Timesavers International offers a wide range of solutions for the deburring, edge rounding, finishing and grinding of various metals such as aluminium, copper and mild steel, not to forget of course corrosion-resistant alloys such as stainless steel and titanium. Two years ago this journal wrote about the company’s 81 Series, an innovative solution for precision grinding. High time therefore for a return visit to put the spotlight on the 62, 71 and 72 Series whose robust technology is increasingly in demand worldwide amongst companies looking to achieve the very best finishes on sheet and coil.
Walking through Timesavers’ production halls in Goes, The Netherlands, one cannot help but admire how efficiently the company has organized its manufacturing processes. From the goods received department, the bays for cutting, machining and welding, through to the assembly and painting halls, the testing department and finally on to shipping, everything is logically and efficiently arranged and working at top speed.
“As you can see we are a genuine OEM, with all disciplines such as manufacturing but also engineering, design, QA/QC etc all being conducted under a single roof,” explains Marketing Manager Dennis Simons. “However as you will also note the space we have here is somewhat limited which calls for creativity. So come back next week and this partition wall will have gone, for example! That’s the reason why this location focuses on our smaller models, with larger machines being made in a second facility close by. If we need to expand, we will.”
Another factor that is clearly evident from a factory tour is that once produced, components do not enter a holding area but are moved directly to the next manufacturing stage. “We have implemented an almost seamless production line, avoiding the need to stockpile components. This saves space, limits tying up capital and, most importantly, means we can produce machines to order. That is an important selling point for us and our customers as we can firstly fine-tune our designs to better meet their exact needs and secondly deliver those machines within the shortest possible lead times.”
“Being a true manufacturer adds value to Timesavers in another way too,” comments Dennis. “With our first-hand experience of metal-working we have a genuine understanding of the technical concerns and practical needs of our customers, so we can properly serve them, whether they need a basic model to manually grind limited numbers of small components or require an automated system that is geared up to process much larger items in bulk.”
Try before you buy
With an eighty-year history it is fair to say that Timesavers has acquired an enviable knowledge and expertise in both building abrasive equipment as well as customer applications. This enables the company to operate as a premium and trusted partner for clients. Indeed many sales – especially to customers in more remote areas – are made on the basis of word of mouth recommendations, plus of course Timesavers’ extensive reference list. Nevertheless, a goodly number of potential clients do like to visit Goes and spend time in the Customer Application Centre. “This is much more than simply a showroom,” emphasizes Dennis. “Here customers don’t simply come to look at our models, they try them out as well!”
And that is exactly what SSWN witnessed during our visit, when a delegation from a French company produced samples of their semi-finished metal components to see exactly what Timesavers’ equipment could do. “This is very common and something we encourage,” says Dennis. “After all, parts are always different, in terms of the materials, the dimensions, the starting shape and the processing requirements. So we welcome visitors as here they can confirm in advance that our machines will do the job they want. Almost all visitors leave the Application Centre having been convinced by the quality and performance of our equipment.”
Asked about the price-tag for such top-of-the-line equipment Area Manager Pascal Depondt replies that clients tend to rank performance and reliability much higher than purchase costs. “As a customer from India recently told us ‘I am here because I want an abrasive machine that is built like a Mercedes and drives like a Mercedes. And if that’s what I want, then I have to be prepared to pay for a Mercedes!”
Nevertheless, not all customer contacts result in a sale. Indeed on a very few occasions Timesavers staff will honestly inform the customer that an abrasive machine simply cannot do the job he or she was hoping for. Pascal continues: “in that case we may be able to suggest an alternative process or to assess whether the customer might lower his expectations. But we would never, ever, sell a machine if we thought the buyer might in any way be disappointed.”
Stainless steel finishing
After completing our tour of the manufacturing halls and the Customer Application Centre, SSWN had the opportunity to sit down with Pascal to discuss Timesavers’ sales and marketing strategies. Initially responsible for Timesavers’ complete range in the Middle East and parts of the Far East, Pascal was recently asked to further boost global sales for finishing equipment. “We can see a lot of potential for our 62, 71 and 72 models in the Middle East but also in countries such as Russia, South Africa and Australia,” he comments. “Obviously they cannot easily come to Goes with a box of samples to test, so I visit them in person to explain how our machines work and what they do. Our extensive customer references and knowledge base can be very persuasive. And for the record: yes, I do like to travel!”
All this begs the question: what exactly is meant by ‘finishing’? “Let me to clarify, in our industry ‘finishing’ refers to the cosmetic finish that can be applied to the surfaces of materials such as stainless steels,” explains Pascal. “So consider for example lift interiors, or work surfaces in hotel kitchens, or even the facades of modern office blocks. In fact, whenever I step into a lift I always check the interior surface to see whether one of our finishes has been applied!”
There are some eight types of finish that can be applied to stainless steels, adding lustre or texture to the surface. Finishes offered by Timesavers which will be well-known to companies active in this specific market include duplo, microlon, No 4 and also hairline, which can be described as a series of parallel scratches along the length of the surface and is very popular in Asia.
“Our machines can be fitted with wide belt grinding heads as well as Scotch-Brite brush heads to deliver the desired finish. In fact, the only finish we cannot create is a highly mirrored surface. This requires a completely different process so we decided many years ago to forgo this market and instead to channel our skills into those areas we were best at,” qualifies Pascal.
Asked who buys such finishing equipment, Pascal replies most sales are made to service centres which process raw materials such as sheets and coils on behalf of their own customers. “However, from time to time we do also work directly with the OEMs,” he adds.
With three complementary ranges of finishing machines – the 62, 71 and 72 – Timesavers has models that are suited for wet and dry finishing of stainless steel in both coil and sheet forms. For ease of reference, the ‘1’ in the product name indicates wet finishing (ideal for more shiny surfaces), whilst the ‘2’ refers to dry finishing (gives a more matt finish). However, it should be noted that whilst some equipment is purchased individually, in many cases Timesavers actually delivers fully integrated production lines.
“Suppose a customer wants to finish coils,” Pascal starts. “He might therefore require, in addition to our equipment, an unwinder, straightener, roller table, washer-dryer, foil applicator, and finally a rewinder. Plus of course the attendant electrical systems. Instead of the customer having to approach multiple vendors we can – thanks to the close support of our partners – take the overall responsibility to design, install and commission a turn-key process line for him. The same applies if the client is looking to finish both sides of a sheet, in which case we can integrate a sheet reverser. Or we can add a transverse cutter if the job entails cutting coils into sheets. Whatever the customer’s requirements, we have the knowledge and the network to do the job properly.”
Giving an example of a completed project, Pascal recollects details of a coil-to-coil wet line installed and commissioned for a client in Poland. “During a follow-up phone call the client told me he was delighted with the performance of this process line. Without wishing to sound arrogant I am not surprised as with our forty-five years of experience in this field we know how to build robust machinery that delivers an attractive and consistent finish. Moreover, when approached by a customer we always take the time to fully understand his needs so that we can present the best possible solution. For example, consider something as mundane as how parts are moved inside an automatic finishing machine. Options include conveyor belts or rollers and here too we know which transportation system will help to deliver the best results.”
Bringing our pleasant interview to a close, Pascal reiterates what makes Timesavers stand out. “What drives us is to be a top-of-the-line supplier. You have seen the dedication and quality we put into building our equipment. That same level of competence and transparency is therefore put into everything else we do, such as how we handle global customer inquiries, our back-office and financial activities, the after-sales service we provide around the globe, etc. We will do our utmost to ensure clients are 100% satisfied and to develop lasting customer relationships. The only regret I have is that, as our machines are so well designed and last for so long, once a sale is made a customer probably won’t place an order for a replacement for twenty years or more!”