Many industries rely on band saw blades to cut wood and metal in order to manufacture various products, and WIKUS-Sägenfabrik, Wilhelm H. Kullmann GmbH & Co. KG, with its headquarters in Spangenberg Germany, has been producing top-of-the-line band saws for over sixty years. Wikus is a recognized leader in the area and the largest band saw blade manufacturer in Europe. We spoke with the U.S. organization Chief Executive Officer, Georgi Jossifov, to get the full story
This family-owned company was formed in 1958 in Germany by Wilhelm Kullmann. “WIKUS started in a stable that was affectionately known as the Bethlehem Stable. Today we are a leader in the band saw blade industry,” says Georgi.
“We have been providing products for over sixty years that stand for maximum precision, quality, and performance,” says Georgi.
Over the years, Wikus has developed into a global cutting tool manufacturer, yet still retains that family ownership and feel. It offers a wide variety of performance blades including high speed steel, carbide and diamond cutting edges.
The family-owned company is active in worldwide markets. “Today Wikus has subsidiaries in China, India, France, Spain, Sweden, Austria, Mexico, Canada, and the U.S. It has been quite the exciting journey, and we address the needs of our local spaces,” says Georgi. It aims to increase market share in countries like the U.S. The company is continuously growing and welcoming new talent to the organization.
The main manufacturing process takes place in Germany and is assembled thereafter in certain parts of the world. The Wikus subsidiaries then perform the finishing touches to the requirement and specification of clients. The blades are cut to length and welded, and packaged as required by the customers.
The company has blades for more general applications and specialized blades designed for a specific use. Specialized blades will increase performance, reduce the need to change a blade, and help to lower the cost per cut. “It is a way to optimize the process. If you were cutting a piece for four hours, and then switched to a specialized blade, that could cut the time down to forty minutes. However, it does entail a certain investment,” says Georgi.
Anywhere that steel or aluminum plates are cut into shapes, band saw blades are used, so the aerospace, automotive, and shipping industries all use these blades. “We work within the energy sectors, which are offshore and petrochemical, oil and gas, renewable energies, the construction industry, and steel service centers. We focus on the industrial side of business B2B, and therefore, you will probably not find Wikus in a department store,” says Georgi.
There is some volatility in the market due to the tariffs of the current administration. However, it has not changed the course of Wikus. “At the end of it all, somebody is paying for it, but who that is, I cannot say right now. Business conditions in the U.S. over the last two years have been favorable; however, the industry has gone through some changes, and we have seen companies invest into updating their production equipment to cope with increased demand. It seems like this positive attitude and freeing up budgets for capital expenditures has a positive effect in our cutting tool industry,” says Georgi.
Wikus stands out in the American market due to the performance of its premium product and the added value it provides to the market. Its well-informed employees and experienced sales force are also recognized as being very knowledgeable in cutting applications.
“We have a good foundation and do a lot of groundwork to further the organization and set it up to achieve continued growth. We promote our band saws across the U.S. We have sustainable partnerships with many local, regional, and national distributors,” says Georgi. “There is a lot of room to grow in the U.S and Mexico, and part of the business plan in the U.S. includes education for both the marketplace and our partners.”
A few years back, Wikus was looking into future strategies to maintain the lead and as a result embraced the new META concept – the determination to be Most Efficient in Technology and Administration. Over the years, it has invested heavily in its facility in Europe.
“We concentrated our efforts and realized META in efficient in-line manufacturing of band saw blades and atmosphere in our new office building where all the administration is housed in Europe. With such a foundation, we continue to strive and surpass highest standards we have set forth. How is this all possible? Through being a leader and continuously shaping the future through innovation and vision. We strive to provide a product that meets the highest standards,” says Georgi. Wikus has a research and development facility where band saw machine manufacturers bring their machines for testing and collaborate on creative solutions for the next generation of cutting needs.
In 2018, Wikus won an innovation prize in Germany called the Hessen Champion. There were nine contenders in this competition, small to medium-sized companies in Germany that are not as well known to the public, because the applications are industrial in nature.
Another grand prize that the company has received is for Medium-Sized enterprises in Germany, and Wikus has garnered this recognition ten times since 2003. The award focuses on companies that have a reputation providing an excellent product while being a good employer.
“Companies are evaluated on overall company development, creating and securing jobs, having apprenticeship programs, modernization of facilities, equipment and innovation along with customer proximity and regional involvement for Germany,” says Georgi.
Wikus sees much potential for growth through new partnerships and educating customers about its products. To get the most out of the tools, the company has services and training available. “Our service people provide engineering, training, and even preventative maintenance programs for customers. The weld centers in the U.S. ensure timely delivery of product. The field teams assist and educate customers in establishing the right parameters for their cutting needs when using our blades,” says Georgi.
It strives to optimize processes and continues to bring out new products to remain ahead of what is happening in the industry. “We have new products being developed in our R&D facilities. Investments we have made will contribute to equipment needed for the band saw blades of tomorrow. We will continuously invest in our people and processes so that our company can welcome the future success,” says Georgi.