Medium-sized family company PFEIFFER Metalltechnologie, based in Swabia in southwestern Germany, is a leader in aluminium profile machining technology thanks to its high productivity, low error rate and quick delivery times. In order to maintain this competitive edge, it uses elumatec profile machining centres (SBZs), automatic saws and double mitre saws to manufacture its products. We took a look at how the SBZs in particular are helping PFEIFFER boost its efficiency in production.
A family firm in Frittlingen
PFEIFFER is based in the idyllic town of Frittlingen, which nestles between Rottweil and Tuttlingen at the foot of the Swabian mountains and has a population of 2,190. The company was founded in 1977 by Gerhard Pfeiffer, and in 2013 his sons Reiner and Robert took the reins as partners and Managing Directors of a business which operates from premises comprising 8,000 m2 and which employs over 100 people, making it the largest employer in Frittlingen.
Leading technology and large-scale series production
PFEIFFER has built its reputation as a technology leader in large part thanks to its “PFEIFFER Metal Engineering” (PME) principle, which encompasses optimising how materials are used and selected, enhancing product design, and streamlining manufacturing processes for medium- and large-scale series production. The company also boasts a high level of vertical manufacturing integration with its assembly and component production and delivers everything from prototypes through to series products.
PFEIFFER’s expertise lies mainly in the exciting and exacting field of aluminium machining and in welding and surface technologies, laser machining and punching processes. Its customers include automotive, vehicle and machinery manufacturers, electrical engineering firms, power engineering companies and sun protection specialists.
Speed and flexibility required
Medium-sized Swabian companies are renowned around the world for high-quality products and marketleading technologies, and PFEIFFER is no exception. This means that the demands placed on the machines the company uses are extremely high, particularly when it comes to processing orders. “It is very important that we can react to increases in demand whenever they occur”, says Robert Pfeiffer, who explains that large-scale orders have to be delivered as quickly as possible and exactly in accordance with what the customers want – and sometimes multiple orders have to be processed simultaneously.
Also crucial for production, which involves various machining operations, are machines that can be converted quickly. And this flexibility is a key element of the PME principle, which revolves around optimisation for series production.
“Customers value what we do because we find the best solution for every problem, big or small, and because our customer service is second to none”, says Pfeiffer. The Managing Director explains that PFEIFFER’s aims are higher than small-scale production for niche markets: globalisation means that mediumand large-scale manufacturing is the only way to guarantee the company’s long-term future, which requires hard work and expertise on the part of staff, coupled with constant innovation.
Everyone at PFEIFFER knows that the company cannot stand still if it is to preserve its competitive advantage, and that also applies to the equipment and technology used in aluminium machining. The demands are clear: “We need machines which combine all operations, from prototypes through to series manufacturing, and which give us a high level of flexibility”, says Pfeiffer.
The machine shop at PFEIFFER, where elumatec efficiency is making the difference.
Image copyright: PFEIFFER Metalltechnologie GmbH, Frittlingen
The compact SBZ 151 – unbeatable versatility in operation
Three SBZ 151 profile machining centres are in use at PFEIFFER. “The 5-axis centre is perfect for handling all the various operations”, says Pfeiffer, who makes clear that this is crucial for a company that has made its name by machining aluminium profiles with maximum flexibility and efficiency. The SBZ 151 is used to machine components for vehicle floorpans, including parts for Jaguar and profiles for luggage rack ventilation for Daimler subsidiary EvoBus. “Using three identical machines allows us to stay on top of market requirements at all times”, he explains.
SBZ 151 Edition 90 profile machining centre
Image copyright: elumatec AG, Mühlacker
The SBZ 151 in use at PFEIFFER can be quickly converted to suit the operation. To give just one example: dynamic servo drives allow the machining unit to be positioned at up to 66 m/min. “The automatic tool changer boosts our productivity”, says Pfeiffer, and the use of eluCad software, developed by elusoft, makes production at PFEIFFER even more efficient, which offers maximum flexibility, user-friendliness and practical functionality when programming machines.
Better quality in a smaller footprint
Routing, drilling, tapping, thread milling, notching and sawing are performed on the stationary profile, ensuring that the profile surfaces are handled gently and improving the quality of the end product. But that’s not the only advantage, as Pfeiffer explains: “It takes up much less space. The design of the SBZ 151 means it has a much smaller footprint than our old machines from other suppliers – while still giving us the same machining options.”
“Everything fits together perfectly: our product suits the machine, and the machine suits the product”, says a delighted Pfeiffer. And the Managing Director speaks just as highly of the elumatec SA and SAS automatic saws as he does of the SBZ 151, as they have the same crucial advantages of flexibility and quick conversion. But there is also a less technical reason why PFEIFFER decided to acquire elumatec machinery. As Pfeiffer explains: “We set great store by working with other companies and suppliers in close proximity to us – you could say it’s part of our philosophy.” And PFEIFFER was in any case already aware of elumatec from word of mouth, a sign of elumatec’s ever-growing reputation for supplying high-quality machinery.
A simple, honest working relationship
But it’s not just the high-quality products that matter to PFEIFFER: elumatec’s customer service is also key. The top priority is to maximise machine availability in order to keep downtimes to a minimum, and the Managing Director is keen to praise elumatec’s role in this regard: “Their remote maintenance is always on hand to provide support for our machines, and we have never felt neglected when we have had problems. The machine immediately boosted our productivity, and we now have a perfect blend of machinery, software and top-class customer service.”
After eight years of working together, Pfeiffer is more convinced than ever that choosing elumatec was the right decision. “Whether we’re dealing with back office staff or speaking to sales representatives in person, we have a simple and honest working relationship.”
PFEIFFER and elumatec’s collaboration is a shining example of how technological expertise and open, honest communication can create genuine and lasting added value. “Our productivity has increased by a whole 30 per cent, our error rate has dropped 10 per cent down to 15 per cent, and our delivery times are significantly quicker too”, says Pfeiffer. As a result, the new, more efficient PFEIFFER is now perfectly positioned to build on its strong market position in the years to come.
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