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Metzeler - Continuity in times of change
Metzeler Automotive Profile Systems Germany specializes in the design and manufacture of automotive sealing systems for doors, windows, boots and hoods.

Customers are supplied from three production locations. Two locations in Germany, Lindau and Mannheim – both steeped in tradition, and one in Poland where the highly productive Dzierzoniow factory is gaining in significance. Product development and testing are grouped together at the headquarters in Lindau. In close cooperation with the customers, it is here in the Technology Centre that new materials, products and processes are developed. Dr. Carsten Bauer, Managing Director of Metzeler Automotive Profile Systems in Germany, spoke to Automotive Industries (AI).

AI: How do you view the situation in the sealing industry at the moment? It appears to be a difficult sector in the supply industry.

Bauer: It is a very competitive business. Our branch is currently undergoing a phase of consolidation. There has been a long tradition of mergers and take-overs. Again and again various firms have given up and abandoned this market. The market is constantly moving forward. And the selection process accelerates accordingly.

AI: And how is Metzeler fairing in this environment?

Bauer: The process of change affects us too. Over the last 40 years ownership of our German company has changed five times and we have worked in widely varying structures and business groups. That is normal. It is even good, because it opens up new opportunities and perspectives. However, it is important that our customers are not at a disadvantage and that advantages develop. Continuity in times of change – that is our motto.

AI: Continuity in times of change. How does that work?

Bauer: It only works if the company is strong and operates from a solid basis. As a supplier, you need to have done your homework and be established on a sustainable financial and operational basis. Only then can you afford to invest effort in establishing new partnerships in order to face change with continuity. At Metzeler we have been doing this for over 140 years. That is how long we have been in business. The elephant has been our company logo for almost all this time. It symbolises power, success and sustainability, and perhaps a certain degree of stubbornness in pursuing its objectives.

AI: What does a supplier have to do to be successful in the sealing industry?

Bauer: A supplier has to make sure that it acquires orders, but also that it is successful financially over the long-term. It is taken as read that a supplier needs to be innovative, that it offers its customers excellent service and competitive prices. However, if you cannot keep your promises with the launch of the next product then you and your customer have a big problem. That is why Metzeler gives top priority to operational performance and excellent project management. With these strengths we ensure that we have reason to be pleased with ourselves when starting production as well as when winning the contract from the customer.

AI: Which contracts and which new products were you most pleased with recently?

Bauer: There were plenty. Firstly, our successful cooperation with Daimler. Having won the order for the forthcoming E class, we now supply Mercedes with the glass runs for the A, B, C, E and S class series. Our customer has shown great trust in us and we have proven that their trust is justified following the smooth start to production of the new C class. We are delighted with the successful launch of BMW’s new mini. Having supplied Audi for the TT coupe we are pleased to now have the TT Roadster in successful production as well. And Skoda, for whom we are starting production for the Fabia.

AI: What makes a start of production successful?

Bauer: The customer’s ppm figures of course, the delivery performance and our costs. We track an important factor here: the amount of money we spend on premium freight to ensure our products arrive with the customer on time. Any kind of issue, such as problems relating to quality, technical or planning issues, disrupt the supply chain and have to be compensated with premium freight. In the spring of 2007 we spent around € 3,000 a month on premium freight. That’s peanuts for a company of our size. It just goes to show that we have got our launches, products and processes under control.

AI: Taking Daimler as an example: why do customers appreciate working together with Metzeler so much?

Bauer: We offer the customer innovation and expertise and we take our customers seriously. This also means that we state clearly and in good time if something is not possible or not a good idea. That is not always easy in the initial phase of a project, but it is worth it long-term for both the customer and for us. We offer the customer reliability in implementing ideas and innovations. Our engineering services include the development of materials, products and manufacturing processes. We offer German engineering and German customer care in conjunction with manufacturing in a low-wage country and at cost-effective, highly flexible locations in Germany. After visiting our manufacturing locations, our customers confirm to us that our industrial strategy and our standardised Metzeler Production System set the benchmark for the sealing industry in Europe. And what is especially important in the current economic climate is that our customers know that Metzeler Automotive Profile Systems GmbH is a stable and reliable German company that is solvent, and will remain so. As a result, our customers can continue to focus on their core business.

AI: What is the basis for your success, what are the core elements of your strategy?

Bauer: We have a sizeable team of excellent engineers with a great deal of experience in the development of materials, products and processes. Fluctuations at management and key performer levels are both extremely low. We enjoy working for our company and are proud of our success. We are continually searching for the optimum and avoid short-term cutbacks that cost money long-term. We place great value on project management. We established a highly productive manufacturing location in a low-wage country at the right time and now we are profiting from that decision.

AI: How do you view your company’s future?

Bauer: Extremely positively. The consolidation of the industry, our market position, our competitiveness and the close partnerships with our customers are an excellent basis for further profitable growth. We consider ourselves in a leading position to counter-face the challenges of the market by ensuring continuity in times of change.