Family ownership and a can-do attitude with ambition to invest year-on-year has seen Krakow, Poland-based BTH Import Stal grow into a fast-moving supplier of acid resistant and stainless steel sheet, coil and tube, but more importantly a supplier of added value components to a wide range of customers.
When asked what makes BTH Import Stal special, board member Tomasz Kotarba responds by saying: “Family. We are a family-owned business, and our 300 employees are an extension of that family and that makes what we have special. Unlike many of our competitors, who are simply part of larger shareholder driven corporations, we have the flexibility to respond to market trends. We are also free to invest and invest on an annual basis to ensure that our people and facilities are industry leading.”
While at the outset BTH Import Stal was a stockholder of stainless steel, the business has developed and it has focused more on added value, supplying pre-processed material, semi-finished products, and finished products, such as its Pillow Plate material, it has achieved by developing its capabilities with the introduction of laser cutting, bending, and coil processing. The company currently operates out of a 30,000 m2 facility in Krakow, with ambitious plans to double that within the next three years, while also increasing the 75,000 tonnes of acid resistant and stainless steel that it processes on an annual basis. “Added value production is becoming a larger part of our business, the more we process, the happier we are. Of course, to achieve this we need to continue to invest, while we are investing in our capabilities, we continue to take forward steps. While it would be nice to pause at some point, not investing means backward steps, so we will continue.”
Investment based on experience
Over the past 15 years BTH Import Stal has worked with Timesavers on a variety of projects, and the two companies have developed an excellent working relationship. “From a commercial aspect doing business with Timesavers is a pleasure, the people are nice, and they are open to do business,” comments Tomasz Kotarba. “Technically, they are also excellent, we rarely have need to contact the service department, but if we do the response is fast and efficient. As part of our plans to double the size of the factory, we intend to invest in a second line and Timesavers will be our supplier of choice.”
The relationship has seen a sheet-to-sheet processing line installed in 2007, now fondly known as the Grandma line due to its longevity and reliability, as well as stand-alone grinding and surface finishing machines, such as the 42 Series deburring and grinding machine. The success of these machines and their familiarity in terms of technology made the decision straightforward when BTH Import Stal wanted to increase capacity and capability by introducing a coil-to-coil line.
The new coil-to-coil line features two Timesavers 71 series machines, one equipped with twin wide abrasive belts for finishing and the second fitted with twin brushes for fine finishing operations. The decision was founded on improving efficiency and productivity. Both Timesavers 71 series machines can operate independently, depending on the surface finish specified by the customer, and subject to the thickness of the material a coil can contain up to 1.5 km of stainless steel, which can be processed without interruption or manual intervention. “Processing coil material is much more efficient than sheet-to-sheet both in terms of throughput and production costs,” says Tomasz Kotarba. “Consumable costs are reduced as we find the abrasive belts last much longer, and the productivity gains we can achieve will see costs reduced by 50 per cent in some cases.”
Both machines are operated under ‘wet’ conditions, with the abrasive belts and material subjected to coolant delivered at every stage. Therefore, a washing/drying unit is installed in the line prior to the material be re-coiled. Using a wet process may seem out of step with modern environmental thinking, but Tomasz Kotarba disagrees: “Wet grinding has is often viewed as old technology and less friendly to the environment, but we see it as having distinct advantages in the manufacturing process. We can achieve better and more consistent finish on the material we are processing when grinding with coolant, this is a particular advantage when processing coil. It also reduces the number of abrasive belts that we use compared to dry grinding, which is a positive outcome in environmental terms.”
Tried and tested technology
The Timesavers 71 Series, which are highly versatile machines able to be configured with either two abrasive belts or twin brushes. The machines can be adapted to work on sheet or coil material in three standard widths, which are 1350 mm, 1600 mm, and 2100 mm with a material throughput rate variable between zero and 30 m/min. They are capable of producing a variety of surface finishes including Duplo, Microlon and Hairline in stainless steel materials. Control of the 71 Series is via the easy-to-use Siemens man/machine control interface. Conveniently located at a good working height and position the operator can control every aspect of the process from this single interface, while maintaining a good line of sight to the material being fed into the machine. “The versatility and ease-of-use of these Timesaver machines ensures that we can meet the demands of our existing customers, who come from a diverse selection of industries, including existing customers ranging from major manufacturers through SME’s and business to consumer clients across a range of sectors including architectural, medical, food processing and construction.
“The investments we have made have created a flexibility that our competitors are unable to match and that is something that is appreciated by customers, who are confident that we can deliver on our promises. We are focused on providing customers with a first-class service and can do attitude, means a customer will never hear us say ‘we can’t do that’ because we can and will constantly strive to meet their requirements.” Investment in systems and manufacturing capability, such as the Timesavers coil-to-coil line is evidence of BTH Import Stal’s philosophy of being open with customers, with family members always accessible for discussions. “Our focus is on the customer not the shareholder, we operate as a family business and I think this is what makes us special.”