In the world of carpentry and joinery, Speedmaster has been synonymous with reliability, speed and quality in furniture parts production for two decades. Even in the challenging year of 2020, the company was still extremely successful, so it is optimistic about the future. Managing Director Günther Schweiger explains the strategies that Speedmaster uses to achieve this success and why laser-based edgeband processing is such an important factor.
Perfect logistics and personnel planning
Speedmaster’s supply chains have worked well throughout every phase of the Covid-19 pandemic so far, which was also due to the fantastic level of flexibility shown by the company’s partners, as Managing Director Günther Schweiger emphasises.
We supplied every order on time
möbelfertigung: Mr Schweiger, we are all looking back on an extraordinary year. What does your 2020 balance sheet look like?
Günther Schweiger: It paints a more than positive picture. Admittedly, we saw a slight downturn at the start of the first lockdown in April last year, but there was no sign of that during the rest of the year. The challenge was actually more about whether our employees were allowed to work without any restrictions, whether our production operations could continue and whether the supply chain could be maintained. Those were the questions that occupied us the most and for which we also found solutions.
möbelfertigung: So, Speedmaster didn’t experience what many other companies described as a ‘rollercoaster ride’ when it came to order intake. What they meant by that was order levels sometimes falling to an absolute low, only to climb back up to a record high shortly after.
Günther Schweiger: The year was nothing like a rollercoaster ride. As I said, apart from at the start of the spring lockdown, our order book was full the whole year. Looking back, that is a real positive, but of course we also had no certainty when it came to planning throughout the year, as we only have minimal lead times for our orders. Although logistics planning is part and parcel of our core day-to-day business, it was much harder for us to keep things on the right track in terms of personnel planning. But, in retrospect, that also went well in the end.
möbelfertigung: So, did your supply chains work well enough for you to meet your deadlines?
Günther Schweiger: Reliable delivery is the top priority in our business model. We only have 48 hours between order intake and delivery, so we have to rely on our partners in the supply chain, just as our customers rely on us. Whether it was boards, edgebands, fittings or other purchased parts – there were hardly any bottlenecks in the supply chain. Also, our partners demonstrated the utmost flexibility. I am therefore extremely proud that we delivered every order on time.
möbelfertigung: In your opinion, how well have skilled crafts and trades come through the pandemic so far?
Günther Schweiger: Generally well, I think. The furniture industry – and therefore our customers, the joiners and carpenters – have full order books. On the one hand, that has been down to the flexibility of skilled crafts and trades in adapting to new circumstances and, on the other, there were few restrictions for these businesses. So, for the most part, they could keep working.
möbelfertigung: You use state-of-the-art industrial facilities to produce complete pieces of furniture that meet the same quality standards as manual craftsmanship – and all within 48 hours ex works. How do you ensure that level of quality and what role do fast and flexible partners play in doing so? Or, to put it another way, what does a company need to do to be a Speedmaster supplier?
Günther Schweiger: Our suppliers have to be as flexible and reliable as we are. Since we never know what our next order will look like, we don’t keep much stock on site. The partners we have on board with us therefore guarantee both the availability and logistics of our standard materials by delivering just in time. This has worked for almost 20 years. Of course, that is also a big challenge for the suppliers, but it’s the most essential part of the business relationship for us. The obvious consequence of this is that we need to establish reliable and long-term partnerships.
möbelfertigung: When you receive and analyse an order, do you then have the opportunity to make any recommendations to the customer? For example, do you give advice about the choice of material for surfaces or edgebands, or about any other elements?
Günther Schweiger: As a specialist, the joiner or carpenter knows exactly what they want. For them, Speedmaster is the guarantee that the choice of products is up-to-date and that the production is of the highest possible technical standard. As 80% of our orders come through our online shop, we don’t have many opportunities to give advice. The crucial thing is that the product has to be found on Speedmaster’s website.
möbelfertigung: REHAU has been a Speedmaster partner for many years. What do you believe are the key reasons you maintain a partnership with this company, and what products do you purchase?
Günther Schweiger: The comprehensive package that REHAU offers is perfect for us. The parameters that we expect in terms of reliability, quality and speed are met, the technical support for new materials or production processes is top-notch, and complaints processing is straightforward. It all started with the edgeband, but we now also purchase polymer surfaces and tambour door systems from REHAU.
möbelfertigung: You mostly process REHAU edgebands using laser technology. How long have you been working with laser technology and what is your experience of it so far?
Günther Schweiger: The introduction of laser technology was a milestone in Speedmaster’s history. We decided to use this advanced technology very early on, in 2012. It was a groundbreaking decision and absolutely the right one. It clearly sets us apart from our market competitors and enables us to take furniture parts production to a whole new level for carpenters, without them having to build up their own costly range of machinery. Today, laser technology is used on ten of our edgeband processing machines.
möbelfertigung: Does the technology have an impact on your workflow and production costs?
Günther Schweiger: Anyone who chooses laser technology and the associated edgebands by REHAU chooses a complete package.
Of course ‘Raukantex pro’, the edgeband for laser welding, is a little more expensive. But from a production perspective, the plus points are the stable process, less contamination of the machines – as no adhesive is used – and therefore fewer downtimes and set-up times. For the end customer, only the quality of the finished furniture matters. A seamless cabinet door – without any target areas for dirt and moisture – isn’t just the best choice in visual terms; it also rarely gives rise to complaints. So it’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.
möbelfertigung: When you process orders, do you actively steer them towards laser processing or do you ask your customers about this directly?
Günther Schweiger: Everything we offer in our standard range is automatically produced using laser technology. Our customers value that. The only exceptions are the non-standard decorative designs that have PU adhesive applied to them, but there is minimal demand for these. Although REHAU also has a solution on hand for this. The new functional layer called ‘Raukantex plus’ means that, in future, we will be able to order a TPU-based functional layer for small volumes in special widths and designs and use it on the laser machines.
möbelfertigung: Your customers are joiners and carpenters who often work on special bespoke customer projects. With that in mind, do you get requests for edgebands offering particular moisture or heat resistance or special properties such as anti-bacterial protection?
Günther Schweiger: No. Our orders come from the classic joinery and carpentry business. The requirements you’ve mentioned tend to come from commercial construction and shopfitting. What’s more, we don’t really have customers with such requirements in our customer base.
möbelfertigung: Where in particular will Speedmaster be investing in the medium term? Does this include product segments that you want to expand your current range for?
Günther Schweiger: We are guided primarily by the major trends in the furniture industry. Those are what trigger us to expand our range of decorative designs or to use new materials. At the same time, we have to be careful that we don’t diversify our portfolio too much. After all, our business model is based on fast delivery. The more we diversify, the more complex the demands become on the supply chains and our machines, not to mention our production and sales employees.
möbelfertigung: Are companies like Speedmaster making skilled crafts and trades more competitive in comparison to industry and are the boundaries between those skilled trades and industry becoming more blurred?
Günther Schweiger: I think that they will remain two separate worlds. Industry needs large volumes and long lead times and follows the global trends in the furniture sector. The carpentry trade relies on craftsmanship, individuality, creativity, proximity to customers and speed.
Speedmaster operates in precisely this environment – as an extended workbench. While the carpenter focuses on advising, planning, selling and installing, we produce the perfect made-to-measure pieces of furniture for them within the specified time. This gives the tradesperson costing and planning certainty and saves them the high investment costs of having their own machines.
möbelfertigung: Finally, a quick forecast – what are your expectations for the 2021 financial year?
Günther Schweiger: The feedback from our customers is entirely positive. I anticipate that the first half of 2021 will be at a similar level to the second half of 2020. We are also optimistic about the future as far as the second half of the year is concerned. With the right products and services, we will remain an established partner for skilled crafts and trades and celebrate our 20th anniversary with them.
Copyright möbelfertigung Issue 1/2021