A more intensely competitive market than ever before with increasing competition from Asia and ever higher demands on products’ characteristics - these are the challenges facing Schoeller Werk, the tube expert from the Eifel region of Western Germany. How does a premium manufacturer of longitudinally welded tubes go about meeting the current challenges?
We spoke with Peter Bilstein, the managing director of Schoeller Werk, about the location of the company’s headquarters in Hellenthal, the competition from Asia and the future development of the company.
Reporter: You’ve been the managing director of Schoeller Werk since July 2015. How do you take stock of the events of the last year?
Managing Director Peter Bilstein: At present, Schoeller Werk is a leading international premium manufacturer of longitudinally welded stainless steel tubes. We offer our customers everything from a single source, ranging from technical advice to application-specific product development and tube production, to quality testing conformant with guidelines and even providing logistical services.
But we have also noticed that our customers have increasingly high demands of our tubes and our services, whether it relates to increasing compressive strength while reducing wall thickness or to logistics. When it comes to our product development, we are establishing consolidated development partnerships with our customers in order to be able to introduce our material and production know-how to the process at an early stage. That’s why this year we reorganized our sales department, and created the new Technical Sales and Business Development departments.
How do you want to develop the company?
Every year we invest a sum in excess of 10 million euros in the development of our products, the modernization of our machine fleet and the equipment of the brand-new Technology and Testing Centre.
At Schoeller Werk we follow the motto of “profit and growth”. We want to use this allocation of priorities to exploit and expand our market potential to boost our profitability. This especially applies when considering the processing of the tubes. Thanks to the varied forms of our fixed-length products and finishing processes, we offer our customers a fully-finished component.
There are a great many tube manufacturers. How is your company different from those of your competitors?
Schoeller Werk differs from our competition principally because of its exceedingly broad range of TIG and laser-welded stainless steel tubes with an enormous depth of production. We manufacture our tubes in standard and fixed lengths, or even as coils, in various materials, measurements and designs. Each year we deliver 90 million metres of tubes - that’s enough to reach twice around the world.
With this broad and deep production range we can be sure to fulfil all the requirements of our customers. Through our close contact with strip manufacturers, we can upon request also offer material solutions specific to a particular customer. This is the basis from which we work to provide our customers with the optimum advice to help them choose the material best suited to their specific needs.
For our international customers, having a partnership with a reliable and financially strong family business is also an important factor. This means we are able to guarantee our customers long-term stability and continuity throughout our collaboration.
Schoeller Werk is a family-owned business with deep roots in the Eifel region. What do you like about this location special?
Hellenthal has been the centre of our operation for the last 190 years. Successive generations of families have worked for our company, which is one of the greatest strengths of Schoeller Werk.
We find ourselves in the fortunate position of being able to attract ample numbers of new trainees and potential managers. Many young employees who complete their training with us go on to study further and then return to Schoeller Werk.
This makes us very proud, and shows us that we are an attractive employer in the region. Our experienced specialists and managers are our most important asset against competition from Asia.
How do you assess the growing competition from overthere? How do you - specialist for longitudinally welded pipes - the current challenges?
Thanks to our know-how and our experience, we are consistently able to develop our production technology and our product portfolio even further. This is how we are able to position ourselves on the market as a premium manufacturer.
The high quality of our products and our advice even convinces customers from China, as “Made in Germany” still counts for something over there.
At Schoeller Werk we follow a zero-error philosophy, meaning we are able to offer our customers consistently high-quality products and a reliable service performance. Not every tube manufacturer is able to claim as much.
Mr Bilstein, thank you very much for your time!