Persoverzicht - „Die zijn net als wij.“
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LEMKEN, a manufacturer of agricultural machinery, has had a comfortable relationship with machine manufacturer HEDELIUS for five years already. For both SMEs, proximity to the customer is part of the corporate culture.
„We supply urgently needed replace parts to our customers within 24 hours, and so does HEDELIUS’, say Andreas Gestal and Karl Heinz Burchartz with one voice. Gestal heads the manufacturing and installation departments at Lemken, which is located in the city of Alpen in the Lower Rhine region fifty kilometres northwest of Düsseldorf. His colleague Burchartz is responsible for the machining department at the same site.
LEMKEN is a leading European manufacturer of agricultural machinery, and it is highly regarded beyond the borders of the continent for its ‘reliability, technology and comprehensive customer support’, according to the company’s website. Lemken has 750 employees. ‘We are proud to work for a company that has been a family-run business for 227 years and operates with a very high level of mutual trust’, says Andreas Gestal.
In Germany alone, one out of every three rotary ploughs and one out of every three cultivators prominently displays the six letters of the Lemken name in large white characters against a background of bright blue paint. Nine thousand professional machines for soil cultivation, seeding and pesticide application leave the family-owned business every year, including ploughs, cultivators, seed preparation equipment, power harrows, drilling machines, and field sprayers. They all have one thing in common: they are subjected to heavy demands. Even in sandy, hard and dry soils, they must work reliably for many years and create the basis for high crop yields. In other words, what counts in the field are the hardness and wear resistance of the component materials, along with a certain amount of resilience.
‘For many components, we use special steels with hardness values as high as 65 HRC. Machining with cutting tools is generally not possible with a hardness of 60 HRC or above. Not everyone can drill or mill holes in such materials’, says Karl Heinz Burchartz.
The tines of the Lemken Thorit cultivator, for example, are made from a steel of this sort with high wear resistance. A machine tool bearing the red and white HEDELIUS colours drills several holes in each blank. Round the clock and day after day, with perfectly reliable precision. ‘Long-term precision’, as they like to say at the Meppen (Lower Saxony) headquarters of machine-tool builder HEDELIUS. The machine tool is a vertical travelling-column CNC machining centre from the RS 100 family. While one workpiece is being machined in the left-hand part of the machine, the two large sliding doors on the right-hand side can be opened with a pushbutton so the operator can clamp the next workpiece in place. Thanks to this shuttle operation, the machine works without interruption.
Non-productive ancillary times are reduced to a minimum. ‘The HEDELIUS is fast, flexible, and above all very precise. That makes it a perfect choice for our product line’, according to Burchartz. And he adds, ‘It runs like greased lightning!’
A stable machine with low vibration
For machining extremely hard materials, it is important for the machine to be especially stable and very stiff, and for vibrations to be damped by optimum matching of all the components. Here as well, the machining specialists at Lemken are more than satisfied with the mature design of the HEDELIUS machining centres. Incidentally, the decision to buy a particular machine results from a fully democratic process at Lemken. The family-owned business is a firm believer in open, trustful communication with its employees and business partners. When a new machine is needed, department manager Karl Heinz Burchartz meets with the machine operators and discusses the performance requirements for the machine. This process also lay behind the purchase of the HEDELIUS BC 100. During a group visit to the supplier’s premises in Meppen, the future operators could see how the highly motivated employees use the very latest technology to give the machining centres their precision, cutting capacity and reliability. Quality assurance is taken very seriously in the company, which aims for perfection. Every HEDELIUS machine is rigorously tested and inspected in more than 300 individual steps before delivery to the customer.
What the Lemken machine operators especially like is that all HEDELIUS machining centres are designed ergonomically and provide fast, easy access to the clamping fixtures and tools. Everything is perfectly matched to the operator – the height of the machine table, the doors, the operator control panel, and the pivoting NC terminal. Control and monitoring devices, such as tool checking with a laser, tool service life monitoring, tool wear checking, 3D probes, and motor-driven doors, increase the level of production automation and preclude operator errors.
A partner to the SME sector
For Dennis Hempelmann, sales manager of HEDELIUS Maschinenfabrik, close contact with customers is a basic premise. His motto is to not only respond to customer needs, but also ensure that they have a direct influence on product development. This is reflected by the fact that the innovation-oriented enterprise invests nearly five percent of its sales revenue in research and development. ‘Innovation without a cooperative relationship with our customers? That doesn’t work’, is Hempelmann’s firm opinion. ‘We are close to our customers and their needs. Customers are more than just numbers to us. We consider it important to have good personal contact with our customers and answer their questions promptly.’
As a medium-sized company with 130 employees, HEDELIUS knows how other SMEs think. Hempelmann: ‘We regard ourselves as a genuine partner to SMEs.’ Besides trustful partnership and a very personal approach, what makes HEDELIUS attractive for the SME sector is its excellent price/performance ratio. This is no coincidence, but instead a direct result of the corporate strategy of the machine builder. Several years ago, managing directors Gerhard and Jürgen Hempelmann adopted the ‘platform strategy’ used in the automotive industry. ‘This means that we work in a highly rational manner with standardised modules that we can combine to produce high-performance machining centres to meet every demand’, explains Gerhard Hempelmann. ‘We have one of the most extensive modular machine systems, which makes almost everything possible. As a result, expensive custom solutions are hardly ever necessary.’
Service as a purchasing criterion
The Meppen-based company delivered the first HEDELIUS machine to Alpen five years ago, and now six ultra-modern CNC machining centres in various performance classes are in constant use at Lemken. Hardly any out-of-service time has occurred up to now. It thus comes as no surprise that Andreas Gestal rates the service provided by machine supplier HEDELIUS as ‘exemplary’. He can confirm the ’95 percent machine availability in the standard package’ advertised by the Meppen company. ‘At least 95 percent’, he says. ‘When we need them, they’re there. With the replacement parts.’
Meppen-based HEDELIUS Maschinenfabrik was founded in 1967, and it currently has 130 employees. Under the leadership of Gerhard and Jürgen Hempelmann, the family-owned business has specialised in vertical travelling-column CNC machining centres. Its extensive range of machines encompasses three-axis, four-axis and five-axis machines in shuttle and combination models, and the machines are marketed throughout Europe. By now, one out of every ten travelling-column machining centres in Europe is a HEDELIUS unit. The company’s customers include machine manufacturers and their suppliers in the following sectors: agricultural engineering, the textile industry, the aviation industry, vehicle construction, packaging, lifting equipment, household appliances, manufacturers of blow-forming machines, manufacturers of cutting tools, and many more.
Highly successful: one out of every three cultivators in Germany comes from LEMKEN, a long-established family-owned business.
Extremely hard: LEMKEN uses extremely hard steels for parts such as these cultivator tines. This imposes special stiffness and vibration damping requirements machine tools such as the HEDELIUS unit.
Fully satisfied: machine operator Willem Goossen praises fast, simple access to the clamping fixtures and tools.
Customer proximity in practice: LEMKEN production managers Andreas Gestal (left) and Karl Heinz Burchartz (right) and HEDELIUS sales manager Dennis Hempelmann believe in short communication paths and prompt service.