Michael Schmid of WALTER EWAG discusses the Thailand market, opportunities and challenges, and trends shaping the metalworking industry in the region. Article by Stephen Las Marias.
WALTER EWAG Asia Pacific Pte Ltd, part of the United Grinding Group headquartered in Bern, Switzerland, specialises in tool grinding, laser machining, eroding, measurement, and software. Its machines are used in fields such as the watch industry, the dental, electrical, automotive and aviation industries, as well as in the manufacture of precision micro-components.
WALTER EWAG is a system and solutions provider for complete tool machining. It offers an extensive product range for manufacturing and re-grinding of rotation symmetrical tools and inserts made of tungsten carbide, HSS , PCD PCBN or any other super hard materials like MCD , CWD and even natural diamonds.
At the recent METALEX 2019 event in Thailand, Asia Pacific Metalworking Equipment News sat down with Michael Schmid, managing director of WALTER EWAG in Singapore, to discuss the Thailand market, opportunities and challenges, and trends shaping the metalworking industry in the region.
WHAT ARE YOUR ACTIVITIES IN THAILAND?
Michael Schmid (MS): We have been doing business in Thailand for more than 20 years now. In fact, we installed our first CNC machines here in Thailand in 1996.
Currently, we have a training and demo centre in the country, where we do test cuts and demonstrations for customers. Our customer care, service engineers, and applications specialists, are all based here.
WHAT OPPORTUNITIES ARE YOU SEEING IN THAILAND, AND WHICH INDUSTRIES ARE DRIVING GROWTH?
MS: With our substantial product portfolio and the specialised team of technicians, we can actually cater to all needs in terms of tool making and resharpening required in the industrial environment—which Thailand has, such as the automotive, aerospace, semiconductor, and all kinds of metalworking industry.
WHAT ARE TOP CHALLENGES OF YOUR CUSTOMERS?
MS: Some of the challenges are finding skilled people and developing know-how in cutting tool technology. But also, major challenges include productivity and quality, and being innovative in tool design.
HOW ARE YOU HELPING CUSTOMERS ADDRESS THESE ISSUES?
MS: Our aim is to help customers, educate them, and train them, through our software and machine design. There are a lot of possibilities to be creative. We help them become more creative in utilising our machines.
WHAT MAKES YOUR PRODUCTS UNIQUE IN THE MARKET?
MS: If you look, for example, at our Helitronic Series, these machines are extremely powerful and have very unique and efficient kinematics, which provides an ultimate stability and accuracy. All that, together with our in-house developed Tool Studio software, open all kind of possibilities in terms of flexibility, dynamics and performance for our customers in today’s modern tool manufacturing world.
Last but not least our tool grinding know how of over 50 years has of course influenced our todays products in unique way as well.
WHAT TRENDS ARE SHAPING THE METALWORKING INDUSTRY RIGHT NOW?
MS: One of the big topics is Industry 4.0. In this show, VDW is having a presentation about umati, a standardised interface linking machines. Besides that, of course, automation is always an issue. Lights-out production, smart manufacturing—these are something we hear every day from our customers, and a lot of companies are now working towards this. Apart from that, there are also new, innovative tool geometries, machines, tools, software—there’s a lot of possibility to change.
Of course, there are also new materials coming—lighter materials for e-mobility, for example. There industry is changing a lot—and I think that’s the interesting part in our business.
WHAT IS YOUR OUTLOOK FOR THIS YEAR?
MS: I don’t want to be pessimistic, but I also can’t be too optimistic, because when I talk to people here at the show, and the customers throughout the year, we saw some declines here and there. But some industries are still doing well.
It will be an interesting time to come in the next six to 12 months, because of all the changes happening. Maybe, we’ll have more time to think about new things for the industry. Considering this, I would not say it will be bad; I would say let us be all optimistic and look forward to a promising, interesting time.
Like I said, in the last years, we’ve been very busy. Maybe, now we have a little bit of time to think about how to do things differently, how to increase our efficiency; I think it should be a target for everybody because, if there is a crisis coming, and we get out of it, we should be fresh, more efficient, and more powerful.
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