Understanding SFS

What does increasing vehicle electrification mean for SFS?

SFS manufactures products for various automotive applications, ranging from seat belts and airbags to brake systems. Innovation and growth in these application fields is being driven by trends towards greater comfort, safety and efficiency and, in a super­ordinate context, by the autonomous vehicle trend. SFS profits from the resulting vehicle electrification because it creates additional growth opportunities, actuators for electronic brake systems for example, that we can target. Sales generated with products for internal combustion engines currently represent a low, single-digit percentage of overall SFS Group sales so the phaseout of internal combustion engines in the long term will not have a significant impact on our business.

Will mechanical fastening systems be replaced by adhesives at some point in the future?

SFS is focused on selective application fields where its mechanical fastening solutions can offer customers extra value. Examples of value added are a more efficient fastening process, greater reliability or improved ergonomics. In the applications we target, adhesive bonding is not a viable alternative or it cannot achieve the same level of value added.

Are SFS’ digital logistics systems for C-parts exclusively designed for use with SFS products?

By deploying our digital logistics systems for C-parts, our customers can fully automate non-value-adding activities that improve parts availability while lowering overall inventory. We have opened up our proprietary platform so customers can profit from these advantages even with parts that they source from other suppliers. Scaling up SFS’s logistics systems, even across international borders, is easy to do. This represents a key competitive advantage that allows us to realize even more optimization potential for our customers.

Does SFS use additive manufacturing processes (3D printing)?

SFS is following the development of additive manufacturing processes and is already successfully utilizing it, for example to produce prototypes. Our focus, however, is on markets and applications with very large production quantities: SFS produces more than 30 billion precision components a year. With high production volumes like these, cold forming – one of our core manufacturing methods – offers significant advantages owing to its very high productivity. Additive manufacturing processes are not an alternative for high-volume manufacturing processes. However, as additive manufacturing technology matures, it could become a viable add-on to SFS’s technology portfolio.

What synergies are there between the company’s segments?

The organizational structure with three segments, all of which have different business models, brings benefits to SFS. The Engineered Components and Fastening Systems segments can help and augment each other in matters related to manufacturing technology and capabilities, while the Fastening Systems and Distribution & Logistics segments reap benefits from their pooled knowledge and competence in the areas of sales and distribution, services, and logistics solutions. Our value proposition – Inventing success together – runs through all segments of our business activities and requires the continuous intention for continuous improvement in order to create added value for our customers. With the aim to invent success together.

What are the potential implications of the recent rise in protectionism for SFS?

The global political stage became more complex over the past year. Nationalism is gaining ground in many countries. The confrontational approach to international trade relations is becoming a risk factor. The potential consequences for the world economy are hardly foreseeable.

Despite these challenges, SFS is guardedly optimistic about the future. As a value engineering specialist that creates added value for the customer with precision components in selective niche applications that are often mission-critical, we have always maintained close ties with our customers. That has motivated us to innovate and internationalize our business and it explains our global production platform. Standardized production facilities make us very flexible and this flexibility can, in a worst-case scenario, quickly become a critical competitive advantage.

For example, we are rigorously analyzing scenarios in which supply chains for the electronics industry are transferred to locations outside China and have been discussing these possible contingencies with our customers. SFS’s already established production sites in Malaysia and India could serve as potential alternative production platforms. Our strong footing in various niche applications puts us in a good position to cushion the impact of negative developments in any one market.

How green is cold forming?

Cold forming is not only a highly productive manufacturing process for large production runs, it is also an environmentally sound process thanks to its extremely high material efficiency. In contrast to alternative machining methods (e.g. milling or turning machining processes), cold forming does not remove excess material to produce the final part; instead it forms cold metal blanks into the specified shape in two to six progressive steps. The amount of material saved compared to conventional machining processes depends on the shape of the part, but it is significant in most cases.

Looking at the entire range of cold-formed products SFS makes, we estimate the material savings are equivalent to about 67% of the materials consumed using conventional manufacturing processes. Based on our annual consumption of raw materials and taking into consideration the emissions generated both to produce the steel and by the machining processes that are avoided with cold forming, we calculate that we save about 300,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year by using cold forming manufacturing processes.