Interview with the management

What is Frauenthal Automotive’s work ethos?

Amit Bedi:
As the market leader, we offer a diversified product portfolio and develop tailor-made solutions for our customers. An unrivalled production network spanning various European countries and China ensures reliable delivery, flexibility, and above all technological specialisation and opportunities to reduce costs. We aim to develop groundbreaking products and achieve outstanding results which in turn generate exceptional customer value. In addition, we look to continuously improve every stage in the production process, build collaborative relationships and constantly enhance our technological know-how.

  

The Gnotec business unit develops and manufactures a wide range of metal components that meet its customers’ complex requirements. What are the key criteria for successful development?

Jörgen Oldenstedt:
Outstanding quality and services, and close collaboration with our customers – those are our key success factors. We use state-of-the-art automated pressing, laser cutting, press bending and welding technologies to produce parts, ranging from one-off prototypes to batch sizes of a million or more. In order to hold our own in the competitive, globalised world of business we will continue to focus on achieving continuous improvements in efficiency and productivity. And the guiding principle for all of our activities is “keep it simple”.

  

Gnotec has a total of five production plants in Sweden and Slovakia, as well as one in China.

Jörgen Oldenstedt:
Each plant specialises in its own particular niche product. The advantages of that are obvious: a focus on core competences, and efficient output combined with increased productivity. The facilities are strategically located close to our most important customers. We also followed our European customers when they moved into the high-potential Chinese market as part of their international expansion strategies. A global footprint has made the Gnotec Group more competitive, because we can continue to support existing customers in new markets. We manufacture products for the Chinese market at our Kunshan plant.

 

Innovation is a vital driver of growth at Frauenthal Automotive. How do you cultivate an innovation-friendly environment?

Josef Unterwieser:
Our approach to innovation rests on the proposition that every single employee has the opportunity to contribute creative ideas. Our aim is to make our products, processes and the organisational set-up more innovative. We generate innovative energy by bringing employees from different parts of the company together in workshops where they analyse and find ways of solving new challenges. We will continue to optimise our flexible manufacturing processes, in line with our one-piece flow philosophy. Such flexibility is now one of the strengths of Frauenthal Automotive’s air tank plants. We are in a position to deliver the right quantities to the right place at the right time – something that sets us apart from our competitors. This is vital to safeguarding our market leadership.

 

Turning to the idea of creating added value for customers: how do you achieve this?

Amit Bedi:
Every employee at every site should try to put themselves in the customer’s shoes and work to satisfy customer needs – day in, day out. We also aim to understand every single aspect of the value chain and to continuously analyse each step so that we can enhance the customer benefits generated by our products. Our goal is to go one step further, by using all of our capabilities to develop solutions that maximise added value for our customers. Together with our suppliers we carry out research into new materials, come up with new designs, and develop prototypes which are subjected to rigorous testing in our in-house lab and trials conducted under real-life conditions.

 

What form do development partnerships take in the various business units?

Jörgen Oldenstedt:
At Gnotec, everything is geared towards close cooperation with the customer, although the form of collaboration varies from client to client. This includes joint development work, where our engineers spend a few days a week with the customer and help its development department to optimise component design. Other partnerships are more conventional: we produce prototypes and make suggestions for improvements.

Jörg Hessler:
As an air tank producer, we look to develop solutions that make the most effective use of the available space in commercial vehicles. Our in-house R&D unit is on hand to provide the customers with personalised service. We are involved in the development process from a very early stage. This approach gave rise to the new-generation dual chamber air tank, and our innovative Headfix head mounting solution, which does not require an additional holding assembly. R&D expertise enables us to retain customers in the long run. This rules out the risk of substitutability, which we see with standard air tanks.

Widening the customer base is one of Frauenthal Automotive’s top priorities. What segments are you focusing on?

Jörgen Oldenstedt:
Gnotec produces numerous components for the passenger vehicle and truck industries, as well as various metal parts for industry and the security sector. These include parts for heat exchangers and door systems, fan covers for ship engines, and products such as oil tanks and casings for synthesisers.

Jörg Hessler:
We aim to break into new customer segments in our air tank business. We are also involved in negotiations regarding non-automotive applications for our air tanks.