Mr. Horst Schmitt (Left Side) and Mr. Ralph Lutz (Right Side), Both Managing Directors of Laeis GmbH
Refwin: Founded in 1860, LAEIS GmbH is a leading supplier of state-of-the-art hydraulic presses for the production of refractories and various applications worldwide. Could you please introduce the corporate developmental history and your key achievements in the past five years?
Mr. Horst Schmitt: LAEIS proudly looks back on more than 160 years of company history. This is a remarkably long period of time, even for European standards - especially in the field of mechanical engineering. The consistency in our market field is no less impressive. In fact, LAEIS developed the first press for the production of refractory bricks as early as 1878, the same year Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. Today, over a century later, we are undisputed technology leaders thanks to consistent further developments and to our unique know-how.
While heading towards this status, LAEIS has always stood out as an innovation driver and technology pioneer. One milestone, for example, has been the development of the HPF double-pressure principle, which still is state of the art in the production of shaped refractory products today. Another ground-breaking innovation is the “sandwich” pressing process for sliding gate plates, which allows to combine high-performance material with low-cost supporting material. But there is more: our process for the manufacturing of thin-walled pipes on refractory presses, a press for the production of glass tundish bricks weighing up to 700 kg, in addition to the implementation of the Industry 4.0 standard, and the modern, economical energy management to optimize costs, make us proud too. Last but not least, there is of course the fact that since 2004, LAEIS has joined the SACMI Group and become a central part of it, enriching its wide range of products.
Refwin: Just lately, POSCO Chemical, Intocast and IBAR select LAEIS as their supplier of hydraulic presses in the new projects. No doubt your hydraulic press has been dominating a large market share globally. Which factors do you think contribute to the big success and what are advantages and highlights of your products?
Mr. Ralph Lutz: Undoubtedly, the outstanding products quality, which is inseparably linked to their durability, efficiency, and energy saving. Moreover, the adoption of our presses usually results in the optimization of operating costs for our customers. Another essential benefit is our exceptionally tight relationship with our customers: it allows us to develop our products together with the end users and to bring out the best, while meeting their specific needs. Many of our machines are tailor-made, and after the sale, our ultimate and fast service, as well as a stable spare parts supply, always guarantee the high availability of each machine.
Refwin: Since 2004, LAEIS GmbH becomes a member of SACMI Group. How do you make synergy to further boost your development?
Mr. Ralph Lutz: Thanks to the acquisition by SACMI, LAEIS reaches the global dimension deserved by its machines. We benefit from the worldwide SACMI network in procurement, production and service. On the other hand, we achieve great results directly in terms of maximum flexibility in the machine production, advantage taken from cross-group synergies, and intensive technology transfer between the REFRACTORIES, POWDER METAL, and TECHNICAL CERAMICS divisions. The TEAM by SACMI cooperation combines these effects and brings together the competences of each individual company. The most important result is that we can offer customers integral services and solution concepts, from product development and planning to the realization of a complete plant.
Refwin: Your success is our challenge” is the service concept of LAEIS, showing your customer-oriented attitude. From which facets are you improving your service capacity all along?
Mr. Horst Schmitt: Also in this case, our approach is driven by the core concept of Industry 4.0. Our presses are equipped with an extensive sensor technology as foundation for a comprehensive information management. Thus, in cooperation with our customers, we always have the possibility to collect information about the condition, production data, product qualities and energy consumption of each machine in real time. These data form the basis for a shared production and knowledge database, which allows the customer to order spare parts in advance or initiate and carry out preventive maintenance. This ensures a long, trouble-free lifetime for the machines, perfectly complemented by the use of new media and communication channels, as well as comprehensive online support from our service technicians.
Refwin: Other than hydraulic press sector, LAEIS also lays out the presence in mixers, kilns and dryers, handling and automation as well as turnkey projects. Could you please introduce your business evolution in these fields?
Mr. Ralph Lutz: LAEIS has decades of experience in pressing and mixing technology, kiln construction as well as automation and control technology. Also in this field, we are able to offer our customers complete and intelligent solutions - be it in shaping, automation, heat treatment, unloading and quality control or packaging and labelling. LAEIS systems are characterized by uniform control and regulation concepts, by maximally coordinated functional sequences and by trouble-free interfaces. In cooperation with our subsidiary ALPHA CERAMICS, we can also support our customers in their product and process development. This integral approach, combined with a considerable percentage of our own components and machines, ensures extremely high quality for the later production right from the start.
Refwin: Amidst pandemic, a host of industrial sectors get affected including refractories industry. Do you also face challenge at this special stage and what measures have you taken to counteract its influence?
Mr. Ralph Lutz: Worldwide service, constant availability and closeness to our customers are key factors in our corporate philosophy. The pandemic and the resulting restricted travel possibilities for our service technicians have basically defined new requirements in this area. It has been necessary to implement sustainable changes and a consistent rethinking of the entire customer relationship management. LAEIS firstly introduced future-oriented communication channels and heavily relied on tele-service, video-based online support and data transfer. In addition, we were able to increase our capacities through predictive purchasing and warehouse management. This system ensures that our customers are supplied with spare parts at short notice, even in cases, such as the current raw material shortage.
Refwin: LAEIS’ sales network is cosmopolitan. What’s your sales strategy to further expand your business? Which countries and regions do you regard as major increasing markets in next three years?
Mr. Horst Schmitt: LAEIS customers are and have always been distributed worldwide and global market cultivation have therefore always been an important focus – but, of course, investments in the different regions are variable. Thanks to our area sales managers and our worldwide network of local representatives, we maintain continuous proximity to customers and can thus react flexibly and at short notice to market developments.
Refwin: Building on previous question, does LAEIS have expansion and acquisition plans in upcoming years to better meet market demands?
Mr. Horst Schmitt: In the long term, we aim to consolidate our leading position in the refractories sector. In view of this, it is important to expand new and innovative applications based on existing technologies. One example is the complete new development and very successful market launch of electrically driven presses for technical ceramics and for the production of hard metal products. In this field, we currently offer presses with a pressing force of 10, 20 and 80 tons, and the range is still continuously expanding and being refined. The selection is furtherly completed by a wide range of accessories, such as the implementation of multiple axes, cross-pressing equipment or unloading automation. We see ourselves as a technology provider who acts, instead of reacting. With innovative strength, high development potential and competent service, our goal are for sure maximum target-oriented engineering and solutions, that bring our customers economic success and decisive advantages.
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