The complete modular package: AI talks to Layher about all round customer care

By Maria Hadlow01 August 2011

The hot dip galvanizing facility is designed to have minimal affect on the environment.

The hot dip galvanizing facility is designed to have minimal affect on the environment.

One of the largest system scaffolding manufacturers in the world, Layher continues to innovate with both product and customer service, Maria Hadlow reports.

It's hard not to be impressed by the big numbers associated with German modular scaffolding manufacturer, Layher. Every year the company processes 20 million m of steel tube and ships 130000t material.

At any one time there is around €60 million of inventory waiting for dispatch. It has been known for the company to ship 60 trucks of product in a single day - 7200 trucks were dispatched last year.

But this is not a huge faceless organisation, it is family owned and that is an important key to the continual investment in product development and facilities even through the recession.

Managing director Dr Helmut Kreller said that Layher's family ownership allowed it to maintain investment through the crisis and make a quick recovery.

At the start of the crisis Layher was deciding to build a new factory. "It is because all our shareholders are close to the business that we can make long term decisions," said Dr Kreller.

The new factory completed in Autumn 2009 now houses the wood and aluminium part of Layher's production while the steel scaffolding continues at the original plant, very close by, with its modern, environmentally sensitive, dip galvanising facility.

Layher has a policy of continual investment in equipment, innovation and customer service.

Every year the company spends between €10 and €15 million a year on new equipment. The highly trained workforce work a three shift pattern using the winter to build stock to meet the cyclical.

The company holds a Lot of stock because, although a construction contract maybe a long time in negotiation when it is won the contractor needs product immediately. Layher is able to deliver immediately.

To serve its customers Layher has 31 regional depots in Germany and 31 wholly owned subsidiaries around the world serving its global markets.

Export is becoming increasingly important. During the crisis its domestic German market grew, but now Dr Kreller says that exports are again starting to rise, accounting for 60% of the company's turnover.

Adoption of modular scaffold systems differs from region to region - even from country to country. In Germany for example there is wide adoption of system scaffolding even by relatively small scaffolding companies and end users such as painters and roofers.

Whereas the UK has been much slower in taking up modular products, which Dr Kreller expects is due to lower levels of long term investment.

Although unwilling to divulge exact figures Layher's turnover for the year ending 31 March 2011 is somewhere between €400 and €500 million. Dr Kreller is very confident that business will continue to grow over the next two to three years. Last year Layher's turnover almost matched that of the company's peak year.

Committed to continuing to manufacturing in Germany, Dr Kreller was prepared to acknowledge that Layher had considered manufacturing elsewhere, but should that decision be made sometime in the future it would only be to serve those external markets.

As to the danger of manufacturers in developing countries copying the system Layher is confident that the extremely stringent quality control measures imposed in Germany would be next to impossible to match.

Quality control testing is carried out as a matter of course internally but in order to achieve the necessary certification.

External bodies monitor the manufacturing processes and quality, which have to be proved at regular intervals. Every individual element of the scaffolding system is fully traceable from material in to dispatch.

Layher also offer customers help with developing their business. The company is willing to help customers with finance either by helping them find suitable lenders or by directly backing businesses that from long experience Layher knows will be successful and are a good risk.

Layher also offers customers technical help. In the echnical office 30 people are dedicated to helping customers develop the best solutions to complex scaffolding problems.

This service is free to a certain level then charged if detailed designs and calculations required. Layher can also recommend good external consultants.

Dr Kreller said, "Once a company chooses a modular scaffolding system it's expensive to change so need a reliable partner, which provides more than just product."

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