Home: Issue 2 2012 › Steely determination

Steely determination

Steely determination

01/05/2012 | Channel: Manufacturing, Engineering

Built on almost350 years of historic success, Uddeholms AB today remains the market leader in the supply of high performance and corrosion resistanr tool steel

Having built its reputation on being a trustworthy supplier of tooling materials and solutions to the complete product supply chain, Uddeholm’s know-how and unrivalled global presence has, and continues to be, the key to its, and its customers’, success. “Uddeholm’s development into a company that considers the whole world as its workplace began more than 340 years ago and in the time since, generations of skilled craftsmen and professionals have helped lay the foundations of its present day product offering,” states vice president of sales and marketing, Lars Sundström.

When Johan Karlström spearheaded the building of the company’s first steel mill at Stjärnsfors in 1668, the timing and location could not have better to help kick-start a legacy that would long outlive him. With a strong demand for steel coming from all across Europe, one of Uddeholm’s goals, even in those early days, was to look for customers abroad. After nearly a century of steady growth, the company’s future was essentially secured with the establishment of a new steel mill and by the end of the 18th Century the company has become the second largest iron producer in Sweden.

The organisation the company boasts in 2012 was in fact founded 150 years ago when then mill manager, Erik Georg Danielsson, spent a year in the US securing new orders. A hugely successful 12 months resulted in several export orders and to this day the close understanding of the market in which it operates has remained the corner stone of Uddeholm’s business strategy with its global presence all over the world.

In conjunction with a sales company specific for Asia, Associated Swedish Steel AB, the 20th Century saw Uddeholm reach a host of new and emerging markets where it has since gone on to build a commanding presence. Furthermore, the work it carries out in the development of new process technologies has led to the company now being renowned for being one of the world’s leading producers of steel for industrial tools.

“Each and every year millions of products are manufactured using these tools, with products such as cars, buses, televisions, computers and various household appliances having their origin in tool steel,” Lars explains. “With its research and product development work holding a leading position within the industry, and with a minimum of two new steel grades launched each year, more than 100,000 customers in over 100 countries have come to realise the benefits of buying tool steel from Uddeholm.

“The highest level of technological practices, combined with genuine knowledge of and a passion for steel, can be found throughout the company, from its steel production unit in Hagfors through to its worldwide sales organisation and its customer service teams. By offering the very best quality products, complete technical support at all stages of the project and focusing on having well organised co-ordination between tool and component manufacturers, Uddeholm’s guarantee is trust. This is a word that the company believes is essential in any relationship, one that paves the way for long-term partnerships to be formed.”

The company’s global thinking means that it endeavors to always be ready to serve its customers, whenever and wherever they call upon it. Having a presence on every continent guarantees customers receive the same high quality tool steel regardless of their location: “As a tool maker it is imperative that Uddeholm is able to produce tools that can withstand tough production conditions over long periods of time as well as produce the same uniform products that do not require constant repair or maintenance that will result in costly interruptions,” Lars says.

“The steel itself only accounts for between five and ten per cent of the total cost of the mould, yet, naturally, it does have a great influence on all operations,” Lars continues. “Uddeholm’s optimal tool steel selection processes mean its steel results in longer production runs and allows its customers to make far better use of their resources. However, the company’s reputation has not simply been built on the manufacturing and delivery of tool steel alone. What it takes just as much pride in is the way it is able to sell solutions to its customers’ problems. For Uddeholm it is just as much a question of being available to provide consultation when a customer requires sound, expert advice, as it is to supply a quality product on time. What the company understands better than anyone else is that selecting a tool steel supplier is a key decision for all parties, from the tool maker to the end user.”

Throughout the course of its history Uddeholm has built up a level of knowledge in the field of tool steel making that can truly be called unmatched. In many ways the company has made it a point of honour to be the market leader in the technological development of new tool steels. Its work in the field of research and product development commands a leading position in the industry and is responsible for the launch of at least two new steel grades a year. However it is not just a piece of steel that the company sells, what it does is offer a complete package of services including heat treatment, machining and welding, as well as technical and commercial support.

In the last 12 months the company has continued to make significant progress in several market segments. In cold work it has developed a new generation of presswork tool steels, while in the hot work segment, it has turned its focus towards long run die casting production. Further to these developments, Uddeholm has worked to cement its position as the leading manufacturer of high quality plastic mould steels by maximising the tool life and performance of these products, at the same time as achieving great savings in productivity.

“In order to continue to progress and grow as a business, the company most definitely needs to be even more focused on its use of research and development and on its sales processes, identifying those business sectors that it should be targeting more so than others,” Lars highlights. “Central to Uddeholm’s plans is the increase in its presence, not just in rapidly developing markets like Asia, but all over the world. Although countries such as China will have a big role to play in its future, it will be the company’s success in all four corners of the globe that will help contribute to its ambitious, but achievable, goal of growing by some 40 per cent between 2010 and 2016.”

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