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Getting ready for showtime in Germany! - 26.09.2013

It gives Ceramicx great pleasure to once more be preparing to celebrate our expansion and

our new products with our friends and associates at Friedr Freek, Germany.

(Adrian Lunney. In: HeatWorks 10, September 2013, pages 4 - 5; Publisher: Ceramicx Ireland Ltd.)

Both companies are now putting the final touches to our joint exhibition stand at the leading plastics exhibition in the world – K 2013, October 16-23. Ceramicx of course will demonstrate the use and benefits of our new IR testing machine tool.

Freek will also have a host of complementary innovations in all kinds of technologies; especially for injection moulding - just check pages 24 – 27 of this issue. As part of our K 2013 preview we catch up here in depth about the ongoing Freek story.

Sales Target 2014 Down the years it has been invaluable to us at Ceramicx to learn and to keep pace with all that happens at Friedr Freek. We have much in common: Major investments are ongoing; product innovations are ongoing and Freek growth is set to surpass itself again over the coming period and Ceramicx hopes to do the same.

We share the values of focus, hard work, innovation and invention. K-Show 2013 customers are king of course but the October time in Düsseldorf will provide both of our companies with the opportunity to brainstorm and to interact together for mutual benefit.

For Freek the 1990s saw a period of great structural change. The company effectively re-invented itself – from a 100% domestic heater producer to a 100% industrial heater producer. The worldwide movement of low-tech domestic appliances production to locations with cheap labour and the steadily growing price pressure on simple open-coil or panel heaters lead to the inevitable loss of Freek business in consumer areas; tumble dryers, hand or hair dryers, cookers or ironing presses.

Nonetheless, and following European collaborative projects such as EUCOPET (with Ceramicx and others) and by meeting the challenge with strategies such as LEAN and Low2High, Freek succeeded in defending this business much longer than expected.

In this period of transition Freek found interesting heat niches and even high-tech applications for the formerly domestically dedicated elements. Today, for example, heating crosses for hair dryers perform demanding roles in hot drink vending machines and simple fan heaters do an excellent job in sophisticated house or room ventilation systems.

Freek's 'low2high' strategy - mainly aimed at finding high-tech applications customers for simple standard heaters – also lifted the company to another level of professionalism. This in turn opened up new markets for Freek's industrial heating business.

Looking back over the past twenty years a cluster of various changes - technology, organizational and scientific have now brought success to the company.

Freek defines part of its success by the following benchmarks:

  • The company supplies word-class manufacturers and market leaders in traditional as well as young and growing industries amongst them medical, laboratory, aviation, solar & wind energy.
  • Freek is increasingly involved in a number of top-confidential development projects and signs nondisclosure-agreements on a regular basis.
  • 2010 saw Freek overtake the losses of the crisis year 2009 completely, repeating the former turnover record of 2008.
  • Freek turnover 2012 vs. 2010: +17 % and enjoyed stable development in 2013 – now approaching the 8 million Euro threshold and set for increased growth through to 2014.
  • Freek's customer pool has grown some 30% in 2012 vs. 2008: +30 % with approx. 1000 active accounts.

Further signs of the new professionalism at Freek include:

  • More capacity (engineers) in R&D and Quality & Project management (matching our status as a technology leader and matching the needs of our high-tech customers/markets).
  • Installation of a new computer network, EDP 4.0 (servers, switches, operating systems), new PCs, ERP Upgrade, Windows 7 & 8, latest MS Office version, 3D design software (Inventor), new Website.
  • Major investments have also been necessary due to the implementation of laser technology, another test bench for our laboratory, the expansion of Freek's HotMicroCoil production, the set-up of a new production line for cartridge-heaters as well as inevitable renovations of the administration building.
Volker Fleige (mayor of Menden) with Wolfgang Kaiser (left) and Stefan Kaiser (right) on the occasion of Freek's 60th anniversary in June 2010
Volker Fleige (mayor of Menden) with Wolfgang Kaiser (left)
and Stefan Kaiser (right) on the occasion of Freek's
60th anniversary in June 2010
Freek's continuous growth manifested in 500 m² second storey extension on top of production hall 2
Freek's continuous growth manifested in 500 m² second
storey extension on top of production hall 2

All the above changes have come within just three years and have been based on a stable, skilled and most motivated team and a company culture that supports communication, co-operation and innovation.

Freek has come to enjoy particular prominence in the plastics moulding world. Ceramicx of course has been Freek's trusted partner in IR heating and in plastics thermoforming. Freek has made great strides in injection moulding heatwork; especially for 'hot runner' applications and for markets within Germany and in German-speaking countries such as Switzerland and Austria.

Freek always enjoys the K 2013 exhibition. The company feels that – in addition to the hot runner manufacturers - perhaps this year's event will also see a number of new interests converge on the Ceramicx / Freek stand.

Bigger molders, especially those having maintenance and tool making departments in house would certainly benefit from visiting Freek on site.

Freek already supplies most of the German and Swiss premium players in the hotrunner industry. And yet there are some who have never tested Freek hotrunner heaters, at least not the latest generation. These companies would definitely be surprised about the extraordinary quality level Freek has achieved today.

Freek also believes that some companies still maintain the former image of Freek – as supplying the domestic appliance industries, and conducting just some side business within the plastics industry. Should such companies exist, they would do well to use K 2013 to convince themselves of the opposite.

With Freek located right in the middle of Germany it has been normal that foreign markets have not received the same attention as the German home market. This and a relatively young history with less than 20 years of presence in plastics means that many blanks in the global markets remain. Freek is therefore keen to invite these companies to attend Düsseldorf to weigh the options for beneficial cooperation and to introduce Freek quality heaters to new markets abroad.

Freek sees itself as increasingly at home in the plastics industry: Processors and equipment supplier typically value the continuity in Freek team members, the industry experience, the personal contacts and tradition of loyalty.

Quick commercial responses are the norm - order confirmation next day, express spare parts delivery within 24 hours; excellent service and back-up guaranteed.

Freek has found that it does best with plastics customers – often very experienced and savvy purchasers - by focusing on producing and supplying the best possible heating elements.

Freek gained a deep understanding and thorough know-how about the physics, components and ingredients and the art of assembling them to perfect heaters.

An assortment of alternative / competing heating solutions (different heater types) allows 'neutral consulting' with a better chance to find the best possible solution. Plastics processors can look forward to:

  • full-range supplier of industrial heating elements
  • flexibility (changes within placed orders, capacity (various external cooperation partners, our sister company KSG Gerätetechnik in Waldheim in Saxony, homeworkers, part-time contracts, ...)
  • reliable and continually improved quality
  • customized solutions (innovation culture / eight engineers & technicians involved in R&D together with quite a number of trusted development partners)
  • cost-effective standard solutions

K 2013 will provide many opportunities for listening and learning and K 2016 for Ceramicx / Freek will contain even further heat technology advances, based upon customer need and service.

Read the article about Freek on pages 4 - 5 in the 10. "HeatWorks" issue here.

Freek in HeatWorks magazine
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