Founded in 1962 in Nordrach, Germany, JUNKER Group has grown into the leading manufacturer of high-speed cubic boron nitride (CBN) grinding machines in the world. The company has come far since Erwin Junker founded it in an old grain mill in the Kinzig Valley of Germany’s Black Forest. Today, it provides everything from individual machines to complete production lines based on customers’ precision grinding needs.
“The company began with the creation of a specialty machine for tool grinding,” says Horst Zemp, president and CEO of Erwin Junker Machinery Inc. in Elgin, Ill. “In the 1980s, we changed direction and started focusing on the automotive industry mainly with shaft grinding. In 1985, Mr. Junker invented our QUICKPOINT, or peel grinding, technology, which increased our business worldwide. Soon after, we entered into the cam shaft and crank shaft grinding space.”
JUNKER has production, sales and service facilities in Germany and the Czech Republic. Additional sales and service locations can be found in the United States, Mexico, Russia, China, India and Brazil. In addition, the company plans to open another facility in Turkey.
In the United States, the JUNKER Group’s Erwin Junker Machinery employs 20 people and is based out of a 7,750-square-foot facility in Elgin, Ill. From there, the company provides sales and service to North American customers.
“We entered the U.S. in 1987 and had our first facility in Massachusetts because New England was the country’s epicenter for the tooling industry,” Zemp says. “We ended up moving to Ohio and then to Illinois because we can be better connected with our current customer base in the Midwest.”
The automotive industry is JUNKER’s primary customer base today. Although it serves other industries – such as the renewable energy, pump/compressor and cutting tool industries – the automotive market accounts for approximately 73 percent of JUNKER’s revenue.
“We are deeply involved in the automotive industry,” Zemp says. “Our equipment is attractive due to its reliability, speed and high output. Our equipment is used for mid to high production volumes and that suits the auto industry.”
JUNKER is mainly in power train market. Its customers know JUNKER understands the benefit of applying the latest technologies.
“Customers come to us and may make a higher investment upfront, but they will save in the long run by applying the latest technologies,” Zemp says. “Our equipment allows them to reduce use of floor space, manual interventions and maintenance. Our machines also have high life expectancy.”
Because its customers rely on JUNKER to be an innovative organization, the company invests heavily in the development of new technology. Zemp says JUNKER has spent an average of $16 million per year during the last years to develop new technologies in its European tech center.
“We have an average revenue of about $300 million per year,” Zemp says. “That technology investment represents a fairly large percentage of our overall revenue.”
For its technology to succeed in the U.S. market, JUNKER has looked to provide customers with solutions that lead to new ways of manufacturing components. Zemp says its customers’ facilities are generally laid out based on decades-old technology. For JUNKER’s machines to succeed in this market, it must help customers develop a completely different way to manufacture.
“Our machines can help customers by adding flexibility, combining processes into one machine, and allowing the use of multiple wheels in one setup,” Zemp says.
“We can provide complete manufacturing lines equipped with multiple setups for different parts that can be run through an entire line without manual changeover,” he adds. “We also must help them produce more parts in less time, which pays for the equipment over time. With our production base in Germany, we can work alongside European car companies to develop new technologies, components and grinding methods together. That keeps us on the forefront.”
One of the company’s recent developments is the TITAN 500. A new machine concept, the TITAN 500 can grind workpieces to a finished standard of quality using the through-feed grinding technique. Workpieces pass through the machine in continuous sequence and are precision-ground to polish quality by a wide CBN grinding wheel.
The TITAN features a wide range of machine attachments such as wheelhead, regulating wheelhead, work blade and infeed/outfeed. These are aligned and calibrated to a high degree of precision. Additionally, the TITAN has a high degree of machine rigidity. “It takes what was a three- to four-machine setup and puts everything into a single machine,” Zemp says.
Zemp notes JUNKER also has further developed its crankshaft grinding equipment. He says JUNKER should be able to capture more marketshare with its updated equipment because of added flexibility and the ability to handle three- and four-cylinder cranks.
“On medium and small engines, manufacturers want to combine processes into one machine for crankshafts,” Zemp says. “This technology can be applied in other industries, as well, such as diesel engines used for power generation.”
The diesel engine power generation market is one of JUNKER’s most promising areas. Zemp says JUNKER has become the No. 1 manufacturer of grinding machines for the market. “We’ve extended our line up to 4.5 meters of power generation,” he says. “Previously, that was not done with CBN grinding. With a single wheel, we can now grind all the bearings, mains and pins on a big diesel crankshaft with interpolation and oscillation grinding, also eliminating the need for expensive measuring equipment.”
JUNKER’s goal is to expand its marketshare in the large diesel engine crankshaft business around the world. The company also wants to add to its success in the automotive market by adding new customers to its portfolio.
“Changes in the automotive industry have seen engines becoming smaller, which is a trend that started in Europe a number of years ago and is moving into the American auto industry,” Zemp says. “That requires higher output from smaller engines, which means more complicated and precise components. That increases the necessity for the grinding technology that we provide.”
JUNKER has diversified its operations somewhat into the steering sector of the automotive industry. Zemp says JUNKER is at the forefront of the steering rack thread-grinding niche for electric steering systems.
“We want to extend that line and support that part of the industry with special machines for the ID thread grinding of ball nuts for electric steering systems,” he says. “We can replace three machines with one providing the same output.”
In the end, JUNKER succeeds because its equipment removes unproductive time from the equation for customers. For the company to continue to grow, it must expand and improve its international service capabilities by training local application and engineering specialists. That will allow it to provide local support to customers in all countries where it goes to market.
In North America, it recently incorporated in Mexico, opening a branch in Querétaro, Mexico, at the beginning of 2014. Previously, it supported Mexico-based customers from its U.S. office. Anticipating high levels of demand in the future in Mexico, the new location will help the company provide local support.
“That is a big investment, and it takes about six months to a year before service specialists are at the level the customer expects,” Zemp says. “We are a global player, and our focus is on providing first-class support to customers on every level, whether they need a single machine or a full factory.”