The Düsseldorf trade fair is just around the corner.
Just a few days before the beginning of the wire/Tube 2022 show, we interviewed Maillefer's EVP Lars Fagerholm - an excellent opportunity to look together at the past months, weigh up successes and achievements, and talk about the company's prospects for the future.
Tell us in brief about your company. When was it founded, and how was the journey so far?
Maillefer has a long history going back more than 120 years of serving the global extrusion business. Our history originates from the cable-making industry in Finland and from extrusion technology development in Switzerland. With nearly 5000 line installations worldwide, our market footprint has developed significantly. We have become the leading technology supplier in Wire & Cable, and Pipe & Tube industries. We are proud to be the active innovator in our industry, currently covering over 50 different technologies, and nearly 20 applications. Maillefer provides the largest technology and services portfolio to the global wire, cable, pipe, and tube markets.
How did your business perform in the first part of 2022?
A period of high market activity extends into 2022. It provides us with a strong business environment. The world is indeed making significant strides towards a more sustainable and “green” world. Daily, we receive news as decision-makers, from both the public and private sectors, undertake bold commitments to achieving progress. Sustainability has definitely taken its place as one of the top priorities on everyone's agenda, and it's a major business driver that offers opportunities for a great cause – This continuously drives the strong business performances experienced by Maillefer.
For us, the high activity from the end market is bringing a great deal of excitement. It creates a wide window of opportunity to demonstrate how our latest innovations and new technologies are bringing success to our customers. The current market trends and changing requirements are strongly supported by our product and service offerings, available from the Maillefer product portfolio. It is rewarding to observe how customers place more emphasis on long-term sustainable solutions, ROI, and as well as in capabilities to manufacture higher-quality end products. Today it is clear that their corresponding actions will surely offer payback.
What megatrends are driving the growth of the wire and cable industry? Where do most of the demands come?
Renewable green energy, continued urbanization, and renewal of the main grids are the trends of the moment. The demand is high, especially in the medium and high voltage segments. New renewable alternatives for energy generation also require new extensive flexible grids for power transmission. The grids demand high volumes of top-quality medium, high, and extra-high voltage cables, both ground and subsea types. Today we see high interest and strong order activity in high voltage subsea cable extrusion lines. Our vertical VCV solutions are equipped with the latest innovations that boost efficiency, quality, and reliability.
In addition to very high demand in these segments, the renewable energy trend is also increasing investments in many low voltage segments.
Meanwhile, Fiber to the Home and 5G networks are further pushing up production in optical fiber cable. Producers show high interest in today’s high-speed buffering lines, which are highly automated and efficient in material utilization.
What is the best technical achievement you've made in the past year - or the most significant accomplishment?
One of our main focus points, at the moment, is bringing Smart Technology into our processes. The applications are many. One example is the revolutionary Maillefer Round Curing (MRC) technology, rapidly growing in popularity. It is a perfect example of how smart technology enables superior cable quality for the highest outputs available in HV cable production. In the same cable application, our new Topography scanning technology guarantees repeatability to maintain performances day-in, day-out.
Indeed, Smart Technology and artificial intelligence solutions have become for Maillefer an important means to reach the next levels in line performance.
They help us much further extend the possibilities to drive efficiency and quality.
They help us predict upcoming process challenges and inform us on how to avoid non-desired downtime or minimize scrap.
They help us collect and analyze data, then automatically optimize the process through the process control system to create autonomous process solutions.
They help us manage and optimize everything taking place on the shop floor.
Our expertise in this field grows daily. Customer references report continued success as the Smart Technology realizations ripple fast across the industry.
Is your business particularly competitive? What makes you different?
Maillefer has been active in the business for a very long time. We have a truly global presence and an extensive installed base. Combined with the benefits of the broadest portfolio offering, and a local presence in all main markets, we enjoy strong, long-lasting relations with all key customers in the world. Today our technology centers create ideal platforms for partnerships, and we clearly see this becoming more important in the future.
To be the technology leader in the business requires constantly being alert and active in crucial, potentially change-making areas. Those areas can make a difference for our customers to become more successful. We have chosen the role to question today’s practices. Maillefer strives to be known as the company for whom a limit is only a start. Today we recognize that digitalization, artificial intelligence tools, and know-how on a wider and deeper scale are some of the change-makers for the future.
Raw material shortages and skyrocketing freight rates have an unprecedented impact on the market. Did they affect your activity?
The pandemic has overall been a challenging period for all businesses. Limitations in travel, shortages in supply, and growing inflation set pressure on both demand and our capabilities to operate in a normal steady-state mode. Maillefer's business has remained healthy throughout the pandemic. We have been able to quickly adapt to new ways of operating. Unfortunately, cost increases continue throughout supply chains. Component shortages and difficulties in predicting exact delivery times challenge the business now and in the coming months of 2022.
Nowadays, it is not only critical to design, build and sell a machine; service also plays a key role. What do you think about this statement?
At Maillefer, we do not consider our business and customer relations as occasional opportunities for machinery delivery that could be repeated. We are here for our customers all the time by providing them with full life cycle support. We constantly communicate and work with our customers. They express interest in optimizing performance and securing reliable and safe operations. Our After Market approach includes technical support, training, line performance improvements, spare parts, line components & upgrades, and services. The role of After Market is ever more important as line operation becomes more complex, demand for reliability and efficiency goes up, and acquiring specific skill sets within factories gets rarer.
What do you see in Maillefer's future? What technologies are you currently working on?
Maillefer is evolving into a company that provides expertise. We see a future as a House of Experts by supporting our partners with both manufacturing technological solutions, as well as with a wide range of know-how and support services. Widening and strengthening our competencies, know-how support (i.e. consultation), and process technology offerings will become an essential part of our portfolio.
The megatrend of sustainability is another important development area. With an utmost priority, our industry is increasing the level of renewable energy sources towards a Green Energy world. Maillefer is excited to be part of this change. Innovating new technology and answering to increasing demand is making this possible.
We operate with the highest level of responsibility in regard to our carbon footprint. Waste reduction, virtual modeling through the use of digital twins, energy efficiency, lower emissions, and efforts toward more circular material solutions represent the initiatives underway toward carbon neutrality. We carefully screen for and require sustainable operations and high ethical standards from our supply chains.
Maillefer aims to lead the industry by providing technical manufacturing solutions with the best efficiency rates, the best material utilization levels, and minimum energy requirements. We develop manufacturing machinery solutions, reparability, and services that guarantee maximum life, the highest ROI, and the best carbon footprint.
Our main competitive edge is and will be our people and know-how. We believe in an organization built on diversity, education, knowledge, and experience.
What trade shows, conferences, and events do you usually attend as exhibitors? What are your expectations for the wire fair in Düsseldorf?
Maillefer attends all major Wire & Cable, and Pipe & Tube exhibitions in the world, as well as several key polymer exhibitions. Our expectations for the fair in Düsseldorf are cautiously positive. We foresee strong participation rates from Europe, the Middle East, and India. Clearly, we believe that participation from China/Asia, North America, and Russia will be notably less. Maillefer has a long list of new products in the pipeline. We very much look forward to sharing our recent innovations with all visitors. Our special theme for this show is Smart Technology, as this is a strong trend. We have many exciting new products to present.
Make sure you visit Maillefer's stand at the wire & Tube show: hall 10, stand no. C22.