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company,” says Florian Seidl, “but it experienced some real difficulties in warehousing and computer operation that drove it close to bankruptcy. Within two years, though, we had turned the figures back to the black. For several years the company ran quite independently but it is more and more integrated.” Success brought with it the inevitable


challenge of outgrowing the central warehouse. “We bought a place here, rented a place somewhere else but, of course, it became more and more costly and complicated. We could not enlarge here in Unterschleissheim; the presence of the Microsoft headquarters nearby made the land here far too expensive.”


“ More than half our turnover today is in logistic systems…”


So the decision was made to design and build an entirely new warehouse and logistics centre at Hilpolstein, close to the A9 autobahn approaching Nürnberg. More on that remarkable facility and equally remarkable thought that went into it, later. Today Keller & Kalmbach focuses


on three market sectors. The industrial business remains the largest. The requirements of the automotive business continue to be serviced from Unterschleissheim, which is home to a special parts warehouse as well as automotive quality control and sales. It also remains the head office, housing central departments, including purchasing, finance and systems. “We are also,” says Florian Seidl, “market leader


here in Germany to the rail and train industry and have a smaller but good MRO business. We do not target distribution, although from time to time distributors will buy from us.” Five years ago Keller & Kalmbach


started to develop more internationally. In the east of Europe it now has branches in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Romania and Austria. It also now has an operation that supports customers in China. In Germany there are eight ‘shops’ servicing MRO with both fasteners and tools. Goods can be collected from the branch but customer deliveries are always despatched direct from the central warehouse in Hilpostein. “More than half our turnover today is in


logistic systems,” says Florian Seidl. The customer is offered a variety of solutions. While the mainstay remains relatively conventional kanban systems, Keller & Kalmbach offers systems featuring load sensors to detect bin presence and sophisticated solutions using RFID technology. “Behind the scenes we try to standardise the processes,” says Florian Seidl. “We want to be very flexible but also very efficient.” It is an approach that fits the company motto of being fit, fair and friendly. “Our processes are lean, we are fair to our customers and to our suppliers and, of course, everybody should be friendly.” With an operation supplying more


than 50,000 stock lines, which support approaching 1,000 logistics installations and a total of around 20,000 customers; with an annual turnover exceeding 200 million euros, sustaining some 600 employees; there can be no question that the philosophy works – even through recent challenging times. “2009 was a very bad market,”


acknowledges Florian Seidl. “After the crisis we thought it would take a long time to get back to 2008 levels but this year it is now clear we will have a better time than in 2008. Most years we have performed better than the market but the general economic situation in Germany certainly helps us. For now it is driven from three directions. Export has always been good for Germany; right now it is very good. Industrial investment is also stronger and for the first time in many years the domestic consumer market is also contributing well.” Will it sustain? Florian Seidl is cautious.


56 Fastener + Fixing Magazine • Issue 71 September 2011


“This year I think it will probably stay good but I am concerned that there might be a bubble. If it has to go down we need it to do so smoothly.” The new central warehouse has proven


vital in supporting growth. “If we had still been here I really do not know what we would have done. Now we are operating two shifts at the warehouse and could introduce a third if we needed. We have a lower backlog although we are seeing some increase because of the difficulties in the supply chain. We have delivery times now of six, seven, eight months. Sometimes you have to buy at very high prices to fill in the gaps. The increase in the basic price is also relentless and that, combined with the difficulty in getting acceptance of price movement from major customers, inevitably puts pressure on the margin.” “There is almost a cultural effect,” he


continues. “For so much of the last twenty years the market became used to the cost of fasteners constantly falling. Now people do not understand increasing prices but it is a reality, and not a short term one. At the moment it is a suppliers market for fastener producers. At the moment steel is more stable but the trend for all basic commodities is unavoidably upwards. Shorter term the real issue is the available capacity in fastener manufacturing.” Which unerringly moves the


conversation to anti-dumping measures. “When you try to establish the stable relationships, which are crucial to ensure reliability and quality, and the supply chain is suddenly cut there are inevitable problems. The quite irrational application of this crazy high tariff suddenly distorted the market and we continue to feel the impact in supply and, of course, in pricing.” “So we have to fight it.” Florian Seidl


is emphatic. “It is difficult in Brussels but we have to continue to try to obtain recognition that fastener distribution in Europe almost certainly employs more people than manufacturing. More importantly we have to achieve recognition that we give our customers not just the parts but also a level of service that no manufacturer can give. This situation is not good economically, it is not good for European industry, and it is not good for many of our partners. What it has done is drive up prices immensely – but somebody has ultimately to pay for that.”


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