As a young company, 247TailorSteel has grown aggressively by fully automating its processes 

Headquartered in Varsseveld, The Netherlands, 247TailorSteel provides custom-cut components with capabilities in laser cutting, tube laser cutting, bending, and edge finishing. Since its inception in 2007, the business has worked with tens of thousands of satisfied customers and has consequently established a reputation for excellence. To stay ahead of the curve, 247TailorSteel continuously works to optimize processes and improve its environmental footprint. 

In 2015, the business launched its self-developed online software, Sophia®, which allows customers to order tailor-made products from a PC or laptop in Germany, Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, and Northern France in an instant. Technology isn’t only used for ordering; it is embedded throughout the customer’s journey from order to delivery. CNC laser cutters and Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) are used in production to ensure an efficient process, which minimizes margins of error with a delivery reliability rate of 99.7 percent.

Frank Gelen, COO of 247TailorSteel
Frank Gelen

As an innovative company with a customer-centric approach and automation at its core, the business is rapidly growing across Europe and has come to occupy a total of six sites. Frank Gelen, COO of 247TailorSteel, joins us to discuss the company’s new facilities and ambitious growth plans, as well as how it continues to evolve in the face of automation. 

“247TailorSteel started from a foundation of IT infrastructure, and with the development of Sophia®, digitization and automation are in our DNA,” Frank begins. “At the initial offer stage, we can automatically break down an assembly into different parts for the customer to digest. We believe that by leveraging automated practices, we can better serve our customers in the most effective way, as the process is quick and efficient, yet reliably accurate. 

Enhanced automation 

“Of course, automation is not exclusive to 247TailorSteel. However, as companies try to automate manual processes, they are only addressing a few steps in the complete chain, leading to suboptimal results, whereas we automate every element of the journey from offer to delivery. As an example, we not only calculate material amounts and process time to get a sale over cost price, but we also check manufacturability from several aspects. Should an order fail to pass these checks, the software automatically provides advice on how to improve and optimize the design. This minimizes the risk that we accept an order without having the correct tools and materials to complete it and would thus not be able to deliver the order on time or in full. This is an elaborate automated check that I don’t believe any of our competitors can currently offer. 

“Once approved, the order is then automatically transferred to our programming system to determine the movements of the lasers or bending machines. Only three percent of our parts are manually programmed, with the majority (97 percent) being a first-time success because of our automated software!” 

When it comes to planning, these processes are also automated. “We use platforms to address production capacity and optimize material usage, implementing standard processes to ensure consistent quality across our sites,” he explains. “Using AI, we automatically puzzle any odd product shapes in the best feasible way, which minimizes waste and carbon emissions. This is particularly important for customers that order products of the same plate material in a certain time period and geographic location, as we can align production to service multiple customers. 

“In terms of efficiency, we automatically optimize driving distance and capabilities across the factories, and we’ve purchased equipment from reputable, industry-leading companies like Trumpf, LVD and BLM to ensure reliability and accuracy during production. With over 7000 unique articles produced every day, our planning system can’t be managed manually. 

“We use AGVs to drive plate material to the machines, which is a stable way of working and one that is easy to scale or adapt to different volumes. We’re currently working on a system that will enable us to have a fleet of multi-brand AGVs that use different software but cooperate to move semi-finished products from one process to another. 

two men inserting metal products into machinery“The transport and delivery of finished goods is split equally between a mix of our own vehicles and logistics partners, where we’ve set up an automatic system to share relevant data like addresses with our partners, as well as automatically transfer pallets. As we pride ourselves on offering a quick turnaround service, our automated systems enable us to deliver around 20 percent of orders within two days of ordering and 80 percent of orders within five days.” 

Continuous growth 

Having secured an effective and efficient production process, it’s no surprise that 247TailorSteel has grown to occupy five facilities in addition to its headquarters. It boasts an established footprint in Oyten, Hilden, and Langenau in Germany, but 2023 saw the business open new sites at Oud Gastel, the Netherlands, and Hooglede, Belgium. 

The site in Oud Gastel opened in April 2023 and as the company’s largest location, boasts a production area of over 200,000 square feet and is already equipped with eight laser cutting machines, five bending machines, five tube laser cutting machines, and two deburring machines, with even more room to grow. Shortly afterwards in October 2023, the business opened a site in Hooglede with capacity for up to 12 laser cutters, ten tube laser cutters, and 12 bending machines. 

Frank elaborates: “We currently have over 60 plate laser machines, 45 bending machines, and 23 tube lasers installed in our factories. Our newest facilities at Langenau, Oud Gastel, and Hooglede have been built with continuous growth in mind. Before opening multiple sites, we developed the optimum factory blueprint to fine-tune the project of erecting and equipping a new site. We even host ‘open door days’ where visitors can come on-site to see our processes in action. 

“We’re constantly growing and we’re amazingly fast in scaling up; we’ve grown at an average rate of around 30 percent each year. Aside from core processes, we’re currently developing a range of additional services for our customers, such as supplying bending services for heavy parts. Until recently, we only supported parts up to 44 kilograms, but we’re now developing software to automatically assess whether our robots can grab heavier parts during every aspect of production. However, we only implement these processes once they are fully transferable through our online software, Sophia® and can be automatically executed in operations.” 

Automation and innovation clearly run through the very core of 247TailorSteel’s operations, and as our conversation with Frank draws to a close, his final words reiterate the company’s determination to succeed. “We’re a young company and everyone that joins us knows we are developing fast, which means we have a collaborative team eager to develop and improve,” he suggests. 

“The business will continue to grow within Europe, particularly in France, as well as Austria, Switzerland, and Italy,” Frank concludes. “Beyond that, there is potential to extend our reach to customers in the US, but we are still focused on perfecting the balance of efficiency, quality, and speed of delivery to ensure we remain unbeaten in our market.”