CONVINCING ARGUMENTS – Expert interviews
Managing director Martin Greif talks about the STARK company
Experience and innovative strength are what distinguish the reliable company from Vorarlberg that developed the first zero point clamping system for the machining sector back in 1988 and is now part of the ROEMHELD Group, working with industrial customers all around the world.
Mr Greif, STARK is considered a pioneer when it comes to zero point clamping technology. How did it all start?
Stark Spannsysteme was founded by Emil Stark in Götzis in 1977. Back then, the main focus was on contract manufacturing for tool construction and mechanical engineering. At the start of the 1990s, Stark developed a quick-change system for changing tools in injection moulding machines. A few years later, the company realised that this zero point clamping system had potential for the machining sector. This was the foundation, so to speak, for the internationally active Stark company that is so successful today. This technology was continuously enhanced over the years that followed and was used in various different product families. We achieved a very important milestone in October 2000, when Stark Spannsysteme was integrated into the Römheld Group.
Speaking of the Römheld Group: Are there advantages to being part of this group?
The Römheld Group currently consists of five companies and is now present on all continents and in more than 50 countries. The group has more than 500 employees worldwide and STARK benefits from numerous synergies resulting from the collaboration of the individual companies. As part of the group of companies, we benefit from the worldwide sales and service network as well as from the security and experience of a family-run company with a long tradition and annual sales of over 100 million euros.
It sounds like service plays an important role at STARK?
Absolutely! In addition to conventional component sales, the adaptation of our extensive product portfolio to our customers’ specific requirements and the development of individual solutions should the standard solution not yield the desired success, the service organisation is one of four fundamental product and service pillars.
You expanded your premises in 2017. Why?
Our building in Götzis was bursting at the seams. We almost doubled our sales between 2009 and 2015. We were therefore in urgent need of more space in order to bring our production back up to date and create an optimum working environment for our employees. The grinding shop, which used to be located in Bregenzerwald, is now also integrated into the new location. This new building offers ideal conditions for future growth on a 6,000 square metre plot area, of which 3,200 square metres are occupied by offices, assembly and logistics. The building’s architecture is designed such that we can expand the production facility or add another storey to the existing building at any time. And, of course, we did not neglect our investments in machinery either and invested roughly 2 million euros in new, ultra-modern machinery.
What does quality “made in Austria” mean to you?
We have a very high price level in Central Europe, which means that we must deliver top quality. All the products that leave our factory are in perfect condition. It’s also a matter of honour. This is how we grew up and how we were brought up, and this attitude is an integral part of the employees’ identity. Our employees take their work seriously. Any problems that arise are not ignored, but addressed openly. This results in an incredible potential for continuous improvement processes, which, in turn, leads to better quality “made in Austria”.
In which industries and markets are you active?
Geographically speaking, our current main markets are Germany, Austria, Switzerland and northern Italy. You could also say that we are active wherever mechanical engineering is a key industry. I see the biggest opportunities for growth in Asia, in particular China, South Korea, Japan and Singapore. As regards industries, automotive engineering and aviation are certainly among our core industries. We also focus on conventional mechanical engineering with contract manufacturers, suppliers and tool construction. We recently started focusing on the very interesting medical technology market, and the dental and orthopaedics areas in particular.
Where do you see STARK 10 years from now?
In a good position on the market. However, the market is currently undergoing a massive change. The economy is ailing, the automotive industry is heading towards a crisis, and at the international level we are concerned about the trade war between the USA and China. There is a feeling of general uncertainty in the air. So we have an exciting time ahead of us. Thankfully, we have very good added value and a diversified portfolio, which allows us to cushion any economic downturn very well. Our plan is to invest very heavily in research and development in the short term, and I predict that our company will experience healthy growth in the long term.
What is STARK doing to secure its position as an innovation driver and provider of ideas in the context of zero point clamping technology?
We invested in a new building and new, state-of-the-art machinery in 2017. Our most important new acquisitions include CNC grinding machines with robot loading, a fully automatic turning milling centre, a five-axis machining centre with a pallet station, ultra-modern parts cleaning and an encapsulated measuring room including a new 3D measuring machine. We will continue to place our focus on further investments in machinery and increasing automated processes in the coming years.