In addition to the fast delivery of heating elements and thermal sensors and the realization of innovative system solutions, the customer-oriented project business is one of the fast-growing specialist disciplines in hotset's portfolio. In this field, the company acts as an outsourcing partner and assumes responsibility for the entire value-added chains of its customers. In an interview, company head Ralf Schwarzkopf tells us which services hotset's project business offers and how the company plans to expand further.
Mr. Schwarzkopf, what exactly do you mean by "project business"?
Schwarzkopf: In project business, our central concern is to relieve our customers of complete production and assembly processes. This is based on the very comprehensive principle of technologically oriented outsourcing in which hotset assumes overall responsibility for entire value chains. This gives the customer new-found freedom, which he can put to use in a variety of ways: to expand their core business, to optimize their in-house processes or to introduce lean manufacturing structures – to name just a few examples.
Are there any examples of this type of value-added outsourcing now in practice?
Schwarzkopf: Absolutely. We launched this line of business about four years ago and have since been operating individually coordinated process chains in the field of preparation and preliminary work for a number of customers in various industries. For example, for a manufacturer of gas measuring instruments. We manufacture temperature sensor system solutions – including installation, housing configuration, quality assurance and packaging – in a production line set up especially for the customer. The customer has placed this component manufacturing process entirely in our hands. We implemented a complete assembly line for a renowned manufacturer of switch cabinets; here, too, we are responsible for a large portion of the value-added chain. We are currently in talks with companies from the fuel cell technology and e-mobility sectors – this also involves setting up production structures for thermodynamic solutions.
Is your outsourcing always related to hotset's own core business?
Schwarzkopf: Our motto is "controlled energy flow"; in this respect, our outsourcing projects are also primarily concerned with tasks relating to industrial thermodynamics and thermosensor technology – but in the broadest sense. This is because the problem of ensuring that a defined temperature is available at an exact point in time or on a limited surface - for heating, cooling or temperature control - plays a crucial role in many industries. In toolmaking as well as in surface technology or plastics processing, packaging technology, food technology, foundry technology and many other areas.
Which principles or guidelines does hotset stick to when setting up value chains?
Schwarzkopf: Obviously, the customer's objectives determine how we organize and structure the process chains. As far as we are concerned, however, we always contribute decisive aspects of process optimization, efficiency improvement and resource preservation. Consulting, feasibility and value analyses from our system development division are often the starting point of an outsourcing project. Development work and prototyping often lead to an implementation phase that focuses on the realization of customer-specific system solutions, assemblies or special designs. At this point, the question arises as to whether the customer should establish their own production capacities or whether the transfer of defined value chains to hotset would prove to be more beneficial.
Where does hotset get its expertise for the construction of production and assembly lines?
Schwarzkopf: The technological basis for this can be attributed to 46 years of experience in the development and manufacture of ready-to-install heating elements and system components, including the appropriate sensor, control and regulation peripherals for many different key areas of industry. This is the foundation on which we are now in a position to draw on interdisciplinary know-how across all industries and to incorporate it into the development of customer-specific value-added chains. This is complemented by the international synergies between hotset and its subsidiaries in America, China, Singapore, India and Malta. If one of our branches generates a customer project, the problem solution and the engineering are carried out at hotset's headquarters in Lüdenscheid. The technical implementation is carried out on site in close proximity to the customer – if required, this also includes the construction of production and assembly lines under our direction.
What are the actual limits of hotset's value-added outsourcing activities?
Schwarzkopf: We generally have an open ear for all the needs and ideas of our customers, and from a process point of view, we cover the entire chain from procurement and incoming goods inspection, through warehousing of the components required for production, to production or assembly. Quality assurance and delivery or "just-in-time delivery" are also part of the scope of services in project business. From a technological point of view, value-added outsourcing should also be related to our core competencies such as heating technology, sensors, control technology, electrical engineering or installation technology.
And how do you ensure that the overall solution also pays off for the customer from an economic point of view?
Schwarzkopf: Well, that's ultimately the whole point. The aim of our project business is to protect the customer's capital commitment. To ensure this, the customer always has unrestricted insight into the overall budget of the outsourcing project. We attach great importance to this transparency. For us, it is an indispensable element of a trusting business relationship.
Mr. Schwarzkopf, thank you for the interview.