Tool steel rides high, but other materials are gaining ground
ETMM: What kind of demands have die and mould shops been placing on their steel suppliers? What have you been doing to meet these demands?
Krusenbaum: Apart from the customarily high demands on the quality of our products, our customers attach increasing importance to consulting and other services. We meet these demands, for example, with technical customer service that focuses on finding a suitable material for every individual application and also includes adapting, developing and trying out materials on-site together with our customers. In addition, our customers appreciate the fact that at Deutsche Edelstahlwerke, they can purchase steel as well as receive services such as heat treatment and in-depth product processing with state-of-the-art technology from a single source. Of course, punctual delivery and personal on-site support are also important to our customers. Here, we benefit also from our integration in the worldwide distribution network of the Schmolz + Bickenbach Group.
ETMM: Has the push for completely integrated digital production – Industry 4.0 – affected your production or delivery systems? Do you expect this trend to impact your logistics, or is this something that may not affect the die and mould maker?
Krusenbaum: As mentioned at the beginning, we continuously monitor these trends and will include them in our strategic considerations and plans in the future.
ETMM: A recent report suggested steel prices in general could decline over the next few years. How will this impact tool and mould steel prices?
Krusenbaum: The steel industry is subject to strong cyclical fluctuations. Since it is hardly possible to foresee the development of prices for raw materials and alloys years in advance, we generally refrain from making any price forecasts.
ETMM: How has the use of other materials such as aluminium and even 3D-printed plastics been affecting your sales to the die and mould sector?
Krusenbaum: In mould design, aluminium is mainly used for the production of prototypes and hardly affects Deutsche Edelstahlwerke's production. We can imagine that additive manufacturing will have an impact on manufacturers and dealers of aluminium for tool design. We produce, however, tool steel that is processed into rough-machined plastic moulds in our plants.
ETMM: What kind of advantages does European steel have over metals manufactured in other areas of the world? Is it worth the mark-up?
Krusenbaum: Customers who purchase tool steel from European steel producers receive products that have been manufactured with the know-how and experience of centuries and in state-of-the-art facilities. That enables reliable quality that can be reproduced at any time. This combination is what makes the European steel industry strong in a worldwide comparison.
ETMM: Are you seeing more demand for your tool steel in the developing world, and if so, in what regions?
Krusenbaum: We see additional potentials for our tool steel particularly in the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and in Turkey, because the demand for mobility and vehicle manufacturing continues to grow, and the packaging and food industry is also striking new paths. With our tool steel, we are in a good starting position to follow these developments.
ETMM: Is more tool steel from the developing world showing up in its raw form in Europe? What are some of the top regions from where is it being shipped?
Krusenbaum: The main exporters are China and Russia, whose steel industries have been growing strongly at a terrific speed. However, we regard this development as a challenge to extend our technical lead and continuously develop our products further.