ANNUAL REPORT 2021
SYSTEM PARTS SEGMENT
A promising start during the first six months was followed by an economic slump in the second half of the year. While the first two quarters saw a marked recovery in the parts business fueled by pent-up demand, in particular supply shortages as well as the effects of the pandemic slowed the upturn once again in the second half of the year. Considering the entire reporting period, the segment was able to close the year successfully thanks to its high degree of flexibility.
Effect of pent-up demand only short-lived
What began to emerge in the final months of 2020 continued in the first half of 2021, with the number of new orders received in the parts business returning to previous levels. Across all of our plants, production levels settled above precrisis levels, albeit with regional differences in throughput. The previous slump brought about by the pandemic appeared to have been overcome, and in step with the renewed increase in customer releases in Europe, the United States, and Asia, production capacities that had previously been underutilized were rapidly ramped up again to meet demand.
But it soon became clear toward the end of the first two quarters that global supply chains were not able to keep pace with the economy. Pent-up demand led to supply shortages in many areas, which caused the global economic engine to stall. High steel prices and a shortage of semiconductors meant that delivery volumes, which had only just recovered, declined once again and carmakers had considerable difficulty fulfilling orders on time. On the labor side, the situation was also up and down. Whereas the plants had difficulty recruiting new staff in the first half of the year, some of them had to introduce short-time work schedules in the second half.
Feintool pressed ahead with the implementation of its Strategy 2030, and as such increasingly focused development and sales activities on battery-electric or fuel-cell-powered vehicles and stationary power units. In these product segments, we are systematically exploiting the growth opportunities afforded by our technologies.
In general, it became apparent that our plants are very resilient and, after two years in crisis mode, have accumulated a wealth of experience that enables them to respond quickly and correctly to challenging events. The measures introduced and implemented to increase efficiency following the previous year’s slump in sales did not fail to have an effect and in turn played a considerable role in the segment posting a profit for the year, which was around 21 percent higher than the previous year’s result.
The chip shortage in the automotive industry is expected to continue in 2022 and continue to exert pressure on production volumes. We expect the situation to gradually improve, but not before the second half of the year.
The plants in Germany, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic utilized their production capacities at varying rates throughout the year, and there was a high degree of uncertainty regarding the reliability of customer releases. The volatility of the releases and subsequently of production heavily impacted the plants. Production stoppages and restarts shaped decisions at the plants and did not allow for a consistent employment strategy. At the same time, steel prices in Europe rose significantly this year. Passing on these cost increases required us to engage in intensive discussions with customers yet was ultimately successful.
At the plant in Jessen, Germany, the company made great strides in expanding its production capacities for stamped electrolamination. The installation of a new press into another production line started according to plan and will be completed in the first quarter of 2022 – ensuring that the company will be able to supply components for electric main drives. Meanwhile, the production facility in Ettlingen, Germany, which specializes in small, precise components, proved that fineblanking is also a technology in demand in the emerging era of e-mobility. After an intense preparatory period, the first fineblanked copper parts were delivered to the customer, one of the world’s largest suppliers of electronics and mechatronics, in November. Safety-relevant parts for transient protection systems, which operate in a vehicle’s high-voltage range, were produced in an unprecedented level of vertical integration and as part of a group-wide, broad-based development collaboration. The modernization of press technology for nominated hybrid drives in Obertshausen was also implemented on schedule. Acceptance of the first section was completed as planned during the reporting year. As a result, the production ramp-up will take place as scheduled.
Creating and systematically exploiting synergies across plants and efficiently organizing the entire value chain are two of the System Parts segment’s greatest strengths. The System Parts Europe business unit received the Automotive Lean Production Award in the “Business Unit Transformation” category – proof that anticipating and shaping changing customer needs and conditions is part of Feintool’s DNA.
In light of the above-average growth in e-mobility in China compared with the rest of the world, we expanded an area of our Chinese plant in Taicang near Shanghai into a center of excellence for e-mobility applications. Two new punch presses were installed in the middle of the year, which were used to complete their first new orders only a short time later. As a result, we have laid the foundations for further growth in China in the field of electrified vehicles. The market for hydrogen and fuel-cell applications in China is also developing extremely dynamically and offers considerable potential. Feintool signed a memorandum of understanding with a laser specialist with the aim of establishing a development partnership in this field. Within the framework of a shop-in-shop concept also located at the Feintool plant in Taicang, the company will be incorporating the laser specialist’s expertise into the production of bipolar plates. In an integrated process consisting of Feintool’s FEINforming production process and laser welding, the individual plates will be welded together to form bipolar plates and tested for tightness.
The “Open Day” in Taicang in September was a successful informational event that also centered on Feintool’s strategic focus on e-mobility. Here, more than 50 invited guests from the automotive and supplier industry were able to gain a comprehensive idea of Feintool’s electrolamination expertise.
System Parts Asia also had good news to report. A new order for one of the most important OEMs will ensure that the Japanese plants maintain a baseline level of capacity utilization for the next few years to come. As an expression of the business relationship between Feintool and its customers – a relationship based on mutual appreciation and long-standing trust – our Japanese plants were honored to receive the Imasen Award in July. Imasen Electric Industrial Co. Ltd., which specializes in seat mechanisms, gives the award to those customers who consistently optimize costs over the long term while increasing profitability.
System Parts USA acquired a solid number of new orders for fineblanking and forming components during the reporting year. The applications range from drivetrain components to seat components for passenger cars. The business unit succeeded in acquiring new customers and new scheduled product launches led to further orders. Japanese customers have now become an important pillar of our business in the USA, and we will continue to expand these relationships in the future.
Although electric vehicles do not have the same level of market penetration in the USA as in Europe and Asia (at least not yet), System Parts USA’s appearance at the Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology trade show placed a strong emphasis on fineblanked and stamped components for electric drive systems. Hundreds of suppliers from the electric and hybrid vehicle sectors also attended the event. We expect to see significant growth in the United States and the other automotive regions in the coming years. The transformation to more EVs will pick up speed in the US as well.
Ford Motor Company presented Feintool with its coveted Q1 Award. Q1 certification is awarded to Ford suppliers who, beyond the requirements of ISO and TS certification, demonstrate excellence in five defined areas. This nomination is a prerequisite for working with this customer. As a result, Ford has already placed its first new orders with Feintool in the USA.
The long-term competitiveness of our technologies in times of structural change in the automotive industry remains the key success factor. Through our Strategy 2030, we have laid the necessary groundwork for this and reached a milestone – Feintool is moving into the future with streamlined structures and processes, state-of-the-art machinery, and innovative mobility concepts. With its technologies of fineblanking, including FEINforming, forming, and electrolamination stamping technologies, Feintool is perfectly positioned for further growth thanks to its openness to new applications. The transformation continues to pose a challenge. We are creating the conditions necessary to allocate our development and production capacities to growth areas in the field of electric vehicles.