Solid flow of success
Occupying a leading position in the market is the result of many years worth of customer relationships and continuous innovation for Jacob Pipework Systems, which now looks forward to expanding its international presence even further
Fr. Jacob Söhne GmbH & Co. KG was first established back in 1928 and is now the leading global supplier of modular pipework systems. Compared to the rest of its market, Jacob has the widest offering of around 7000 standardised products geared towards providing comprehensive solutions to dry product transfer and contaminated air extraction needs within an industrial environment. With a number of plants situated around the world and even more sales representatives operating in over 40 countries, Jacob has laid down a footprint in numerous industries from pharmaceutical and food to chemicals, plastics, oil mist extraction and other major industrial applications.
“Basically, anywhere dry product needs to be transported throughout a process, or contaminated air needs to be removed from a space, our modular systems can provide key benefits,” begins Managing Director, Patrick Jacob who goes on to discuss the company’s main sales channels. “We cater to the plant engineering and mechanical engineering experts around the world. Germany is a major stronghold for us as it is a large exporting nation and we have a lot of plant engineers here who carry out international business. In terms of sales it is generally split equally between domestic and export, but in reality, because a lot of our domestic customers are operating on a global platform, it is weighted more towards the export side.”
It is not only the breadth of products that marks Jacob out as a leader in the market able to provide a one-stop-shop of pipework solutions from bends to turn-head distributors, but also this international presence and stock flexibility. Five daughter companies make up the Jacob Group, consisting of two production sites in Germany, and one each in Italy and the US. Sales-wise, two main offices are set up in the UK and France, and its network of representatives takes this around the world. “When it comes to our product, availability is key because whilst it can still represent a significant investment, it is not usually the first priority in a major plant construction project for many of our customers,” he says. “This means they want a very flexible, modular pipework system that can be delivered very quickly and we are perfectly placed to provide this.”
At its largest plant in Germany, Jacob holds around ten million euros worth of stock in one of the largest warehouses of its kind. A total of around 14 million euros is held across the group and in Germany alone this equates to one million individual items. “Having multiple production locations also gives our customers confidence in delivery as if one site encounters an issue, another can take the additional load and provide this production stability,” Patrick adds.
Within its production sites the combination of highly skilled and knowledgeable labour with state-of-the-art automation technology enables Jacob to run high volume production lines with consistent quality but also an adaptive, solutions-led process. “Automation drives productivity and reliability, and we are the only ones in this industry large enough to make use of this technology,” Patrick continues. “However maintaining a high level of skilled labour, which we do through continuous training, is rewarded with very low turnover rates, so we are able to understand the market, respond to demands and develop new products accordingly, as well as providing excellent German engineering to our customers.”
When it comes to innovation the company approaches product development from two strategic angles. As the largest supplier in the market with such a long history and robust reputation, it has become the partner of choice for many of its customers when they start looking at new processes and products. “We are often included at this phase to help develop the best solutions and we can gather really good market feedback this way,” says Patrick. The second stream of development comes from the business’ large technology and engineering department, which retains a focus on innovation by looking at what products can be improved and what new systems could be launched to market.
Illustrating the success Jacob has experienced from this approach, Patrick outlines three of the company’s recent and most important innovations. “Firstly we have developed an economical connection method called QUICK CONNECT, which is essentially a pull-ring that provides a very quick and easy method for putting a system together,” he describes. “The installation of pipeworks is very time consuming and labour intensive and the longer this takes, the more expensive it gets. Therefore this system becomes very cost effective. It is also very flexible, making cleaning and adjustments very simple to carry out.”
Two other key developments are related very closely to the food industry where quality assurance is absolutely essential. For example, over the last couple of years it has developed a Food Grade line, which is the only modular pipework system in the world certified by both the US FDA and European EC1935/2004 accredited standards agencies. This assures that all products that pass through remain safe to consume and unaltered in terms of quality. “Continuing this we have also launched the Detectable Design line, which revolves around making the seals that sit between two joining components, metal detectable,” Patrick explains.
“This means that should a seal enter the process, for whatever reason, they will be detectable by the manufacturer’s metal detector system and safely removed. Of course they are food-grade certified so no contamination will have occurred but our customers appreciate that we can safeguard against this. Again, we are the only company in the industry able to offer such a solution.”
With a strong market around the world and a leading position in the development of new and innovative products, the future for Jacob looks positive. At POWTECH 2016, the sector’s biggest trade show, it will be launching a new service innovation and over the coming months continued investment will be pumped into expanding its technical capability to aid more efficient production. “However our main strategy as we move forward is going to be on expanding our international presence,” concludes Patrick.
“We are finalising a new plant in Italy, which will significantly increase production capability there, and we hope to do something similar in the US to offer our products to more international companies whilst being able to service them locally.”
Jacob Pipework Systems
Products: Market leading supplier of industrial pipework systems