The profiles produced by the family-owned Welser company keep solar collectors standing sturdy. And not only that, their products are used in many different industries worldwide.
All you have to do is take a trip through Germany to see how important renewable energies have become in the country. In Brandenburg, wind turbines can be seen turning all the way to the horizon, on the coast of Schleswig-Holstein, offshore wind farms jut out of the sea, and from Lower Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt all the way to Bavaria, biomass and biogas systems dot the rural landscapes. And even solar power systems installed in fields and on the roofs of buildings have become a familiar sight.
But one thing you might not notice at first glance is that many of these systems are built using steel profiles from Welser Profile. “Environmental technology has been an important area of focus for us for many years,” says Jörn Miklas, Purchaser at the German production facility in Bönen near Dortmund. “The solar industry is becoming more and more important for us as a company.” Today, Welser is one of the leading providers of special profiles in Europe. But nearly three centuries ago, the Austrian family-owned business was on a very different path. From its formation in 1664, the company manufactured pans and small forged parts. “It was only in 1960 that Josef Welser switched to producing profiles,” says Miklas.
This decision was monumental. The company, which began as a regional operation with just a few dozen employees, has grown into an international enterprise with over 1,800 employees worldwide. One reason for this success is the company’s own process used to create custom profiles. “We process the slit strips using roller segments until they reach the desired shape – which we refer to as the cross-section – over the course of many forming steps,” says Gerhard Hasenbein, Purchasing Manager and Member of the Management Board.
“This makes it possible to create highly complex structures.” To date, the company has developed 21,000 different cross-sections as templates for profiles using this method – and up to five new cross-sections are created every day. “By far, our largest clients have always come from the construction industry, but the automotive and environmental technology industries are becoming increasingly important,” says Hasenbein.
Medium-sized company, global business
thyssenkrupp Steel Europe has provided the flat steel for these profiles for over 30 years. Products range from hot wide strips and cold strips, hot-dip and electrolytically galvanized strips, all the way to color-coated coils. “Almost all industries rely on steel profiles, even the renewable energies industry,” says Albert Knotz, Key Account Manager at the location in Gresten. “Using steel helps companies to meet a wide range of different requirements in the construction of these systems.”
The process of manufacturing these profiles, for example for solar power systems, must take corrosion protection into account, along with an array of other factors. “We have to produce different products for Saudi Arabia than we do for Iceland.” Temperature, humidity, bedrock quality – all of these elements influence construction. “And these factors can even vary in a single location,” says Knotz. The very same field can both have rocky and sandy areas. “So the profiles used for construction vary considerably as well.”
System construction is not the only challenge Welser has to face – the economic conditions of the industry present their share of hurdles as well. When the oversubsidized European market bubble burst a few years ago, the company was fortunate to have already expanded into international markets. “The drop in orders here in Europe was more than compensated for by growing overseas markets,” says Knotz. Welser conducts a significant proportion of its business with the solar industry in Japan, the USA, and India. And with that, the family-owned company from the Mostviertel in Lower Austria has become a global player.