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Interviews

SIKORA AG: Precision in Measurement Begets Perfection in Quality

How to optimize processes as well as run production lines more efficiently and economically is a lesson only few like SIKORA can teach through constant development of cutting-edge measuring and control systems ensuring absolute purity of raw material.

Among eminent quality and precision technology makers, SIKORA definitely ranks high as an expert churning out intelligent measuring and control instruments including inspection, analysis and sorting systems for many areas of industrial production. The global wire and cable industry has long since been collaborating with the company to fine tune their input material requirement and purity parameters to come out with the highest possible quality for final products.

SIKORA introduced, for the first time, the PURITY SCANNER, an inspection and sorting system for raw material, in 2013 while celebrating its 40th anniversary, and launched another innovative technology two years after in the similar area but with the focus on sample testing, namely PURITY CONCEPT Systems. Wire & Cable India hosted an interview with Mr. Harry Prunk, Executive Board, SIKORA AG to know more about the control and measuring technologies and their significance in the entire production process of wires and cables. He also expounded on the new appearance of brand SIKORA and its unique customer communication system. Excerpts:

Wire & Cable India: First, tell us something about your newly launched PURITY CONCEPT Systems. How is it different from your other innovative Purity Scanner? Highlight some of its novel features.

Harry Prunk: The PURITY CONCEPT Systems belong to the product family of our inspection and sorting system for plastic pellets – the PURITY SCANNER. Whereas the PURITY SCANNER inspects online the plastic pellets for contamination and automatically sorts out pellets with black specks or metal inclusions, as well as foreign pellets or defects, the PURITY CONCEPT systems are suitable for on- and offline inspection and analysis of pellets, flakes and tapes/ films. They detect contamination down to a size of 50 μm. The devices are based on X-ray, infrared or optical technologies and are therefore suitable for various applications.

The systems can be used for example for the inspection of incoming goods. Demanding products such as high voltage cables require a similar reliable control and processing of raw materials. The transport of the plastic pellets, which are usually carried in large tanker/lorries and stored in a silo or octabin at the plant, shows several possibilities for contamination. For example, the unloading from the transport vehicle to the silo offers potential contamination from dust or other impurities. Until now, only samples have been inspected manually before the material was processed. However, even with the utmost care there might be contamination, which cannot be seen by the human eye – metallic and organic contamination inside the pellets with a size of 50 μm. Here, the PURITY CONCEPT Systems offer an efficient solution to inspect samples of incoming goods and to ensure that the raw material has the quality that is needed for the end product.

Another area of application is process control. Raw material manufacturers need to control their processes on a random basis. Therefore, they use the PURITY CONCEPT Systems to inspect samples of the material directly from the production. As a result, manufacturers get valuable information about their processes.

The systems can also be used for root cause analysis. In combination with image processing software, the PURITY CONCEPT Systems analyse and evaluate contaminated material by means of statistical data to identify sources of contamination. The information helps cable manufactures and raw material producers and processors to improve their processes.

At the manufacturing process of high and extra high voltage cables, the PURITY SCANNER is an important tool, as it is assuring that only perfectly clean pellets are fed into the extruder for the insulation of the cable. This is achieved by a 100 percent inspection by means of optics and X-ray and an automatic sorting.

WCI: Are there more additions to your already comprehensive line of technology?

HP: We always focus on the needs of our customers. Therefore, we keep an ear close to the market to keep up with new requirements at any time. So, we are working continuously on advancements and new developments for our measuring and control systems, for example, the FIBER TEMP 6003, a device for the measurement of the fiber temperature prior to the coating. The knowledge of the temperature allows to control the helium cooling for an optimum dosing, and thus to save cost.

Another highlight of our product portfolio is the PREHEATER 6000 TC (Temperature Controlled), which is the most advanced solution to precisely preheat a conductor. A reliable conductor preheating during the manufacture of high quality cables, especially data and automotive cables, is essential in order to ensure an optimum adhesion of the insulation on the conductor, respectively a controlled foaming.

A reproducible process is the result, which contributes to the increase of quality and productivity. In this context, we also offer the WIRE-TEMP 6000, a non-contact conductor temperature measuring system, available for conductor diameters up to 50 mm and therefore, for the control after the conductor preheating in CV lines.

WCI: What was the idea behind coming up with a different stand design at the exhibition “Wire 2016”?

HP: Already the last year, we started to re-launch our corporate design for all communication and marketing instruments that we are using. The reason to renew our brand appearance is easily explained: Since 2013, we have had a new company structure. In addition to our established markets, viz. wire and cable, optical fiber (cables) and hose and tube, we entered the market for plastics and established our own services as a division. This reorganization also affected the product portfolio that we started to expand. We developed among others the earlier mentioned innovative PURITY SCANNER and the PURITY CONCEPT Systems for the high voltage cable as well as plastics market. Hence, it was a logical move to adapt our company appearance and our communication strategy to the company strategy. The message is that we are an innovation leader in terms of technology, which is also reflected in our communication with customers and employees.

SIKORA should be recognized as to what it is, a company that provides the most innovative technology for high quality, process optimization and cost saving. Being close to the customer with our headquarters in Germany, 12 international offices and about 30 representatives worldwide, we want to provide our customers with the best technology solutions to move them one further step ahead and to help them to grow.Customer satisfaction and success are our highest ambitions, which shall also be expressed by the way we communicate.

The new booth concept that we presented at the wire show is one instrument of transporting our company identity and the technology and services that we offer to our customers. Actually, we revised the design of all our media for online and offline communication, from advertising campaigns, brochures, to power point presentations and the website.

Every instrument has its justification and is important for the specific purposes. However, we put particular effort in the re-launch of our website as this is the first contact that potential customers have with SIKORA when they search for information about our company. The website has now a clearer, even more intuitive structure and includes big emotional pictures. Our brand colors are white and blue. Using an easy navigation, the website guides the visitor to the desired pages. Now, the website includes the menu item Service with an online support and spare part request form. A further highlight of the new SIKORA web presence is the flexible layout. Whether PC, tablet or smartphone: the website design is responsive and adjusts automatically to every terminal and every display.

WCI: Sikora’s customer communication, besides being leader in communication, is one of the benchmark in the technology industry. What practices, methods, and principles have made your kind of smooth company-client interface?

HP: The key to establish customer relation is communication. All sources of communication have their merit, but essential is the face to face conversation. It is for that reason that SIKORA had already 25 years ago their first subsidiaries. The SIKORA team in the subsidiaries have an understanding on the processes of the customers, their requirements and on the solutions SIKORA can provide. Further these people speak the native language of the customer and their aim is customer satisfaction. 10 out of 12 offices also provide service. The way you communicate with customers is decisive to build up a trustful long-term partnership. We communicate frequently and openly about different topics via various channels with our customers such as our customer magazine “EXTRA”, e-mailings to trade fairs; advertisings in trade magazines; social media, e.g. twitter; conferences and shows; etc. We introduce and explain our products and keep ourcustomers informed about market trends, how they can improve their processes, and save costs by using our technology.

 

WCI: Having worked as an innovation partner of the wire and cable industry over last few decades, how do you find the reception of your technology by the industry?

HP: The trend is further moving towards achieving high quality, optimized processes and cost saving during the production of wires, cables and optical fibers. Today, cable manufacturers look for comprehensive technological solutions that improve efficiency of their production lines. We see ourselves as a partner of our customers helping them to run their lines with constant, excellent performances all over the world. Here we see a huge potential.

As an example, for a cable supplier, it is often of utmost importance to adapt the production to the market geographically. As the export of cable products would cause an enormous cost increase; many automotive cable manufacturers, for example, establish their plants close to the automobile plants. In order to guarantee an industrial high quality worldwide, the same technologies, respectively the same technical equipment should be available everywhere – an automatic control technology at best. Industry 4.0 is the keyword in order to link production plants internationally. The PREHEATER devices of the series 6000 TC are therefore, equipped with comprehensive interfaces. Customers benefit from the high performance of SIKORA devices, which is always available independent of the place of their application.

WCI: From the technology perspective, please outline, in brief, the directions in which the wire and cable industry should move to have best-in-class products.

HP: From what we see, cable suppliers have very well understood that the market has changed. It changed in regards of the demands of quality, costs and lead times. All companies therefore focus on an optimization in their extrusion processes. Repeatability is the keyword, as quality is not only required today, but every day for 24 hours of production.

Years ago measuring systems to check the diameter were installed without controlling the line. In the past years, everybody understood that only if the line is controlled in automatic mode, the human influences on the processes are eliminated. Today, we see that further steps had been taken already. At the manufacturing of optical fibers, we see that today manufacturers care about temperature, they care about airlines in the fiber and they care about detection of even the shortest lumps in the coating of the fiber.

In the field of data cable, manufacturers always did a capacitive measurement, but they also look for online information on the structural return loss. At the manufacturing of automotive cable manufacturers look for a perfect adhesion of the insulation to the conductor as those cables are in the following steps automatically processed, which requires high uniformity of the product. In the field of cable sheathing manufacturers look for concentricity in order to reduce cost and in the field of high voltage cable manufacturers look for the cleanliness of the insulating material in order to avoid cost resulting from breakdowns at discharge tests. Therefore, what I recognize is that manufacturers rechecked all of their processes and gave it a new start already.

WCI: Your comments on the global cable market outlook in near term?

HP: I am actually not the one that is scared about the economic challenges on the global cable market, because there is so much that needs to be done in infrastructure – not only in the developing countries, but also in highly developed countries. We see all of these changes in the infrastructure in India, in China, and in Germany as well, when it comes to the power supply based on wind and solar energy. Further, we see all the discussions about electricity driven cars and we see the increasing demand for higher data volumes in the communication. All of this opens opportunities not only in near future, but also on a long term basis.

 

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