Post-Fabrication Metal Reimagined

KNOLL America Inc.
Written by Pauline Müller

Machine tool providers and metal fabricators know that dealing with post-fabrication metal leftovers can be challenging. Therefore, a trustworthy partner that can provide high-performance technology to handle heavy-duty processing in round-the-clock operations is of the essence. Considering the importance of the durability required for such processing machinery, finding that partner makes all the difference.

Knoll America Inc., a subsidiary of KNOLL Maschinenbau GmbH, is an international supplier of metal chip processing equipment that separates, cleans, reduces, and transports metal into manageable chips for easy storage and further processing. The comprehensive product range offers systems for decentralized or centralized applications.

In addition, KNOLL’s Automation division provides major global manufacturers with solutions for their complex assemblies and logistics tasks. These include stationary transport systems with chain and roller conveyors. Flexibility and practicality are achieved in KNOLL’s systems with the integration of handling units (robots, cobots) and transport robots (AGV).

Its quality equipment seamlessly plugs into existing production systems. As a result, the company is known in the manufacturing industry. Unique to KNOLL America is the fabrication of specialized drum unloaders used in the food and chemical industries. This product is currently only available in North America.

The company’s current local facility of 12,000 square feet is in Madison Heights, Michigan, while its global headquarters is in Bad Saulgau, Germany. These two bases are supported by facilities in Asia and Poland and distribution representatives around the world. KNOLL America’s ingenuity and vast resource pool of its German research and development department routinely help the team outperform its competition. Thanks to its diverse selection of products that boosts its clients’ environmental stewardship performance, the company is the preferred go-to solutions provider for large OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and end users alike. KNOLL filters, conveyors and high-pressure pumps are found in many applications such as the sawing, milling, drilling, turning, and grinding industries, among others.

KNOLL America’s new, 35,000-square-foot headquarters is soon going under construction in Dallas, North Carolina. “With the purchase of our own land and the establishment of our new state-of-the-art… facility, we like to show our long-term commitment to our local employees, customers, and vendors,” says Lothar Burger, Chief Executive Officer.

Despite global economic pressures, there are several reasons why its market share is expanding. One reason is its powerful innovation capabilities. KNOLL’s latest conveying, pump and filter technology harness next-generation design ensuring that systems optimize the separation of coolants from metal chips as early in the process as possible. Its machines also distinguish between different metals, separating iron, aluminum, and the like at the right moment for every process.

Once metals are removed during the machining process, they are processed into chips to minimize their volume for easy storage until reprocessed at a foundry. “We want to make sure that we have an environmental solution to recycle as best and as efficiently as we can to repurpose what are sometimes very expensive materials,” Burger says.

KNOLL also recently introduced a range of new products. First is its KTSL screw spindle pump, an economical, high-performance alternative to the existing model KTS. This ultra-modern displacement pump auto-lubricates with low-abrasion coolants, offering improved longevity and enhanced return on investment.

The second recent addition to its impressive stable of top-performing products is its HydroPur filtration system. Here, a fleece filter acts as an independent cleaner to remove debris and fiber from lubrication agents during grinding, milling, and other machining operations. The smart design also comes with several other improvements to outshine and outperform traditional flatbed filters. These include higher volume flow, lower fleece use, and reduced accumulation of filter fibers, resulting in cleaner lubricants, easy installation and operation access, and more.

A custom booster trolley has been designed for a turning machine tool original equipment manufacturer (OEM) in the United States. This booster trolley increases the pressure on a KNOLL system already in use, significantly improving its chip-breaking action. “These reduced-sized chips are easier [to handle] and take less volume in the chip cart,” says Burger.

KNOLL has a long and proud legacy. It was founded as an engineering firm in 1970 by Walter Knoll, father of Jürgen Knoll, Chief Technical Officer, and Matthias Knoll, Chief Executive Officer. Despite the distance, these two second-generation owners remain a crucial part of its North American operation. “For us, it is [crucial] to have owners who support the subsidiary. It is super helpful to have a specifically assigned team to support purchases and shipments to the U.S.,” Burger says.

Along with its international presence come international customers and the responsibility to provide the best quality machinery available today. In response to this mandate, Knoll is regrouping its American outfit. To date, its existing warehouse space and spare parts division have seen significant expansions, securing a solid base from which to deploy worldwide support services.

In addition, the company introduced a new sales team and more service technicians to serve its customers better. “Even though this is not always easy on employees… it amazes me how we overcame the obstacles and became a great team. It brought us closer together,” Burger says, noting that because the company’s communication is transparent everyone strives to achieve its goals. “It is nice to see this new culture established. Secondly, the uninterrupted support in the background of our owners, Matthias and Jürgen Knoll,” has been incredible and much appreciated by all the company employees, he adds.

Perpetual improvement of its product longevity and efficiency is central to its business ethos; therefore, both progress and innovation are led by internal measures, customer needs, and feedback. KNOLL America’s eighteen local employees form part of its international team of more than 1,000 people. This tight-knit group handles everything from sales, service, and field support to accounts, human resources, logistics, and product assembly. The company aims to expand its team to around fifty people in the next five years.

KNOLL America employs people who fit its positive culture and team spirit. Adaptability and the ability to compromise when necessary are two characteristics this employer values. “We strongly believe in cross-training our employees to work efficiently and to have the most flexibility available. Our mantra is to hire employees fitting to our culture and beliefs. Everything else can be trained. Here, in North America, being a startup, we need a ‘doer mentality,’ good customer service, and an open-minded attitude.”

The team’s efforts are rewarded with tangible appreciation, enhanced by KNOLL’s continued investment in its people’s personal and professional development. Apprenticeship programs like its upcoming collaboration with Gaston Community College are just one way that the company contributes to employee growth and development.

To this end, its new headquarters promises to provide people with a healthy work environment, complete with flexible hours when possible. The team started exploring this new way of working during the COVID-19 shelter-in-place period and has experienced great success with it.

It also used this time to expand its range of spare parts available locally to ensure same or next-day delivery while providing its clients with its full complement of services, including field service, during that challenging time. As a result of the challenges presented by COVID-19, the company also set up a new vendor network of local suppliers that continues to strengthen its North American presence while larger shipments of KNOLL know how parts from abroad secure that aspect of its business.

In the future, “Most of our purchasing parts will be sourced directly in the USA. All service towards our products is performed by local, KNOLL-trained employees,” Burger says. These measures contribute to the company’s long-term commitment to its machine tool manufacturer clients’ and end-users’ success.

Looking at the markets, Burger foresees a fair expansion for the KNOLL’s conveyors, high-pressure pumps, and filter systems in the United States to complement its drum unloaders’ upcoming market presence. It is also implementing several measures to lighten its load on the environment.

“KNOLL stands for the environment and its sustainability; therefore, we will add a solar system to our production roof, a cistern to catch the rain, and surface water to be reused for watering our landscape,” Burger says.

This came in tandem with installing enough insulation to exceed local building codes and low-energy lighting throughout its new headquarters. The company also reports going above and beyond to curb the waste volumes its new facility sends to landfills. Its focus, however, remains on its clients and its employees because, as Burger puts it, “a great workforce makes all the difference in the world!”



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