WF Mechanik is a South Tyrolean metal processing business covering the whole spectrum of sheet metal work, machining processing, steel construction and surface treatment. In addition, the company offers product development and rapid prototyping services. Based in Vahrn, close to Brixen and Bolzano, WF Mechanik was established in 1979. Originally, the company was located in nearby Klausen where it started specializing in high-quality metalworking.
“Over the years, we have developed from a provider of repair services into a serial producer of increasingly complex parts and assemblies,” says CEO Alexander Weissteiner, son of the founder, describing the company’s evolvement. “Yet all the time, we have remained true to metal as our primary work material.”
The customer has an idea and we take care of the rest. Alexander WeissteinerCEO
Alexander Weissteiner entered the family enterprise at the age of just 17, while he was studying engineering in Munich. “My parents have never put pressure on me but I have always enjoyed helping them. After finishing my studies, I worked for another company for a while, but it is much more motivating and rewarding to work for one’s own business, for the family, though the challenges and the responsibility are greater.”
In 2012, WF Mechanik moved to new production locations at Vahrn to support the company’s uninterrupted growth. “In 2017, we introduced a new organizational structure and Industry 4.0 manufacturing technologies, with digitally controlled robots and advanced machines, such as CNC controlled, 5-axis simultaneous milling centers and solid-state fiber lasers, to lay the basis for our continued expansion,” Mr. Weissteiner adds.
WF Mechanik works for customers in the automotive, electrical and mechanical engineering and toolmaking industries, mainly in South Tyrol, Austria, Germany and Switzerland. The company processes approximately 1,500 t of metal a year, with annual growth rates of 10%.
“We see ourselves as a service provider that produces finished and semifinished parts that are made to measure to our customers’ individual specifications,” explains Mr. Weissteiner. “The customer has an idea and we take care of the rest, from the initial feasibility study to the optimum design and cost-optimized production through to the finished, surface-treated component or assembly. We cover the entire value chain and support our customers from the first sketch, always with the goal of making their lives easier.” In its niche market, particularly within the region, WF Mechanik has a unique position thanks to its digital process chain.
“We have an online shop where customers can upload component geometries, which are then processed by us in a fully automated way, without any manual intervention,” states Mr. Weissteiner. “Parts are automatically calculated, designed, optimized and produced, and the customer can track the whole process up to delivery. In the past, there was much less information.
Today, the value of data is extremely high. In addition, the speed has changed. The period from receiving an order to delivering the finished parts is becoming shorter all the time.” WF Mechanik is not yet a 100% automated factory. “This is not what we are aiming for, though,” says Mr. Weissteiner. “We have a concise plan to achieve optimum automation and digitization, but the whole process is very time and cost intensive, and every individual employee has to be involved in the process. Otherwise it is not effective. We already have very efficient digital process chains in sheet metal working but there is still room for improvement in supply chain management.”
WF Mechanik has just acquired a neighbouring plot of land to build new workshops within the next two years and have more space for production and logistics. “We are all geared towards further growth,” states Mr. Weissteiner. Simultaneously, the metal processing company is continuing to expand its digital transformation. “This is a constant process,” says Mr. Weissteiner.
“I believe that people will do more qualified jobs in the future while the simple ones will be left to the machines. Our goal is to have machines that no longer need any operators.” Besides expanding its manufacturing premises and digital processes, WF Mechanik is looking for a partner. “We want to cooperate with a larger company in the same industry,” explains Mr. Weissteiner. “We see that many have the same problems, and together one can achieve better results.”