thyssenkrupp Materials UK – Materials as a Service
Today, thyssenkrupp Materials UK is much more than just a materials provider – the company has evolved into an enabler of its customers’ improvements.
The company thyssenkrupp Materials Services, present in over 40 countries – with around 480 locations, is a long-established, leading material supplier, providing a vast range of metal products in different grades, shapes and sizes. In addition, the organisation provides a range of metal-related services such as plate and bar cutting, coil processing, as well as fabrications, supply chain and logistics management.
The group’s British business, thyssenkrupp Materials UK, has undergone some significant changes under the management of COO Billy Kingsbury, who has implemented a change in company strategy over the last 12 months.
Reflecting on the company’s current focus, Billy Kingsbury says: “Two or three years ago, I would have described us a materials distributor, thyssenkrupp Materials Services being the largest player in the western world in this sector. Today, however, although material distribution remains a very important part of our business, our focus is moving forward within the strategic further development that we call ‘Materials as a Service’. This is, in principle, about working with our customers and partners to provide solutions addressing any issues within their supply chain.”
He explains that as market conditions change, with an increasing focus on digitalisation, and customers outsourcing more complex tasks to suppliers, thyssenkrupp Materials UK can apply its supply chain expertise and industry knowledge to better meet customers’ more comprehensive demands, as opposed to ensuring just material supply.
thyssenkrupp Materials UK has seven locations in the UK and is in a unique position in terms of the capability contained within one company in the UK market to be able to provide offerings in line with ‘Materials as a Service’. “Basically, our services range from raw material supply, to managing the whole supply chain for the customers, to the production of semi-finished and finished products that are delivered to them,” says Billy Kingsbury.
To this end, the company has undergone a significant restructuring under his management: two of the company’s previously separate businesses – thyssenkrupp Materials UK and thyssenkrupp Aerospace UK have been merged into a single business unit – thyssenkrupp Materials UK.
“The aerospace industry was hit more than any other sector by the global pandemic. Bringing these two businesses together enabled us to leverage some of our expertise both from the logistics point of view as well as in terms of technical skills. The combination has made our company a much stronger business now, providing a wide range of services, unrivalled in the sector. We can say today that the move was a major success story.”
The merger has opened the way to new projects such as a partnership with a specialist hybrid balcony provider, for the manufacturing and supply of lightweight, carbon-neutral, MMC, bolt-on balconies.
In October 2020, the company opened a state-of-the-art factory, an investment worth £4 million, in the West Midlands region where the new product was launched, the only product in the market to offer 88% carbon savings versus traditional balconies. This partnership became possible due to thyssenkrupp’s in-house engineering expertise and technology investments integrated into the new fabrication facility, advancing the Material as a Service strategy.
Billy Kingsbury points out that sustainability was one of the key aspects of the investment in the new factory. “Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do. We made the strategic decision to build a paperless factory. This has been achieved through digitally-led stock management and drawings production, as well as real-time product traceability, all of which gives us an important competitive advantage in manufacturing.”
Materials as a Service may alleviate some of the challenges customers are facing in the wake of the global pandemic, Billy Kingsbury points out. “There is no way of avoiding the volatility in the material supply chain at the moment, but what we can do is to ensure that our customers are well informed, that we are working with them to secure the capacity that they need, and with thyssenkrupp Materials UK being one of the largest players in the market, we can make sure that we reserve a lot of capacity with the mills as required.”
“We can use digital forecasting tools or our supply chain expertise to link the right customer with the right mill provider in terms of managing their demand moving forward. At the group level, our global presence is a clear advantage – we have sources around the world and can manage the raw material flows that are vital for various branches of industry in the most efficient and sustainable ways.”
He affirms that the company is ready to face the future and ready to move up the value chain. An increased focus will be on an area where thyssenkrupp is relatively new to the market but which offers big opportunities in the future – additive manufacturing, in particular with metal powders.
“With the rapid growth of metal additive manufacturing, our advanced metal powders are matched to the different machine types and the underlying processes. This sector offers real opportunities and we are talking with customers to find out where we can best position ourselves.”
On a more general level, thyssenkrupp Materials UK will continue to play its irreplaceable role as an intermediary between production and manufacturers, and with the Materials as a Service strategy, ultimately aim to deliver efficiency and sustainability improvements.