Around the world, the Komatsu name is synonymous with top quality, continuous product development and a commitment to innovation and reliability.
As the second-largest manufacturer of mining and construction equipment worldwide, the Group has a combined turnover of €18 billion and more than 57,000 employees globally.
A proud member of this Group, Komatsu Germany Mining was founded in 1907 and now develops, manufactures and markets hydraulic excavators for customers in more than 70 countries.
In 2016, the 200,000-square-metre Komatsu Hanomag plant in Hanover and the 110,000-square-metre Komatsu Mining facility in Dusseldorf were merged to form Komatsu Germany.
The Hanover factory now specialises in making wheel loaders and excavators for construction, while the Dusseldorf plant produces five variations of mining excavators, weighing between 250 and 760 metric tons.
Appointed in April 2017 as Executive Vice-President of Komatsu Germany and President of its Mining division, Ralf Petzold says the merger has enabled the company to optimise operations between the two sites.
It can now respond to customer requests with greater speed and versatility, strengthening the Komatsu brand in Germany and Europe.
Last year, Komatsu Germany celebrated the production of the one-thousandth mining excavator.
“Mining is one of the oldest industrial activities in the world, and although it’s viewed as a more conservative industry, inside it is quite modern,” he says.
Ralf has been with Komatsu for almost 30 years, previously serving as Vice-President for 17 years and Plant Manager for production, purchasing, logistics and quality in the Dusseldorf mining division.
“I’ve gained experience with our entire supply chain, so I know every process that goes on with both suppliers and customers. I started out as a young mining engineer and worked my way up.”
“What I learned from the beginning was how to understand the needs of the customer – we call it ‘gemba thinking’. Gemba is a Japanese term meaning ‘the actual place’, referring to the location where work is performed.”
Ralf says these experiences have been invaluable in riding the wave of the fluctuating mining industry.
“We had a good year when commodity prices were extremely high and the industry peaked in 2012, but then we hit the bottom of the market last year.”
“Despite this volatility, now we are on the rise as the mining industry ramps up, and we have had to focus on carefully controlling our supply chain to stay ahead,” he says.
“We are on the rise as the mining industry ramps up.”
Importance of having right people in team
“A vital part of this incline has been getting the right people on our side. We encourage trust, loyalty and a sense of pride, and we have high employee retention.”
“Our engineering division has more than 70 brilliant engineers injecting fresh ideas into the company. Our people are experts in all aspects of engineering and production: we have the whole process chain and value chain inside the company.”
Komatsu Germany is uniquely positioned to service both domestic and international markets through its two manufacturing divisions.
“Our construction machines are produced in Hanover. They are smaller machines with a high demand and short production time, and are predominantly popular with German and European customers.”
“On the other hand, the mining machines produced in Dusseldorf are large, with heavy components, long production times, and cater to a small group of international customers.”
“Although they’re separate, our teams work together in synergy and this is what sets us apart. We share ideas, and production, logistics and supply chain management methods.”
“Although they’re separate, our teams work together synergistically, and this is what sets us apart. We share ideas, and management methods for our production, logistics and supply chain.”
The Komatsu Mining team is committed to global partnerships as a top supplier of mining equipment including dump trucks, hydraulic shovels, rope shovels, drills, wheel loaders, dozers, graders, draglines and mine management systems.
However, these partnerships would not be possible without the support and strength of Komatsu’s own supply chain.
“From the beginning, we work closely with our suppliers to explain our needs and those of the mine sites. The tricky part is the final delivery, due to weather unpredictability and the enormous weight of some components,” explains Ralf.
“Quality service and design is the number one priority at Komatsu so it’s essential to engage our suppliers from the start.”
Significant achievements and future plans
Over the next 12 to 18 months, Ralf is looking to implement a special production process to further enhance the quality and efficiency of Komatsu Germany’s international output.
“We are part of the bigger Komatsu family of 38 plants around the world. As the mother plant for hydraulic mining shovels, we have the responsibility to improve our processes, recruit and develop specialist staff, and optimise our supply chain for the benefit of the wider organisation,” he explains.
“This involves working with Komatsu’s many technical centres in Japan, and using their highly sophisticated technology to develop the best components for our excavators.”
Komatsu is dedicated to SLQDC – safety, law, quality, delivery and cost. “In Germany, we’ve made excellent progress in improving our safety.
Ten years ago, we had 80 accidents per year, and in 2017 we had just three, but we’re aiming for zero,” Ralf says proudly.
“Our quality is highly regarded in the mining industry: we are the premium brand for hydraulic mining excavators and we have the best-performing shovels in the world.”
“And to increase our flexibility, we have reduced our lead time from eight months to three.”
These achievements are just the tip of the iceberg, according to Ralf.
“We plan to further extend our market share and better understand our customers, so we can be proactive in providing unrivalled solutions. Although the market is volatile with many unforeseeable changes to come, I believe the trust and appreciation of customers, suppliers and employees will lead us to success.”