The sausage specialties from Hans Kupfer & Sohn are a permanent fixture in the cooler isles of common supermarkets. The family-run company from Heilsbronn is mainly listed with cold cuts and delights the taste buds of its customers with a wide range of products. Kupfer's company success is due to their flavorful products on one hand and the result of their readily available, yet flexible production technology. This is where Kupfer increasingly relies on complete lines from Weber Maschinenbau. Technical editor Thorsten Sienk spoke with Gerhard Tauscher and Arthur Hahn from the process technology department at Kupfer as well as Matthias Köster from Weber about the background of the "single source" concept.
From the slicer to the inserter to the packaging machine, Weber designed everything and put it into operation in Kupfer's production halls. Pictured from left: Arthur Hahn, technical project manager at Kupfer, Matthias Köster, area sales manager at Weber Maschinenbau, and Gerhard Tauscher, head of process technology at Kupfer.
Author: Thorsten Sienk, freelance technical editor, Bodenwerder
Thorsten Sienk: If we take a step back and consider automation in mechanical engineering, it becomes apparent that the evaluation of systems is less and less a matter of single performance targets but is increasingly about characteristics such as availability, total costs of ownership and energy efficiency. We can also add the buzzwords sustainability and digitalization. For you as a sausage producer, what are important factors to consider when faced with investing in new production facilities?
Arthur Hahn: We need a flexible machine park that enables us to quickly respond to different market demands. Our customers' expectations are high. If you can't deliver, you will soon be out of business.
Gerhard Tauscher: Availability is very important. To a certain extent, we can compensate for the short-term failure of a production line using other lines. But that doesn't work for all products. If you can't deliver ordered products, you soon run the risk of expensive contractual penalties. The pressure has increased in recent years. When it comes to our lines, we have clear concept of what we want implemented on a turnkey basis. In the past, we implemented lines with machines from different manufacturers ourselves. That meant a lot of work for us and when something didn't work in day-to-day production it frequentlyresultedin discussions between the manufacturers. Today and with Weber Maschinenbau, we rely on a partner who supplies us with the complete systems and relieves us from considerable effort by planningthe project with us. This way, the expertise for a complete production line comes from a single source.
Thorsten Sienk: Weber Maschinenbau is particularly well known for their slicers. Against all odds, the company originating from the central Hesse region revolutionized the market with its slicers in the 1980. Other line components such as automation solutions and scanners are part of Weber's established product portfolio. For a few years now, compatible Weber packaging machines have also become available. At Kupfer, you currently deliver complete production lines. That is new. Is Weber developing into a general contractor?
Matthias Köster: Flexible and modular complete line concepts are indeed a future-oriented strategy for us - without neglecting our core competencies of slicing, loading, and packaging. We are aware that success does not depend on individual machines, but is determined by how trends are evolving. I am thinking here, for example, of ways to save packaging material. This is where we are in demand and challenged as a partner. We don't sit back and wait until customers approach us about new developments. We are the ones who actively drive innovations. A successful partnership goes far beyond bare technology and does not end with commissioning.
Thorsten Sienk: How does this partnership work specifically?
Arthur Hahn: We can talk with Weber about everything and find solutions together. In our industry, bureaucracy doesn't work, we need direct cooperation. In our partnership with Weber, there are a lot of things we are doing right.
Matthias Köster: Kupfer and Weber are both owner-managed medium-sized companies with the motivation to work as a team to create something good together. This requires trust, frank conversations across reporting lines and, above all, empathy. These values are part of the corporate culture at Weber. We focus on the outcome for our partners.
Arthur Hahn: And that is exactly why this partnership works. We are aware of our know-how in the processing of deli meats. Weber takes this knowledge paired with our demands on the technology, creates a concept from it and in the end, we get a very good production line.
Thorsten Sienk: Mr Köster, you mentioned that the cooperation goes beyond the delivery and commissioning of the technology. What does that mean specifically?
Matthias Köster: With Kupfer, we designed lines that work efficiently and also have the right service concept. After all, sustainability and partnership are not defined by sales deals, but by the joint operation of the lines.
Gerhard Tauscher: Service availability is increasingly important to us as we compare portfolios of different manufacturers. Leading up to an investment decision, we also look at how the manufacturer's systems have performed in the past - especially with regard to service life and downtime events. For a long time now, it's no longer a question of just putting the hardware in place.
Thorsten Sienk: That means Weber has to be on site quickly when the technology fails?
Gerhard Tauscher: Exactly. We rarely have any redundancy when a system goes down. If a downtime event occurs and we do not react fast, the cost can quickly add up to five-figures. The personnel still has to get paid, even if they are not able to work. Costs are incurred for retooling and technician hours, there may even be contractual penalties. The availability of service is a very important point. Even if our technicians are very skilled, their knowledge is more general than specialiced, because they have to take care of more than 20 lines. If we can't make any progress internally, we need qualified Weber technicians to be available quickly. We don't have two days. After all, our lines are not in a museum.
Thorsten Sienk: With all the appreciation for remote service and the advantages that remote support offers: Beyond the digital possibilities, how do you ensure the quick supply of spare parts when something breaks down?
Matthias Köster: In collaboration with Kupfer, we were able to design a storage system for spare parts directly on site in Heilsbronn. We at Weber are entering an entire new territory with this. The warehouse strategy gives immediate access to spare parts that are recurring. There is an inventory once a week and a direct assigment of parts to the respective machines. This way we don't have to worry about factoring procurement time in for spare parts. The order turnaround is quick and we also save costs for possible express shipments.
Arthur Hahn: If a repair is due to wear and tear, the service can be scheduled. I can do the work at a time when the system is not in operation anyway. The spare parts warehouse here on site allows us to be flexible. That is what makes this whole thing so favorable, especially with regard to overall availability.
Matthias Köster: For us, the storage strategy has benefits, especially with the distribution of spare parts per line, because we can see where increased wear occurs based on real operating conditions.
Thorsten Sienk: Does this mean tracking the spare parts per line gives you the opportunity for a more targeted development approach?
Matthias Köster: Exactly - you don't get this type of critical information in any test field.
Arthur Hahn: It is also exciting to see how the experience we have gained is later reflected in system improvements. That makes you proud and motivates you when your own ideas are reflected in the next generation of machines.