The sheet metal industry is facing an era of unprecedented changes and challenges. We sat down with Jean-Pierre GEBHARDT CEO of Selectarc Group to understand the current landscape, the innovations in play, and the future of the sector.
1. Sustainability and the Green Movement
Jean-Pierre pointed out one of the most pressing challenges today - the increased consciousness about CO2 emissions. "The biggest challenge is how to produce greener and how to reduce our carbon footprint," he shared. In the wake of the climate crisis, industries worldwide are grappling with the need for sustainable practices, and the sheet metal industry is no exception.
2. Global Competition and the Asian Market
However, sustainability isn’t the only concern. According to Jean-Pierre, the industry is facing stiff competition, primarily from Asian countries. The cost of transportation post-COVID era has significantly decreased, making imports cheaper. “The price per container dropped from around $14,000 just after COVID to less than $2,000 now, leading to a massive import of Asian products,” he elaborated.
3. Innovation and Customer Relationships
The rapid changes in the industry landscape require companies to innovate. In the face of competition from various welding techniques such as laser welding, cord welding wires, friction welding, etc., innovation becomes crucial. "Our target is really to innovate as much as we can," says Jean-Pierre, highlighting the importance of staying ahead in the game.
But it's not just about products; it's about relationships. Maintaining a strong relationship with customers and understanding their technical needs is essential. This bond becomes especially significant in markets like France, where there is a rising trend of preference for local producers. Jean-Pierre noted, "In France, there's a stronger trend towards supporting local producers, which is beneficial for companies like ours."
4. The Technical Side and the Skills Gap
The sheet metal industry isn't just facing challenges; it's evolving, and with evolution come technical demands. Jean-Pierre emphasized a worrying trend – a shortage of skilled welders. "For the welding business, we have a huge lack of welders worldwide. Just in France, we're short of around 14,000 welders," he pointed out.
This shortage is pushing companies to invest in training. Selectarc, for instance, is on the brink of completing a new training center to help provide trainings, especially crucial for industries like nuclear. The demand for highly skilled welders is soaring, particularly since welding for specialized industries is entirely different from generic welding tasks.
Jean-Pierre also highlighted the increasing technical requirements, especially in industries like Naval and Defense. The need to achieve the highest chemical and mechanical properties for products is pushing the limits of what’s possible.
The sheet metal industry is at an intersection of sustainability, global competition, innovation, and technical challenges. As companies navigate these multifaceted issues, the role of innovation, training, and relationship-building becomes ever more crucial. With leaders like Jean-Pierre at the helm, the industry is poised to adapt, innovate, and thrive in this changing landscape.
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- Schweissen & Schneiden 2023 Press release
Navigating Sustainability, Global Competition, and the Skills Gap: An In-depth Interview with Jean-Pierre GEBHARDT of SELECTARCPublished on 05/10/23