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Interview

"ProcessMonitoring is an extremely important technology for the German fastener industry“

Frank Naumann, 63, is the Managing Director of the German Fasteners Association with its headquarters  in Hagen. The joining technology expert has been active in the sector in various functions for almost 40 years. At first in the former GDR and later on as joining technology specialist in Neuss. In 1999, Naumann was named Managing Director of the association.

What is the situation of the German fastener industry in 2007?

Naumann: Not bad. In 2006, we increased screw production by 8.8 percent to 662,000 tons. The volume has even risen more significantly, which, at its core, may reflect on the high demand in the steel industry and corresponding increases in steel prices. We didn't have any insolvencies in the past year, which is also a positive sign. The margin situation, however, remains a bit tense. Screw manufacturers are in the difficult position between the steel industry with its high price demands on one side, and the car manufacturers with their cost reduction philosophy on the other.

Does the joining technology industry have any future at all in Germany?

Naumann: Yes, as long as the industry remains as flexible as it is at the present time. For this, we must fulfill the high demands of the automotive industry, above all. And this with installation-friendly and reliable products, first-class quality and stable processes that can guarantee this quality. Naturally, we can also set ourselves apart from the rest of the world with our innovative strength. This relates to the use of new materials such as aluminum screws, which are much lighter yet just as stable. It relates to screws with special friction properties that improve both function and assembly of the fastening elements with a simultaneous enhancement in their resistance to corrosion. Or perhaps the so-called intelligent screws, on which important manufacturing and assembly data is applied to the surface and is retrievable at any time.

What impact has globalization had on the German fastener industry?

Naumann: More than anything else, it means opportunity. We can open up new markets with our fastening elements. Globalization will become a threat only when the user company purchasing departments start paying attention only to price and no longer to quality.

Then competition from the so-called low-wage countries has no role to play?

Naumann: It actually does play a role, but only on the periphery and in very few areas. For example, our member companies deliver only up to 15 percent directly to the retail market. Manufacturer competition from low-wage countries is naturally greater in this setting than in the automotive industry. Nevertheless, there are members who have successfully competed in the hard retail market with high-quality brand articles and yet still produce in Germany.

How do they do it?

Naumann: With high productivity. The German fastener industry has doubled its productivity in the last ten years alone. Of course, the automation of production steps and the standardization of processes play an elementary role.

Does this mean the use of technologies such as ProcessMonitoring, as well?

Naumann: Yes, of course. ProcessMonitoring is an extremely important technology for the German fastener industry. It helps to further increase productivity rates. With it, it is much easier to design a stable process because trends can be identified already during production and the quality is continuously in sight. In so doing, the high demands in the automotive industry for product quality and for consistency in the production process can be fulfilled. Without ProcessMonitoring technology, we would not be where we are today.

 

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