Learning from a partner’s experiences and growing together
Trust and cooperation can be extremely valuable. The development of the relationship between Fecken-Kirfel and its long-standing customer Polyfoam Kautschuk GmbH is a perfect example of how cooperation can benefit both parties. What began 35 years ago as a normal customer relationship developed over time into a stable and reliable partnership. Today, both sides are reaping the benefits and aim to continue their success story well into the future.
Polyfoam Kautschuk GmbH has been processing cellular materials since 1984. The business started out processing cellular rubber, polyethylene and polyurethane, and has experienced steady growth ever since. Today, managing director Holger Koch puts the company’s success down to: “excellent machinery, operated by excellent staff. We also offer flexible delivery times and outstanding reliability. But what really makes us special is the way we respond to customer wishes.”
The specialist company does not just process the material, but works with its customers to develop products that are used around the world. These range from sealing strips and double-sided adhesive tapes to special packaging and seals. With its large inventories of standard-grade products, the company is always able to react quickly and ensure flexible delivery times for its customers in industries such as automotive and electronic engineering, medical technology, construction, toys and hobby.
A partnership of equals
Company founder Dieter Koch used the K1 and V11 machines from Fecken-Kirfel to achieve the first successes in splitting and cutting. These make it possible to cut even critical foams with high precision. After passing into the hands of son Holger, the company quickly decided to purchase more machines from Fecken-Kirfel thanks to their combination of proven precision and reliability. Alongside this, Polyfoam also wanted to cooperate with other businesses in the region. This would prove to be the right decision for both sides in the years to come. Over time, the cooperation developed into a stable partnership of equals between the two companies, both based in the Aachen region of western Germany.
Today, Polyfoam uses several Fecken-Kirfel machines at its facility in Niederzier. It also allows its partner to show the machines to its potential customers as they work under real conditions. As a result, Polyfoam’s production halls have become a kind of technology centre. But unlike a showroom, in which the machines operate under laboratory conditions, the machines here are doing real work making real products. Lars Nelles, Sales Manager at Fecken-Kirfel, identifies a further advantage: “Machinery developers and users can speak to each other directly. That is hugely important for us and our customers. The valuable insights we gain from Polyfoam are helping us achieve technological advances together.”
Developing and optimising machines together
“We try to incorporate new trends in cellular material processing into our development from an early stage”, explains Holger Koch. This process has made one thing clear: rising demand for processed roll goods means that individual and series production are no longer sufficient for meeting customer requirements.
The cooperation has proven itself in other areas too: “Our partner responds flexibly to our needs and the service is outstanding”, praises Koch. Polyfoam processes a range of solid materials. After purchasing a H24E splitting machine, for example, it soon became clear that the integrated vacuum table was not well suited to solid material. The machine had to be modified to respond to the new market requirements. Together, the two companies adapted the machine to Polyfoam’s application spectrum using a combination of existing parts from other machine types. This resulted in a much more robust table design with greater vacuum power to match the harder material.
Constructively implementing user feedback
Over time, the users on site have given constant feedback about operating the machine. As a result, many small features have been made more user friendly. “This is only possible with intensive communication between machine manufacturers and users”, emphasises Lars Nelles.
Holger Koch sees further potential for beneficial cooperation in the joint development of a modern and user-oriented machine control system. The aim is to create a user-friendly control interface that meets customer requirements. “The machines are solid and function brilliantly. As far as computer-aided control is concerned, the rapid developments in this area present us with countless opportunities for further improvements”, says Koch. But any new and improved user interface must prove itself in use. For Fecken-Kirfel, it is important that new developments also work in real-life operations. It is this ability to test modifications in the field, receive feedback and implement it that represents the true value of this partnership.