Schuler Group

Schuler presses home its advantage

Boasting a lineage that dates back over almost 170 years, Schuler is a worldwide leader in metal forming technology.

The company delivers production lines, tools and dies, and process solutions to the metalworking industry and counts some of the largest automotive manufacturers, their suppliers and household appliance producers as customers. Through the utilisation of the group’s vast number of companies and subsidiaries it is able to offer complete systems from a single source. That group was added to last year, with the acquisition of the Mueller Weingarten AG.

The company was established in 1839 by Louis Schuler, and quickly built a reputation for excellence in machine tools for sheet metal processing. Progress continued through the 1800s, as under the guidance of its visionary founder, Schuler was responsible for a number of technological breakthroughs. Examples of which included the production of the first drawing presses with mechanical drives and the delivery of China’s first minting press. The commitment to product innovation and breakthrough technology continued through the 1900s with the delivery of the first auto body panel press for mass production and the introduction of transfer presses with crossbar transfer to the market. The culmination of the company’s growth came at the turn of the millennium when it was listed as a publicly traded company in 1999.

Nine years on and Schuler has completed a deal that is arguably as important. The takeover of its competitor, Mueller Weingarten AG, was set in motion in March 2007 when the shareholders of Schuler submitted an offer for the majority shareholding of the company. The move was completed six months later when the option to buy up all remaining shares was taken. The new Schuler operation is the market leader in forming technology for the metalworking industry, with a worldwide market share of approximately 35 per cent. It is expected to lead the business in over 20 countries, generate a turnover of more than 900 million euros, and have a global coverage in terms of distribution, production and service.

Speaking in September, Jürgen Tonn, CEO of Schuler AG, commented: “We have thus fulfilled all legal prerequisites to fully combine the two companies and thereby strengthen our position on the global market. All stages of our integration plan are right on schedule. As previously announced, the business integration of Muller Weingarten will be completed in the first quarter of 2008.”

The development will further expand an already vast array of services and products. Manufacturing Today Europe spoke to Arnd Kulaczewski, executive vice president of Schuler SMG, manufacturer of hydraulic presses within the Schuler Group. Detailing Schuler SMG’s range, he says: “We are involved in a wide number of industry sectors and have many areas of expertise. Among them are products for sheet metal forming, in particular for hydraulic press units and press lines the automotive and the tier industry. We also deliver hydraulic tryout presses for die shops and stamping plant. Furthermore, we produce hydraulic forging equipment for cold forming and for hot and semi-hot forming. Our customers manufacture products including gearboxes, shafts, transmission parts as well as wheels.”

Schuler SMG is also committed to developing automotive products that improve the safety of vehicles and limit damage to the environment. “Many cars on the streets are running on natural gases, and we have developed the machinery and processes for the manufacture for the cylinders that store the compressed natural gas. As well as that, we have recently begun the building of presses for the hot forming of sheet metal, which is warmed then cooled to a die and then used as a safety device such as for example a B-column in the door of a car. This process is growing at a great rate and it is an area where we are leading the market,” Arnd says.

Outlining some of the other business sectors that Schuler SMG works closely with, Arnd explains: “Regarding other industries, we produce hydraulic presses for household appliances such as dishwashers, washing machines and tumble dryers. One of our recent contracts is with Europe’s largest manufacturer of bath and shower thumbs, for whom we supply complete lines of equipment.”

It is this breadth of knowledge and services that has allowed Schuler SMG to establish itself in such a healthy position. Analysing some of the company’s main strengths, Arnd explains: “We see ourselves as being the number one company when it comes to hydraulic press technology and engineering. Our customers know that we are able to support them with complete production solutions because of the various organisations that make up the Schuler Group. Because of the number of complicated projects we have been a part of we have developed a company that is very experienced and has a great deal of expertise. What is also important is the number of accomplished engineers we have here; they are very important to us.”

With the market becoming saturated with low price competitors from Asia and Eastern Europe, Schuler is looking to further increase its global footprint in new sectors of industry. “While we are keen to consolidate our position in the markets that we currently operate in, we are also looking for alternative business. Looking forward, we will be investigating where else our knowhow can be used.” If Schuler’s past, and indeed present, is anything to go by, there is unlikely to be a shortage of options.

Schuler Group

Products: Metal forming machinery
Sites: Worldwide
Employees: 5700