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Assembly: to outsource or not to outsource, that is the question?

Assembly: to outsource or not to outsource, that is the question?

Assembly: to outsource or not to outsource, that is the question?

“Competitive lead times and golden Czech hands”

 

Do it yourself or outsource? Companies in the Western European manufacturing industry are asking themselves this question on a regular basis. After all, the labour costs for manual assembly processes and/or installation are a strong cost factor. As such, companies are looking closely at the relocation of their assembly processes. And the Czech Republic, where the hourly wage of professionals is lower than that of their Western European colleagues, is one such consideration. Lead times and quality play a role in the decision whether or not to outsource. Iman Landheer (Sales manager), Tomáš Benda (Assembly Manager) and Karel Bartasék (Technology Manager) explain what SixPointTwo can offer in the field of assembly.

Meetings with companies that are considering outsourcing take place at the SixPointTwo offices in Weert. “Naturally, companies want to know a lot about us. Can SixPointTwo deliver? What about lead time? How can the quality requirements be guaranteed? And does it actually save costs?” says Iman Landheer. “After we have answered these questions, the company have all the information they need to make a good decision. If you want to visit Humpolec (Czech Republic) or if a feasibility study is required, we can take care of that as well of course.”

Communication is crucial
The assembly process from start to finish is Tomáš’s domain. “I am responsible, along with my team, for all the new assemblies that we carry out in Humpolec. We ensure we have received all the necessary information before and during the assembly process so we can achieve an optimal end result. If there are any questions, we contact the team in Weert first. We then check with the customer to see if any changes are required, or we propose an improvement.”

The start of a new assembly process
SixPointTwo will receive the required information about setting up and starting the assembly process from the customer. In principle, this can be done in three ways. “The first option is the customer makes some 3D Data available along with a prototype of the product. We can derive the production process from that.” The second option: “The customer provides us with the data and then comes to Humpolec as we run the assembly process for the first time. The customer then provides instructions on site to enable us to carry out the work independently.” The third option: “We receive 3D data, drawings and instructions. If we have any questions about following the instructions or clarification of the specifications, we will ask. We then have all the information we need to begin the assembly process.”

Flexibility and craftsmanship
SixPointTwo can take care of a wide range of products and as an example, these include frames for cable reels, complete housings for many machine types, as well various sub-assemblies that customers can then install into their end product. “We are quite flexible: we have laser cutting, welding, bending, component manufacture and assembly in-house,” says Karel. “We can also take care of any processes involving sheet products prior to assembly,” notes Iman. “The Czech rates for these processes, just like assembly, are lower than those of comparable suppliers in Western Europe.” Karel adds that various surface treatment requirements can also be applied, such as powder coating (in-house process), electroplating and KTL lacquering.” And then there is another important factor: “The craftsmanship of our people. People often speak of golden Czech hands, and for good reason.”

Lead time
As stated previously: lead time is another factor that counts. “Lead time depends on, for example, the complexity of the assembly process,” says Tomáš. “And some components used for the product to be assembled can have a long delivery time. For more simple operations, a lead time of 5-6 weeks can be expected.” “Our lead times are without doubt competitive, and we make agreements about this with the customer,” says Iman.

Quality assured
Tomáš and Karel are involved in the assembly process from start to finish. “Working with the team, we carry out both the full First Article Inspection and the Final Inspection. The customer receives a report from both. We do everything we can to ensure the products fully meet the customer’s requirements and specifications for both the first series and the subsequent series.”

Aluminium boat lift sales are not lagging behind

Aluminium boat lift sales are not lagging behind

Rene Blom: “Corona times have caused a boom”

 

During corona, people were looking for safe and attractive ways to get out and about. “Lots of people bought boats. And because there is a shortage of storage space for boats, the demand for boat lifts also grew,” says Rene Blom. He tells us Blom Bootliften responded to this and how SixPointTwo contributed.

Rene is in his element on and near the water. “The more active the sports, the more interesting it becomes to me. I have always loved sailing and windsurfing, but kite-surfing is my favourite at the moment.”

Own design
Water sports keep Rene very busy outside his free time as well. It all started with a polyester boat he once bought. “I needed a lift for it. There were plenty of steel boat lifts. But I really didn’t need a steel boat lift in my garden. I was working for a door manufacturer company at the time and they had their own aluminium construction department. So I decided to design and make my own aluminium boat lift.” This was initially purely as a hobby: “One for myself, one for a colleague, then one for an acquaintance, etc.”

Own company
Rene started his own business eight years ago involving two activities: on the one hand renovating real estate, while designing and marketing boat lifts on the other. Initially, the boat lifts were an afterthought. “First I developed the initial design and range.” Setting up a professional website was an important next step. “It has been non-stop ever since. Turnover has almost doubled in the past two years.”

Protecting the boat
Rene works with his son Rens in Blom Bootliften. “We supply and install aluminium lifts for light boats. This includes fibreglass boats and aluminium boats.” A boat lift offers protection. “A boat lift prevents a boat from getting stuck in ice or hitting the quay when there are a lot of waves. And the boat stays clean: which means you will not get any growth from algae or shellfish. Anti-fouling protection measures are therefore unnecessary, which is also better for the environment.” Theft prevention is another advantage: the lift can be equipped with a lock. Aluminium also has an important advantage. “Steel needs to be treated, galvanising for example, but it still remains sensitive to rust. Our lifts are made of untreated aluminium and last longer.”

For boats up to 900 kg
The product range consists of three types. “Type A is suitable for boats up to 500 kg. We can add supporting frames to make them suitable for jet skis as well.” Depending on the customer’s wishes, the boat is equipped with manual or electrical operation. Type B is suitable for boats up to 750 kg, and can be equipped with manual control and/or electric control. Finally, Type C can be used for boats up to 900 kg. “This type is only available with electrical operation.”

Development
Rene gradually perfected his design. “Our boat lifts have a fixed frame and a lifting frame. The lifting frame is identical for all types, which gives us more flexibility. We assemble the lifting frame in our workshop. We can then assemble the lift at the customer site, we can attach the lifting frame to the fixed frame in one simple operation. The frames are also made in such a way that we can make adjustments with our own welding machine.”

Production
In the beginning, Rene made the boat lifts himself in the evenings. But the sales volume increased and made this arrangement impossible. And so production was outsourced. “I worked with the first supplier for two years. I was not satisfied: hardly any orders were delivered that didn’t have something wrong with them.” Fortunately, through his hobby, he came into contact with Marco Wielink from SixPointTwo. “I taught him how to kite-surf.” And three years ago, that chance meeting led to him choosing to entrust the production of the frames to SixPointTwo. “They deliver great work: We have a 99% satisfaction rate. And if there is a problem, it is solved without any problems.”

New developments
Blom bootliften is focused on a market segment that is still growing. “Many new housing estates are being built near the water. If you have a terraced house and want to store a dinghy round the back, the space is quite limited. This means you need a smaller and lighter type of boat and boat lift.” Meanwhile, René is thinking ahead. “I can see a floating boat lift based on an aluminium construction that would be suitable for boats heavier than 900 kg, as well as houseboats.” Something to follow up of course!

 

Aluminium boat lift sales are not lagging behind
The Netherlands and the Czech Republic: the best of both worlds

The Netherlands and the Czech Republic: the best of both worlds

The Netherlands and the Czech Republic: the best of both worlds

Do you want to do business? We speak your language!

 

“Praat Nederlands met me”, sings Kenny B in his number 1 hit Parijs in which he sings about how nice it is to meet someone that speaks his native language. After all, it’s best to talk about important matters in your native language. And with someone who understands exactly what you mean. One such interlocutor is SixPointTwo. Customers of SixPointTwo can get the best of both worlds: the Dutch production and process control method, and the Czech work ethic.

A fruitful business relationship starts with good communication. Our sales office in Weert (the Netherlands) plays a central role in this. The people who work here can talk to you in your own language. Our employees not only speak Dutch (their mother tongue), but also fluent German and English.

A contact person
Rapid contact is crucial for all our clients. This is why we keep the lines of communication short. As a SixPointTwo customer, you will have one fixed contact person to deal with from the start. He/she will translate your requirements and wishes to our colleagues in the Czech Republic. And something else important to know: your contact person is in direct contact with the Dutch management in the Czech Republic. This means you have a direct point of contact for every phase of the project: someone who always has the latest up-to-date information about your project, and someone you can always turn to.

Two success factors
SixPointTwo lets you take advantage of the benefits offered by nearshoring. This can be put down to two success factors: the Dutch approach (streamlined processes from preparation to implementation) and the Czech work ethic. Starting with the first success factor: our production site is modern and highly automated. Naturally, we comply with international standards concerning quality management, the environment, and health and safety. Our work processes are efficiently organised and carried out by our excellently trained Czech employees. They are highly motivated and extremely involved. And that’s our second success factor: the work ethic of our people

Tangible Benefits
With the best of both worlds, you benefit from cost savings and exceptionally short lead times. And with product quality as a certainty, we have optimally safeguarded quality within our organisation. Would you like to know more? We would be happy to tell you face to face and in your native language what this means for your company. So don’t hesitate to set up a meeting…

 

Win-win situation for customers and SixPointTwo

Win-win situation for customers and SixPointTwo

EDI connection: taking the stress out of the order process

 

SixPointTwo wants to continuously improve by making business and production processes ever more efficient. We recently made an important efficiency improvement in our order process. We now work with Gatewise, a platform for EDI connections, and this means we can save our customers and ourselves a lot of time. Hedi van Heugten, software developer, explains how this works.

“You can hardly imagine it, but all our incoming orders were still being processed manually ten years ago,” says Hedi. “Each line was manually entered into the project. The order process was partly automated later on. Customers placed their orders by sending us an Excel file that we then loaded here automatically using a script. But it was still manual work for the most part. We had to get the document files from somewhere, and the execution of various checks was still done manually.”

Time ripe for full automation
SixPointTwo took the step towards full automation of the order process last year. “We noticed more and more of our customers were demanding this. This is why we made the decision to implement the Gatewise platform. The platform lets us use EDI connections with customers who want it.”

Repetitive orders: time saving of two days
The EDI connection is ideal for new repeat orders. “This is useful for customers who regularly have us make the same items for them.” How does that work? “A customer places a new order with us. All orders for known items are recognised by the system. These are automatically loaded at night; they are then ready for our production department in the Czech Republic the next day. SixPointTwo can save two days doing this because repetitive orders no longer need to be checked by an employee, the system takes care of it all. This means repetitive orders for our customers can go into production faster, shortening our lead times. So it’s a win-win situation!”

Streamlining
In order to get the maximum return from the EDI connection, good coordination with the customer is necessary in advance. “To streamline the information exchange, good agreements have been made and extensive testing has been carried out on how outgoing and incoming data should be processed. This concerns incoming orders and outgoing order confirmations, reconfirmations, shipping documents and invoices. This means several different specifications and preferences are looked at, including delivery dates, prices, specific colours, different delivery addresses and different customer departments. In addition, the entire invoicing process is automated, which ensures sales invoices are sent to the customer directly from our ERP system via the EDI connection. This prevents various unnecessary processing being required on both sides, which saves even more time.”

We’ll open the gate like this…
SixPointTwo can make EDI connections with many different customers via the Gatewise platform. “We can easily open the gate. And we know exactly how to work with the customer to quickly set up and test the connection.” Our experiences at SixPointTwo and on the customer side with EDI are positive. In the meantime, work is already underway to expand the functionality. “We are investigating how interim changes in orders can be processed automatically.”

Would you like to know how much time an EDI connection with SixPointTwo will save your company? Please contact Hedi van Heugten.

 

Win-win situation for customers and SixPointTwo
Reverse engineering: “SixPointTwo made it happen!”

Reverse engineering: “SixPointTwo made it happen!”

How do you find a reliable second source supplier?

Reverse engineering: “SixPointTwo made it happen!”

 

A supplier that guarantees constant top quality is worth its weight in gold. But as good as it is, it is never a good idea to simply depend on one supplier. And this is certainly true now delivery times of raw materials and semi-finished products are under pressure, and prices are rising. How does a company today find a reliable second source supplier? Lead engineer of Enclosure Company*, Wessel de Vos, talks about his experiences with SixPointTwo.

“Sound cabinets are an important part of our products. We have used one regular supplier for years and they have always delivered to our full satisfaction. We had been looking for a second source supplier in recent years, but had always been unsuccessful. Recently, when metal prices rose sharply, we made another attempt. Our director knew Iman Landheer so we invited him for a meeting at Enclosure Company. We showed him the sound box and discussed what our expectations were of a second source supplier.”

Challenge: replace the extrusion profile
“Until now, our sound boxes have always used a patented aluminium extrusion profile. Copying this profile was not an option: it is too expensive. We agreed that SixPointTwo would make a replacement metal profile using sheet metal working techniques. SixPointTwo received a CAD model of the sound box from us in order to do this. We also shared information about the materials to be used such as fasteners, locking systems and insulation materials. We were presented with the replacement metal profile six weeks later. The corner pieces were attached with pop rivets. The use of pop rivets was unacceptable to us. The corner pieces are the pillars of the sound box and must be sturdy. And even though they may be strong; they didn’t look strong. Customers expect a robust, heavy cabinet that makes no noise when you hit it with your hand.” Another solution was discussed. “After five minutes or so we had a solution. Working closely together, we decided to make a hole in the profile, weld it full, and then grind it smooth.”

The first two prototypes
Two sound box prototypes were delivered in the final week of August. “Looking at them from a distance, you can’t see any difference with the original cabinet. You don’t notice see the welding spots on the corner pieces at all: they look fantastic!” There were still a few things that needed to be adjusted. “A mistake was made with the metal working of a few of the panels. They were 32.5 mm instead of 34.5 mm.” Another mistake involved a strip that was attached to the outside instead of the inside. “A customer would never notice that.”

Furthermore, on closer inspection we discovered a useful adjustment. “The original cabinets are always fitted with white plastic rings. Because SixPointTwo temporarily couldn’t get hold of white rings, they used black ones. We want to leave it that way now because the advantage of this is that we can see where a cupboard has been made.” Wessel discussed his feedback with Iman. “It would be wonderful if such a process went perfectly in one go. I initially assessed the work as an easy 8, but with the processing of the feedback it can become a 9.5 or a 10. As soon as we achieve that, we will start working with SixPointTwo.”

Short work
The two SixPointTwo prototypes arrived at Enclosure Company four months after the introductory meeting. “An advantage was that SixPointTwo could use our CAD model. The new element they had to think about was the metal profile with the corner pieces. And they had some calculations to do in order to be able to fit the sound box into their production process.” All in all, it went very quickly, says Wessel. “Another big advantage was that we were able to do all of this with a Dutch partner. Things are different with English or Chinese companies, and sometimes there is an intermediary between us and the client. I always had direct contact with Iman, which was handy. A joke that a Dutchman gets straight away can be misunderstood by an Englishman or a German. They may even take it as being strange or as criticism. It is also much easier to call another Dutch person. The conversation can be very short. Didn’t we agree on this and that? Yes!? Okay. Then you know enough and you can move on.”

Wessel knows from experience that things can turn out differently. “You don’t want to be in a position where you look at the product and say: this is not what we asked for. But SixPointTwo lived up to their promise: we can make that sound box.” And now Enclosure Company has already placed an order: SixPointTwo is going to make 65 sound boxes for us.

* (At the company’s request, both the company name and name of the interviewee have been changed.)
Would you like to know more about what SixPointTwo can do for your company in terms of reverse engineering? Contact Iman Landheer, tel: +31 6 4224 3466, e-mail iman.landheer@sixpointtwo.eu.

Efficient production automation starts with people work

ERP system and laser cutting machine understand each other

Efficient production automation starts with people work

 

SixPointTwo has various in-house techniques for sheet metal processing. Laser cutting is one such technique. A Trumpf laser cutting machine was purchased for this purpose in 2018. Before the machine was delivered, consideration was given to the optimum method for the machine to communicate with ECI Bemet’s ERP system that SixPointTwo had been using for many years. Gerrit KleinJan of ECI Bemet and Tomáš Kautcký from Trumpf tell us what that entailed.

Sheet metal cutting is all about quality and cost efficiency. Therefore, the ERP system and the laser cutting machine must communicate well with each other in all phases of production control. “The biggest challenge is to always ensure the correct data gets from the ERP system to the laser cutting machine so the machine can provide feedback. Working with SixPointTwo, it was decided to first define the optimal process of production and control”, says KleinJan. He knows the ERP system through and through. “At the time, I was also involved in its implementation.”

Include outsourcing as an option
Together with the SixPointTwo team in the Netherlands and the Czech Republic, KleinJan and Kautcký went through the process step by step. Specific wishes were formulated during this process. “SixPointTwo wanted to be able to decide during the process whether to outsource an order if this offered a more cost-efficient option and/or if it was a better fit after considering planning and available capacity. The decision is made partly on the basis of the information that the machine sends back”, says KleinJan. How does that work? ”The ERP system communicates the orders the machine will execute. One of the things used for this is the start date and the delivery date of each order. The machine must then return information for each order: How much time will it take to complete the job? Is there enough time, or does the job require too much capacity from the machine? In the latter case, the order will be returned to the ERP system and the order outsourced.”

Nesting
KleinJan noticed the option of integrating outsourcing into the production management process was not being utilised very often. “After internal processing had been chosen in the process, an option to choose outsourcing based on available capacity was still required. This was a challenge, particularly for the programmer. We solved this within the link between ERP and laser cutting machine by including fields within the ERP that state which cutting jobs are already nested in the laser cutting system and which jobs are not. For each of these fields there is a definition about which data must be supplied from the laser cutting machine. This two-way street offers real communication. And it’s necessary for optimal control. As soon as the laser cutting machine has completed a job, the machine returns specific data for a subsequent calculation, such as the duration of the cutting operation and the material consumption.”
Another challenge focused on the exceptions: “What do you do if something goes wrong during the production process, if the order is cancelled, or the order is only partially completed? We also thought about this beforehand”, says KleinJan.

Smooth process
Defining the process was a smooth operation according to Kautcký. “We quickly came to our agreements: we took just two days to decide how we would go about it all. For Trumpf, the challenge was not as great as it was for ECI Bemet. Our first task was to provide documentation about the machine and adequate descriptions of the interfaces.” After completing the programming work at ECI Bemet, the necessary tests were carried out. The link appeared to work from the outset. “SixPointTwo played an important role in achieving this positive result”, says Kautcký. “They had a clear picture of the process and knew exactly what they wanted. You don’t see that often in projects like this.” KleinJan: “They gave us the time to ensure we had good preparation. This enabled us to deliver a great product with Trumpf.”

 

 

Efficient production automation starts with people work
SixPointTwo has commissioned a second welding robot

SixPointTwo has commissioned a second welding robot

The welding robot will never have to stand still again

SixPointTwo has commissioned a second welding robot

 

SixPointTwo now has two welding robots, both supplied by Valk Welding. Why are welding robots indispensable? Can they get any more efficient? Ad van Boxel, Technical Adviser at Valk Welding, shares his thoughts.

SixPointTwo first approached Valk Welding in 2016. The expansion of our production capacity necessitated additional welding capacity. “Especially the welding for serial production runs”, says van Boxel. A further increase in production led to the purchase of a second welding robot in 2021. “Like the first, this is also a complete welding robot system in which the welding robot is mounted on a stable H-frame. We also supplied DTPS: the software package for offline programming.”

Efficient use of time
How does the performance of welding robots compare to the performance of professionals? “Research has shown that a manual welder is actually welding 15% to 20% of their time. The remaining time is spent on other activities, such as loading and measuring the product. A well-managed robot installation, on the other hand, uses 70% to 80% of the start-up time for welding.” If you consider that skilled welders are increasingly difficult to find, and that they stop work every day after eight hours, you will understand why welding robots are indispensable. “A welding robot just keeps going. Depending on the production order, you can press start, turn off the lights and go home.” You no longer need a qualified welder for the human actions that have to be performed on the robot installation. “Any operator can perform them.”

Offline programming for extra production time
DTPS, the software package for offline programming, saves SixPointTwo even more time. “There are two programming options: online and offline programming. Online programming is done on the robot itself. The robot can’t be used for production during programming.” Offline programming doesn’t have that disadvantage. “This eliminates downtime. While the machine is running, you can programme on the PC. And when the programme’s ready, you send it to the welding robot.”

Always find the weld seam
First time right was an important performance requirement for SixPointTwo when choosing the welding robot system. “Our welding robot is equipped with Quick Touch Sensing. This means it can anticipate tolerances. Using the welding wire, it first searches for the product to determine where the weld seam is. The programme is therefore automatically adjusted for each weld seam, which means you get a perfect weld. It always finds the weld seam.” According to van Boxel, this is exactly what metal companies need. “As an example, sheet metal settles and always has many deviations. This welding robot can deal with these easily.”

Measure and check
It’s also important that the robot maintains control over the process. “This is because the welding source and the robot communicate with each other. The robot adds welding wire if necessary, and will stop automatically if there’s a problem or it runs out of welding wire.” In addition, the welding robot is equipped with Automatic Tool Control. “This programme lets the robot check whether the tool (the welding torch) is still in the original position on the robot arm. As a user, you can set the desired frequency of checking yourself. If problems are found, the robot will report them. The user can then repair it or have it repaired.” ATC ensures the robot continues to deliver the same performance from the moment of delivery. “A torch that isn’t in the right position shouldn’t be allowed to produce abnormal results.”

Under development
Valk Welding has offices in Poland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, the Czech Republic, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Ireland. The company only supplies welding robots from Panasonic. “Our relationship with Panasonic dates back to 1988. Our management team forms a part of the Panasonic development team. We’re therefore thoroughly familiar with their systems. All our technicians are trained to work with them. If a customer has a problem, we can solve it.”

Developments are moving quickly. Valk Welding is committed to fully automated offline programming. “To make it even easier for our customers, we want to shorten programming times for a large number of applications. In our steel construction, we’ve already reached the point where programmes can be generated offline using 3D packages.” In a new step forward, if all our production programmes can be made offline, the welding robot can also be considered ideal for single-piece production and it will never have to stand still again.

 

Will blockchain become the source of truth in the steel market?

Will blockchain become the source of truth in the steel market?

Tom Meulendijks: “SteelTrace is changing the supply chain!”

 

It takes thousands of hours to manually check a product for customer specifications, legal rules and standards. The result is often a PDF document confirming that the product meets all requirements. But do you really want to take a PDF document as a watertight guarantee? Tom Meulendijks, CEO of SteelTrace, spotted an opportunity and room for improvement.

“A few years ago, I worked on a tool for managing these PDF documents for a supplier to the petrochemical industry. At the time, it was assumed that changes could not be made to such documents. And I thought the control process could be properly secured using blockchain technology. This allows you to store all the data about standards, regulations and customer specifications. You can then translate that data into algorithms with which you can check and secure the data.”

Quality assurance is crucial
To achieve his idea, Meulendijks founded SteelTrace in 2017. The company is active in Asia, the United States and Europe. “We focus on the market for the high-end steel used in the (petro)chemical industry.” The quality of the steel and its associated certification is crucial in this market involving vast sums of money. “You can’t tell the difference between good and bad steel just by looking at it. In addition, steel often only arrives at the end user’s location from the factory after travelling through various suppliers.” With paper documents, this is a process that’s wide open to fraud. “Suppose someone buys high-quality steel pipes from a good steel manufacturer. They can then buy cheaper pipes of inferior quality and easily copy the certificate and heat number of the high-quality pipes. They can then use this certificate and send it with the inferior pipes that they resell.”

Platform for transparency and certainty
From steel manufacturer to end user, SteelTrace makes the supply chain transparent. “Our platform has four certainties built into it: real-time structured data, traceability, protection against fraud and automation.”

Real-time structured data: efficiency
Control processes can be slow. “I know of cases where ships were unable to sail because the quality manager was only able to review the paper documents a week after the lab tests, and then a few problems appeared.” When the supply chain works with SteelTrace, things are different. “Control activities take place in one go. Quality managers, labs and inspectors enter the data directly into the platform and sign it digitally in real time. If test values deviate from the specifications and/or standards, this is immediately detected and logged.” Reviewing paper documents is no longer necessary, all platform users can see exactly where the process is at any time.

Traceability: every step is visible
The SteelTrace platform ensures every step is visible. “Who conducted the test? Was the person certified to do that? Was the machine certified and calibrated? Was the inspector authorised to sign? Everything is visible. In addition, all the data is secured with blockchain technology and can always be traced back to the source.” Data can be easily checked via a smartphone. “Every platform user has a secure digital identity to identify them.”

Protection against fraud
The identity of everyone who plays a role in the control process within the supply chain is checked in advance and their powers established. Quantity tracking and transfer of ownership are other built-in protections against fraud. “During sales, certificates are simultaneously transferred with the ownership of products. Certificates are always linked to products. There are always as many certificates as there are checked products within the SteelTrace platform. This removes the financial incentive for fraud.” See the example in the insert for more information.

Unnoticed fraud is not possible
A manufacturer makes 1,000 high-quality steel pipes. They are entered into the SteelTrace database. The 1,000 pipes are certified and checked. Whenever the manufacturer sells a pipe from this set of 1,000, ownership of it passes to the buyer along with the certificate. Suppose someone buys 19 inferior pipes on the black market and one high-quality pipe from the set of 1,000. This person then requests the certificate for the high-quality pipe from within the SteelTrace platform. The step is digitally registered. If they then mark the 19 inferior pipes with the heat number of the high-quality pipe, they’ll have a buyer for each pipe. But before the transfer of each pipe can occur with a certificate, each buyer must request the digital certificate in SteelTrace. Once they do, the 19 buyers will receive a message from SteelTrace informing them that the certificate is no longer in the seller’s possession. They’ll then know that something is wrong.” 

Automation: compliance by design
All the standards, requirements and data supplied by suppliers are automated. As a result, all the control and monitoring processes are automated and the data is immediately available in its entirety. Tests and test values can be checked automatically. Manual, error-prone checks are no longer necessary. Meulendijks: “The result is that customers save tens of thousands of man-hours, which equates to millions of euros. That’s our business case.” But even more savings can be made. “Because the company’s risk profile is improved, the insurance costs go down. A reliable supply chain also pays for itself in incident reduction: there will be less premature perishing of materials. As part of due diligence, assets will be valued higher.” Meulendijks has long since ceased to receive sceptical reactions to the blockchain technology. “Our target group is interested in any secure, digital solution that makes it possible to work even more effectively.”

SteelTrace is changing the supply chain
Meulendijks sees many more applications in the steel market. “We can also make processes and additions to the base steel material transparent and secure. These include welding, forging steel or adding plastic to pipes. We can also make information about the carbon footprint and ESG scores visible.” He also sees another useful application: “Making the country in which the steel operations have been carried out visible. This allows you to demonstrate in which tax bracket your company falls, which means you can avoid excessive tax assessments.” And Meulendijks looks even further ahead: “SteelTrace’s ambition is to become the single source of truth for the entire steel supply chain.”

 

 

Will blockchain become the source of truth in the steel market?
How are you helping Ukrainian colleagues and their families?

How are you helping Ukrainian colleagues and their families?

How are you helping Ukrainian colleagues and their families?

Jiří Vepřek: “We’re doing everything we can”

 

SixPointTwo in Humpolec employs 16 Ukrainian people on permanent contracts. “When the war broke out, we immediately said: we want to help them. We asked what we could do for their family and friends in Ukraine”, says Finance Manager Jiří Vepřek. He tells us how SixPointTwo offers help and how the Ukrainian colleagues are doing.

As a result of the war, many Ukrainians fled their country. In addition, Ukrainian men have returned to help defend their country, either voluntarily or at the behest of the Ukrainian government. What makes Humpolec different? “Returning to Ukraine is particularly important for people who work for companies in the Czech Republic on a temporary basis through external agencies.” Returning to Ukraine is not on the cards for a number of the permanent Ukrainian employees at SixPointTwo. “Before the war, they already lived here and had no plans to return.”

Help as needed
Until the war, some employees lived in Humpolec and their families lived in Ukraine. “One of them wanted to bring his wife, mother and two children to Humpolec. Our plant manager drove with him to the Slovakia-Ukraine border to pick them up. SixPointTwo then helped with all the formalities such as applying for a work permit, residence permit and state benefits. A house has also been arranged for them. His wife now works at SixPointTwo. And their two children are already going to school in Humpolec.”
We also managed to arrange a large house for another of our colleagues who has six children and whose wife is pregnant. “Unfortunately, it’s located 40 kilometres from Humpolec. His wife and children live there. The husband is there at weekends; during the week he stays in Humpolec.” Vepřek himself has two young women and a girl staying with him on a temporary basis. “They want to return to Ukraine, but that’s not possible for the time being.”

Single point of contact
In addition to providing help with the arrival of relatives, SixPointTwo also offers support in other ways. “My HR colleague is the first point of contact for our Ukrainian colleagues. They can contact her with all their questions. She does a great job and arranges a lot for them such as taxi transport, communication with authorities and lease agreements. Where necessary, she brings in other colleagues from SixPointTwo. There’s also co-operation with other companies, such as when Ukrainian newcomers are looking for a job. As an example, the heavy work in our production environment isn’t always suitable for women. We try to refer them to lighter work at other companies in Humpolec.”

Initiative for large-scale reception
Together with other companies, SixPointTwo also developed a plan to welcome refugees and help them to integrate. “There’s a house in Humpolec where older, single people used to be cared for. This care home could accommodate about 100 people and was closed last year. SixPointTwo has drawn up a plan with other companies: if the municipality opens the building to Ukrainian families, the companies will offer support in various ways. This includes paying energy costs, having Czech language lessons provided by a teacher, paying the wages of a concierge, school contributions for children, building playgrounds and putting beds in there.” Unfortunately, the municipality is yet to make a decision on the matter. “It’s a shame because this project can make life easier for the refugees and for the residents of Humpolec.”

Positive attitude
How have our Ukrainian colleagues been doing in the meantime? “They were completely in shock when it all started. But they’ve adapted to the situation. Returning to Ukraine is no longer an option for some of them, as they come from cities and villages that have been destroyed. However, they have a positive attitude and appreciate SixPointTwo’s efforts. The Ukrainians also support each other wherever they can. The atmosphere in the company is good: we’re all willing to help each other and we’ll see how it goes.”

 

Powder coating or wet painting?

Powder coating or wet painting?

Ben Hoppener: “Impact resistance of powder coating is important advantage”

 

Wet painting is a centuries-old process used for the treatment of various surfaces. In the 1970s, another process for industrial treatment of metal surfaces arrived: powder coating. What are the advantages and disadvantages of wet painting and powder coating? Ben Hoppener from Coatingadvies Nederland in Udenhout shares his views.

Hoppener has worked as a consultant for clients such as Brabantia, Philips, Heras Hekwerk and SixPointTwo. “My colleague and I work all over the world. We support both powder coating companies and production companies with in-house powder coating lines.” The support is mainly aimed at the setup and optimisation of production lines, and at quality improvement across the entire process. “At the time, I advised SixPointTwo on the design of the powder coating line.”

Powder coating easily automated
The comparison between wet painting and powder coating starts with a crucial factor: the layer. “Powder coating applied properly produces a strong layer. This layer is resistant to bumps and scratches, and is not easily damaged. An important advantage.” Another advantage is that powder coating is easier to automate than wet painting. “A large part of the surface to be treated can be powder coated using a spray robot. It doesn’t require complicated settings. The operator can spray awkward spots by hand.” Powder coating is also more practical in terms of drying. “The treated products are put into the muffle furnace. Inside, the powder melts and becomes hard as a rock. The products can then be packaged immediately. Wet-painted products, on the other hand, often take a few days to dry.” The fact powder coating requires a muffle furnace, does constitute a disadvantage. “You can’t really powder coat a steel bridge or other extremely sizeable products. There are some exceptions, but about 15 metres is usually the limit. You would need furnaces of such dimensions that powder coating is no longer financially attractive.”

Environmental and health & safety aspects
How do the two processes score when it comes to environment and health? “Firing the furnace takes quite a lot of gas: this is a disadvantage of powder coating.” Wet painting has a different drawback. “The yield is much lower than that of powder coating. This is because with wet painting, the overspray – the quantity that is sprayed next to the product – is completely lost, unlike with powder coating. A recovery system on the sprayer can return the overspray to the storage tank for reuse. As such, the powder used can achieve a yield of up to 95%.” What about personal safety? “Wet paint often contains solvents that are released during spraying and the drying process. Powder coating, on the other hand, contains no solvents, so that less personal protective equipment is required.”

Operator professionalism is important
The corrosion resistance of the treated product partly depends on the type of powder coating used. “However, pre-treatment is just as important with powder coating”, Hoppener says. “It requires a controlled, systematic process.” Many companies, including SixPointTwo, have fully automated this process. “The products always receive the same pre-treatment, which includes chemical baths.” Operators use fixed procedures to measure whether the pre-treatment baths have the desired composition. Other parts of the process are automated too. “The settings for the muffle furnace have to be just right, and these are different for every product. Other factors are dosing the powder, writing correct programmes for the powder coat equipment, and the layer thickness.”
Well-trained operators are indispensable here. “I give practical training as far away as Israel and China. I go out on the shop floor in my overalls to impart knowledge and skills, just as I did at SixPointTwo.” Hoppener can also be of assistance in carrying out checks on the final quality of the coating, such as its resistance to environmental influences, through his company M2LAB.

Latest developments
According to Hoppener, there are no spectacular developments in the world of powder coating. “There are still powder coatings being developed that last longer and longer, like coatings for high-end facade construction that can easily withstand 20 years of sun, for example.” The market is more or less established. “Wet painting is often more suitable for very large products, for products where an extremely high-quality visual finish is required, or if a few products just need a quick coat. For large batches of not-too-sizeable products, powder coating is actually always the best solution. It makes the coating much stronger and it is often cheaper because it can be fully automated.”

SixPointTwo has an advanced powder coating line. If you would like to find out more, please contact Willian van Eerd, willian.van.eerd@sixpointtwo.eu.

 

Powder coating or wet painting?