Opening up new markets and applications for customers
Mannesmann Line Pipe and its customers have to react to the dynamic changes in the markets for the steel and energy industries. In Siegen we talked to Management Director Andreas Betzler about products, trends and prospects.
What is it that makes Mannesmann Line Pipe’s product portfolio special?
We serve the most diverse industries with a very broad array of products. From drinking water pipes to special oil field pipes for aggressive oil-gas mixtures, from structural tubes for stadium construction to high-performance components in mechanical engineering. We see ourselves not purely as a tube and pipe manufacturer, but go further in the value chain and provide our products with up to three additional layers of coating, a lining and individual end machining, which can also be different on each side.
Where have product requirements changed most in recent years?
Climate change and the energy transition are the central issues that call for new products for many of our customers. At the heart of Mannesmann Line Pipe's innovation strategy is reducing carbon emissions. We believe that the use of hydrogen as an energy carrier and storage medium will play a key role in a zero-emissions strategy in the industrial sector. In addition, there is a growing need in industrial processes to extract and transport CO2 and to store it in depleted gas fields, for example. Then there is the expansion of renewable energies. This now involves the transport and distribution of large quantities of power at voltages of up to 550 kV.
“Our links with our research partners enable us to constantly develop new and improved products and open up new applications and markets for our customers.”Andreas Betzler
Very topical issues. Do you already have market-ready products in this area?
Hydrogen has meanwhile become a prominent topic in the debate in politics and society. Numerous companies in the energy sector are involved in transport and storage, and we receive queries specifically about this. Our Mannesmann H2ready® pipes are products that are already available for use today. At the same time, we are collaborating with reputable partners and in numerous networks in order to stay on the ball for our customers and ready for future development steps. In the field of CO2 extraction, we have been involved in publicly funded projects and tested steels for their suitability for transporting gas mixtures containing CO2. Working with our colleagues at the Salzgitter AG research institute, we are now in a position to provide customers with expert advice and support for successful projects. In the development of a system solution for high-voltage and extra-high-voltage cable conduits, we are currently in the process of developing a technological approach with new, application-ready products in cooperation with partners in the fields of project planning, pipe laying, network operation and cable manufacture.
What do customers benefit most from in product development?
From quality, expertise, close contact and communication. Our links with our research partners enable us to constantly develop new and improved products and open up new applications and markets for our customers.
How does product development proceed at Mannesmann Line Pipe?
New product ideas are first evaluated in our Business & Development department and, if positively assessed, are transferred to a so-called MRI process. This involves the elaboration of a detailed concept. One person each from Sales and Technology then ensures that the idea is developed to market maturity with selected specialists from our company.
The position of product manager has not been in existence very long. What exactly is their task?
Our product managers have evolved out of the technical customer service department. They are now actively concerned with sales and are closer to the customer. Their job is to ensure that all technical customer requirements are identified at an early stage and are precisely implemented in production planning and execution.
A glance at the trade tells us that a lot has changed here as well in the last few years. What does this mean for Mannesmann Line Pipe?
It is becoming obvious that online business will pick up speed enormously in the future. In addition, this will of course also bring changes not only to pure ordering processes, but also in the fields of sales and customer advice. However, the specifics of these changes vary greatly from one industry to another. Online trading is certainly easier to handle if "standard" is demanded than if decidedly customized solutions are required. For Mannesmann Line Pipe, however, it is crucial to be able to respond to each customer's wishes according to sector and client. This is one of our strengths that we can also count on in the future, regardless of whether selling is carried out digitally or in the conventional way.
How will the product range develop in the future?
The current trend is towards increasingly customized components. A batch size of 1 is desired, and short lengths could become a sustainable market trend. In the cost-effective laying of line pipe, on the other hand, we continue to score with our pipes up to 18 meters in length. At the same time, we are qualifying higher grades as substitutes for seamless pipes, for example, and expanding the wall thickness range for the Zap-Lok™ onshore and offshore processes.
Where do you see the biggest challenges for the future?
We will continue to work with our customers in implementing product developments for them. The challenge for us is to identify where long-term recurring demand with corresponding added value will arise for our company and our employees. To have the skilled manpower for this and to do this at production sites in the heart of Germany – with all its advantages and disadvantages – is a major challenge. Experience, manufacturing capability and the powerful MANNESMANN brand will certainly benefit us.