The KEIPER success story started more than 80 years ago as a family enterprise. Backed by advanced products and process solutions, KEIPER has evolved to become a globally operating corporate group with 19 sites. The company’s name stands for both premium automotive seating products and the mass production of parts.
For passenger cars, KEIPER develops and manufactures seat components and structures. Comprehensive product development services are provided by KEIPER Engineering. Recently, KEIPER has launched a new business unit which extends the company’s portfolio to include the development and production of complete commercial vehicle seats.
Automotive Industries (AI) spoke to Dr. Thomas Neumer Senior Vice President Research & Development, KEIPER GmbH & Co. KG, Kaiserslautern, Germany.
AI: What engineering services do you provide?
Neumer: For our customers, we have defined seven engineering service packages: Concept, Design and Surfacing, Comfort, Safety, Function, Prototyping and Project Management. Together, they include all project phases of seat engineering. The decisive point in this regard is that our engineering services are structured modularly, which means that customers can select and combine these packages individually â€“ based on their specific requirements.
AI: Tell us about your product range for front and rear seats?
Neumer: The product range of KEIPER is divided into three core competences: Seat components, seat structures and engineering services. In the area of components, KEIPER’s intelligent product solutions include recliners, tracks, height adjusters and crash-active headrests for front seats, as well as adjusters, tracks and locking systems for high rear seat functionality. The modular seat structures range from assemblies made from KEIPER components over complete modular seat structure kits, to custom engineered seat systems. Thus, KEIPER’s structure portfolio covers all requirements for front seats, second- and third row units and rear seat benches.
AI: How do you meet the global demand for cost-effective and reliable supply of quality components and structures?
Neumer: At KEIPER, we focus consistently on maximum standardization. This applies to both our production processes and to the certified quality assurance established in our plants worldwide. Furthermore, we are convinced that the platform strategy and modularization concepts initially introduced by OEMs also work perfectly â€“ for instance in terms of horizontal and vertical blocking â€“ for a supplier of vehicle seat components and structures. The result of these efforts is, amongst others, an excellent price/performance ratio of our products.
AI: You developed the complete rear seat sets for the BMW X5 seven seater. What qualities do you think BMW needed for this project?
Neumer: From my point of view, BMW was especially looking for a supplier with long-time experience and competence in global project- and interface-management. In addition, a premium car like the X5 demanded a second-row seat solution that ensures supreme comfort, unrestricted variability, high strength and optimum safety at the same time. The end product shows that these criterions have been met in every detail â€“ from the continuous use of top quality materials to a seat design concept that has been created together with the BMW Styling department.
AI: How early were you involved with the project?
Neumer: The close cooperation between BMW and KEIPER started from the very first concept phase and continued until the start of series production.
AI: Which components do you supply for the rear seat set?
Neumer: Regarding the components for the BMW X5 second row seat project, KEIPER supplies recliners for backrest adjustment, seat tracks for length adjustment and seat structure locking systems to First Tier Supplier Lear’s Mexico City site, where the entire seat structures are produced.
AI: What is the functionality of the second row in terms of comfort and technology?
Neumer: As one of the most innovative functional features, KEIPER’s improved Easy Entry System for the second row comfort seats of the BMW X5 seven seater allows significantly larger entrance dimensions. Consequently, the increased space between these seats and the C-pillar ensures easy passenger access to the third row. The combination of the Easy Entry system with a length adjustment and a floor adapter represents a novelty in the global market. In addition, dual stage gas shocks developed and configured by KEIPER support the second row seat’s movement. Besides easy operation to â€œEntrance Positionâ€ the seat moves back into the driving position in a very smooth way. A four joint kinematical solution in turn enables a flat cargo floor.
AI: How do you find the best solution for customers requiring high package and comfort at the same time?
Neumer: Together with our customer BMW, we already compared and evaluated different concepts during the very first conception stages back in 2003. The fact that BMW involved KEIPER this early on was essential to define the best solution for the X5 second row seats. Personally speaking, I think that KEIPER’s use of high-strength components to meet the complex adjustment functions convinced BMW to finally opt for our concept.
AI: How do you manage the complex relationship between OEM, First Tier Supplier and Engineering Services supplier like yourselves?
Neumer: An important aspect in this context is that KEIPER has successfully implemented global structures across the entire company, including our Engineering, Sales and Production units. Apart from that, we consider ourselves as solver of complex tasks and have already proven our project management proficiency in a further large-scale collaboration with another renowned German OEM.
AI: The BMW X5 project was co-ordinated between BMW Munich, KEIPER Germany and the production sites in North and Middle America. How is globalization affecting your relationship with the carmakers?
Neumer: KEIPER, just like the leading carmakers, has established its worldwide presence a long time ago. Today the KEIPER Group operates in 19 locations around the globe â€“ in each of the automotive industry’s core markets and always in close proximity to its clientele. But our company structure does not only resemble the networks of global OEMs; by consistently applying platform strategy and standardization to its seat components and structures, KEIPER’s whole product portfolio perfectly aligns with the demand of carmakers.