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Easy Engineering: Interview with Gerhard Koch Maschinenfabrik

Gerhard Koch Maschinenfabrik is a 63-year-old family-owned business that is now in the 2nd and 3rd generation. Koch specializes in the manufacturing of high-quality machinery for the processing of furniture components with the specialty of boring and doweling. In addition, the company is well known for machinery that can process narrow parts such as drawer parts at high speed. The company holds a number of patents as it is recognized as the partner of chose for the largest and best known furniture brands in the world.

Easy Engineering: What are the main activities of the company?
Koch: Koch has three main areas of activity in the furniture industry. The first is for the small to medium sized manufactures where Koch supplies the range of machines both single side and through feed known as base.line. The second area of activity is to the large producers where more customized equipment is required. Here too, we supply single sided and through feed machinery. This range is known as pro.line. The last is highly customized solution designed specifically to meet the customers’ highest demands on productivity and flexibility. This range is known as select.line. The industries that we cover are as follows:

  • Kitchen Industry
  • Office furniture industry
  • Retail industry
  • Domestic furniture industry
  • Knock Down furniture industry
  • Shopfitting industry

E.E: What’s new for 2021, about new products
Koch: We have totally redesigned a number of our product lines to keep up to date with the latest designs as well as enhancing the performance of the equipment to ensure better reliability serviceability and ease of use. In addition, on our more compact ranges like the New SPRINT range careful attention was given to ensuring that maximum utilization of shipping containers to reduce shipping costs for our customers. The entire production hall was rearranged and new systems put in place to improve the flow and efficiency of the production areas and thereby reducing delivery times and reducing waisted manhours as the parts and manufactured components arrive just in time. In short, a complete modernization of our production facility.

E.E: What are the ranges of traded products?
Koch: The ranges of products that we cover in the market are as follows:
S for Sawing, this is done by cutting the components to size
B for Boring, involves drilling of the components up to 6 sides of the panels depending on the customers’ requirements
F for Fräsen in German or profiling in English, this involves profiling or counter profiling the components
D for Doweling, this involves the glue insertion and then automatic dowel insertion into the holes that have been drilled.

Over the years, technologies have changed and Koch now also inserts a number of different fittings made of different materials such as plastic and metals as well as the traditional wooden dowels. Because of the way we design our machines to our customers’ requirements, the customers can choose which of these ranges they require to for fill their production requirements.

E.E: At what stage is the market that you are currently trading in?
Koch: The markets that we trade in are mostly mature with well-established customers who are often decades or older. Having said that there are always new entries in the market. The reason for new entrants is that the market has continued to grow over the years. Based on the increase in the global population everyone requires furniture to live, which has allowed existing companies to expand and at the same time made room for new entrants. Normally the new entrants grow from smaller shops. We have solutions for this kind of customers that allows us to grow with them as their needs change over the years.

E.E: What can you tell us about market trends?
Koch: 2020 has brought its challenges for many of our customers with the Covid pandemic affecting the production output as well as the demand in some cases. The trends are now very clear while the shopfitting industry, that is our customers linked to the entertainment industry or hotels, have all come under some pressure. However, all those customers who are supplying the domestic market have seen a marked increase in demand. This has been driven by the fact that most people are spending much more time at home and therefore are spending their money on home improvement in one way or another. This includes home office type furniture as well as the rest of the domestic type furniture. That is, Kitchen, living room, dining room, study and bedrooms. These trends look set to continue for a few years as people have become more accustom to spending time at home.

E.E: What are the most innovative products marketed?
Koch: Like us, our customers are being pushed by their customers for flexibility. They are then pushing back to us and demanding high flexibility but still high output. We have recently completed a number of installations where true “Batch size 1 “has been achieved. Batch Size 1 is the term for the production of one part at a time but that each part can be different. For example, the one part could be a wardrobe side and the next a drawer front. Both of which have totally different dimensions in width height and thickness as well as different drilling patterns. Our CENTRONIC select.line in combination with our UNIFLEX select.line is a true Batch Size 1 machine. The parts arrive on a conveyor belt where the barcode label is read automatically and the machines then reacts to the part and sets up to process all 6 sides, with one or many or all of the functions required: Sawing, Boring, Profiling (Fräsen) and Doweling, to meet the specifications of our customer. Quality of the parts is critical to our customers and KOCH machines meet the highest quality standards.

E.E: What estimations do you have for 2021?
Koch: Our estimation is that we will continue to see strong demand for our products as our customers continue to grow. Both, with demand and additional more innovative type of furniture products that we pride ourselves in assisting our customers to develop. The world is hungry for more and more efficiency. However, people are also very concerned with carbon footprints of their products and plants. With KOCH being on the cutting edge of development, we will continue to assist them to meet the demands of an everchanging market, and world for that matter.

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