Interview Josef Sökler

As production manager, Josef Sökler ensures the springs professional is well prepared to handle every customer order: in terms of both personnel and technology. The 48 year-old also maintains the balanced temperament he needs to handle the job: a cool head, with just the right amount of drive.

Mr Sökler, as production manager for a springs empire, you must have to track hundreds of orders …

We handle up to 600 orders a month, including for the medical sector, electrical engineering, systems and mechanical engineering, aerospace and many other areas of everyday life. We also like to adopt ideas from inventors and students who want to present their work to us. We essentially cover all fields of industry – from automotive to communications technology. Our customer base includes well over 4,000 companies with between one and one million springs.

Our standard parts not only have to all look the same, they also have to have the same perfect quality.

That's exactly right. We need a distinct awareness of quality for the large number of orders we produce. Thanks to our comprehensive measuring and testing controls, we can guarantee an exceptionally high level of quality. We continually guarantee this quality through further training for our employees.

What would be the consequences if you weren't so exacting in terms of precision?

Every spring has a job to do. For example, we produce springs for medical technology where a very precisely defined contact pressure is needed, and it has to be continually verified. If the functional requirement wasn't met, the blood transfusion couldn't go ahead. Here's another example: a supplier to an automotive manufacturer needed a spring clip capable of meeting special requirements. If the spring clip were to fail to release, so if the mirror didn't retract, it could cause major material damage, or even worse, physical injury.

How does Gutekunst manage to respond particularly quickly to customer wishes?

First of all because of comprehensive stocks, and the resources available to us.

How important is your own tool-making for the production process?

Absolutely crucial! Making our own tools and having our own hardening plant at the same time also support our company's capacity to supply everything from a single source – quickly and completely independently of external partners.

What is the standard process for a customer order at Gutekunst?

As a rule, the customer first sends us an order via e-mail – already with relatively precise details about the product they want. We use this to check the feasibility and also go back to the customer with any modifications. The customer then receives a quote. Alternatively, there is first a meeting with the customer during which all the parameters are fully defined. We then develop an initial solution that is submitted to the customer for further refinement. Either way, our work is always the result of a close collaboration.

Springs are typical C-parts. What does mean for you as a manufacturer?

Our customers often contact us at the last minute. As a result, many customers put themselves under unnecessary pressure. Plus, that doesn't make it any easier for us to deliver the desired requirements 1:1.

What major investments is Gutekunst planning?

We are expanding our fleet of machines to meet increased demand. An additional laser machine is definitely on the agenda, which will enable us to be even more flexible in the choice of materials for our customers.

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