the position to offer every type of abrasive blasting available. The main areas are, of course, shot-peening, glass bead-blasting, debur-blasting and sand-blasting. Customers expect solutions for all parts. That’s why it is important to know an abrasive blasting contractor that offers all techniques. We blast-clean products coming from foundries, drawing mills, pressing plants and forges, including finished products made of stainless steel, aluminium or brass. On top of that, we take care of parts subject to constant vibrational stress like springs, connecting rods, stabilisers, gear wheels or wheel-set guides as well as products from the electrical industry, valve and fitting sector or even “noble matte” design surfaces with superfine structures. It is always important that customer requirements as to surface strength, roughness, cleanness or design are observed and that these surfaces are reproducible for subsequent orders.
(?) MFN: Does KST have a quality management system?
(!) M. H.: That goes without saying, and we are certified according to EN ISO 9001:2000. Without certification it would be practically impossible to serve the core industries. I also believe that we would not have reached the position that we currently have on the market without certification.
We have also developed technical guidelines and directives for our shot-peening process. These guidelines are called KST shot-peening and comprise 13 pages, covering every important aspect of shot-peening. Starting with area of application and purpose of shot-peening as well as the equipment, abrasive agents, including type, particle shape and size through to blast intensity, test procedures and intervals. The guidelines also contain detailed information about Almen test strips and test blocks, the Almen gauge and DG control. You’ll also find explanations about the screen analysis and saturation curve. Of course, all this information constitutes a basic prerequisite for our employees and for working at KST. They are trained and kept up-to-date with the latest developments in our field.
(?) MFN: Are there any basic requirements for an abrasive blasting contractor?
(!) M. H.: In my opinion, one prerequisite is know-how, of course. There are, however, several other points to consider in our business in order to avoid disappearing like a shooting star in the sky. A blasting contractor should be willing to make short-term investments in machinery and equipment, should be flexible while maintaining complete schedule effectiveness to ensure that business partners do not experience any downtime. We have a 24-hour service in place for rush orders, stand-by duty for emergencies and overnight processing, even on weekends and public holidays, if need be. By the same token, we must also be able to respond extremely quickly in terms of human resources and organisation. This is achieved thanks to our motivated and innovative staff. The majority of our permanent staff has been working for KST for many years and thus are firmly rooted in our company. This offers the advantage that they have a thorough knowledge of the multi-faceted processes of abrasive blasting and identify with their daily work. Be it large lots or one-off processing, our highly motivated staff ensures that customer requests are always satisfied in regard to quality and timeliness.
(?) MFN: In closing, could you please sum up why a customer contracts KST to blast-clean its products?
(!) M. H.: At KST we do not see our customers simply as customers but as partners first and foremost. And in a partnership, both sides work hand in hand. That’s why it is important for partners to be able to rely on each other in order to benefit from outsourcing.
We at MFN would like to thank Mr Heinemann for the interview.
KST Kugel-Strahltechnik GmbH
Volmarsteiner Str. 17, 58089 Hagen, Germany
Tel. +49.02331.9389-0 or ext 17, Fax +49.02331.9389-99