A quarter of a century has elapsed since Guido Piras and his wife Monika founded Piras Metalltechnik GmbH & Co. KG in the picturesque Fichtel Mountains. Having started out as a small contract manufacturing firm, the company, which is located in the tranquil village of Weißenstadt (population 3,000) today has 25 employees and offers customers from a wide range of sectors in Germany and further afield innovative complete solutions in mechanical engineering, metal technology, electrical engineering, automation and special machine construction. With its modern, diversified machine park, the company covers a wide range of production processes and batch sizes, and manufactures almost 100% of its products in house. Guido Piras swears by the company’s three German CNC machining centres from HEDELIUS.
Returning to their roots
At first glance, the company premises of Piras Metalltechnik GmbH & Co. KG look relatively inconspicuous: a production hall with an adjoining office wing, plus a few parking spaces outside the entrance. In the reception area, Guido Piras points to a framed photograph, which shows a dilapidated building, ripe for demolition.
A mistake, surely? Not at all: “We have this so that we don’t forget what we’ve already achieved together here,” he says with pride.
The building was the old premises of his former training enterprise, to which he returned to found Piras Metalltechnik GmbH & Co. KG on 1 June 1995. After years of standing empty, the building complex, built in the early 20th century, was in a derelict state. Yet Piras and it employees bravely accepted the challenge and proceeded to set up an independent concern.
At the outset, the company dedicated itself almost exclusively to contract manufacturing. “At that point, there were only four of us,” says the company’s founder, recalling the challenges of those early years. It was not uncommon for them to plough on into the night in order to get orders ready in time. Yet their endeavours paid off and their customer base and workforce multiplied.
As they grew, the company’s range of services soon came to cover special machine construction. As far as Piras was concerned, this was a logical development, not to mention a return to his own roots: before starting up his own company, he worked in this sector for twelve and a half years, acquiring considerable knowledge along the way.
A cutting-edge CNC machine park
The purchase of the first CNC machine in 1998 marked a real milestone in the company’s history. Piras had long been fascinated by the technology: “I was a fan even back in the 80s,” he smiles. Since then, the range of CNC-controlled machining centres has steadily grown in his company’s halls. “We regularly invest in our machine park in order to ensure the high quality of our production over the long term and live up to the ever-increasing requirements of our customers,” he says.
The necessary space for the fleet was created by two hall extensions in 2002 and 2013.
Two HEDELIUS machines in one year
The second expansion finally cleared the way for the acquisition of the company’s first two HEDELIUS machines: the compact 5-axis RS 505K machining centre, followed by the RS 805 K23, a real all-rounder, later that same year. “We invested in a lot of things that year, but both models have proven their worth ever since and are still being used to this day,” enthuses Piras. The RS 805 K23 in particular had been on his wish list for a long time due to its versatility: “Not only did it allow us to machine long workpieces with precision, but we were also able to manufacture series components more efficiently in pendulum mode,” he explains, alluding to the increased challenges of flexibility in production.
From the very outset, both machines included a 180-slot standby magazine that automates the tools required and makes them available for use within seconds. “We were hugely impressed by the standby magazine, as hardly anyone else was offering anything like that at the time,” says Piras, acknowledging the massive cost and time savings that can be achieved for a wide range of products by eliminating the need to change tools manually.
TILTENTA 9-3600 flagship machine
Given this background, it is hardly surprising that the company’s third HEDELIUS machine, a TILTENTA 9-3600 purchased in November 2019, also featured a standby magazine. With its large travel distances of 3600 x 900 x 900 mm (X/Y/Z), it is the biggest machining centre in the fleet to date. Dominik Schöffel works on the new TILTENTA 9-3600 almost every day. The machine operator is familiar with the high level of reliability that it provides, having also worked with the other two models. “Everything works just the way you want it to,” he says. Equipped with a 6th horizontal axis, the TILTENTA 9-3600 is typical of the flexibility and precision that characterise production at Piras.
The high proportion of products manufactured in house, at almost 100%, means that the company does not depend on suppliers and can guarantee consistently high product quality. Piras attests to his company’s performance: “Everything produced here has been made on our watch,” he assures us. From the creation of tailored solution concepts to their actual implementation, the company handles all of the steps in the value chain itself. Custom and series components are produced, sometimes in unusual shapes, and in a wide variety of dimensions and batch sizes. When it comes to special machine construction, there is particular demand for highly complex components, which can be manufactured to reliably high quality standards using the TILTENTA 9-3600. The ability to apply front-face machining to long workpieces with precision has paid off time and time again.
Piras special clamping devices
The company is currently using the machine to produce and test items including a new, in-house clamping system for pivoting spindle machines with flexible clamping jaws. These are also designed to be compatible with components produced by leading manufacturers of clamping tools. “We have designed the special clamping device as a direct result of our practical experience. That’s why we’re confident that it will prove a hit with many other users,” says machine operator Stefan Lautenbacher, summing up current in-house developments. Anyone interested in learning more about the manufacture of custom-made products is welcome to get in touch with the company, adds Piras.
“You sense that they’re really thinking actively about your needs”
Piras first became aware of HEDELIUS back when he was employed by a different company. “I can clearly remember a RotaSwing ad in MaschinenMarkt magazine: even just the look of it really appealed to me,” he recalls, “and that’s still the case today.” Importantly, however, he now appreciates the technical features of the three machining centres, too: “Flexibility is paramount for us, and the HEDELIUS lives up to that 100%,” he says. High praise for the engineering expertise of the Emsland-based firm.
He now knows that the overall picture is completed by “superb service”: “We feel very well looked after here. Our machines are serviced on a regular basis, and we can always rely on help being provided rapidly in the event of any issues,” he says. Piras has also received exemplary customer service from HEDELIUS following his latest acquisition: “You sense that they’re really thinking actively about your needs, as the TILTENTA 9 design is a resounding success once again.”
Complete trust in HEDELIUS, a family-run business
This combination of German workmanship and reliable, personal support has proven a key to success for Piras: “That’s why we prefer to buy from family-run businesses like HEDELIUS,” he explains.
Indeed, the Meppen-based firm belongs to a select group: “We try to limit ourselves to as few manufacturers as possible, so as to increase flexibility among our employees and make it easier for them to apply their skills to different machines in the course of their everyday work,” says Piras, adding, “That’s why we also prefer to use Siemens controls.”
At present, he is not planning any further acquisitions, he says, but he intends to remain loyal to HEDELIUS in future.
25 years of Piras Metalltechnik
The 25th anniversary of the founding of the family-run company is just around the corner, making this a good opportunity for Guido Piras to thank his entire staff for their commitment: “We’re very lucky to have first-class people working for us, who are always willing to expand their skills, and whom we have depended for years.” He is also grateful to his wife, Monika, who has taken over the running of the administrative side of things as Commercial Director, for her involvement and huge help in “easing the burden”.
Although being an independent firm has sometimes meant considerable and constant pressure, there’s been plenty of opportunity to enjoy life, too. Outside of work, the managing director is a real music lover, “I’m your typical 80s electrobopper,” he reveals. He has sung and played guitar and double bass for his band for 38 years, so the next anniversary is already upon us.