Always able to deliver

Plansee sees a decisive market advantage in the rapid availability of its standard molybdenum and tungsten products.

What do carrier plates for semiconductors and rolled sheet have in common? The first answer is that they are both made from molybdenum. And the second answer is that they are both produced from the same hotrolled input material. Only when a customer order is received are prefabricated interim products taken to manufacture the thin round molybdenum blanks for the semiconductor industry (top) or the cold-rolled sheet (bottom).

Standardized production

The online shops of our modern world are a constant reminder to all consumers of how fast that world is becoming: A smartphone that cannot be delivered within a matter of days has no hope of ending up in anyone’s shopping basket. After all, there is usually an alternative vendor or a comparable product that can be delivered quicker. And consumers are notoriously fickle. Today they will buy Smartphone X and tomorrow it will be Model Y. The days when manufacturers planned their production quantities across the entire sales cycle are long gone. They only produce what the customer needs. Of course, sales volume forecasts will be made when a product is launched. And the entire manufacturing chain is then adjusted radically in the light of sales trends over the first few days and weeks. Which means that all suppliers have to adjust production accordingly, either upwards or downwards.

Always able to deliver

And Plansee’s response to this trend is a radical rethinking of its production philosophy. A few years ago, the aim was still to try to plan predicted customer demand as accurately as possible. After all, molybdenum and tungsten are extremely expensive materials to purchase and demand complex processing. In other words, every kilogram in products that cannot be sold represents a tangible financial loss. But Plansee has completely abandoned this practice. Long-term, highly volatile production forecasts are being eliminated from the systems one by one, as stock replenishment is done on the basis of stock levels, irrespective of the forecasts. Now, the watchword is: “We must always be able to deliver”. Plansee sees a decisive market advantage in the rapid and reliable availability of the materials molybdenum and tungsten.

Custom manufacturing

The new production philosophy applies to all products that are repeatedly manufactured with standardized processes. This affects a large proportion of the Plansee product range. Special products will continue to be manufactured to order. The big difference in delivery times becomes clear when we make a direct comparison: Whereas the majority of all products can be delivered within two weeks, delivery times for special products can be between eight and twelve weeks. This is a timeframe that really is not all that long for materials such as molybdenum and tungsten, which are manufactured using powder-metallurgy processes. After all, during this time, the materials have to be pressed, sintered, formed and further processed to customer requirements.

Standardization

Faced with the constraints imposed by the materials themselves, the production department grappled with the difficult question of how to reduce delivery times to two weeks. The solution was to standardize semifinished products that are always in stock, irrespective of customer orders, thus massively reducing the delivery time. When an order is received, the molybdenum and tungsten sheets, strips, wires or rods that have already been produced can be further processed to meet the customer’s exact requirements and then delivered in a very short space of time.

Replenishing stock

Production is geared entirely towards the actual quantities delivered. When products are taken from stock, replacements are produced and stock is replenished to the defined levels. Virtually all business areas benefit from this development at Plansee: the coatings business for the display industry as much as the business in components for X-ray machines; tungsten components for high-intensity discharge lamps, molybdenum base plates for the semiconductor industry or melting electrodes for the glass industry.