Our Strategy

Our profile

Bekaert company profile

Bekaert is a global technological and market leader in advanced solutions based on metal transformation and coatings as well as the world's largest independent manufacturer of drawn steel wire products. Bekaert (Euronext Brussels: BEKB) is a global company with headquarters in Belgium, employing 28 000 people worldwide. Serving customers in 120 countries, Bekaert pursues sustainable profitable growth in all its activities and generated combined sales of € 4.6 billion in 2011.

Bekaert employs unique metal treatment technologies to deliver a quality portfolio of drawn steel wire products and coating solutions on a global scale. We purchase more than 2.7 million tons of wire rod per year as our basic material. Depending on our customers’ requirements, we draw wire from it in different diameters and strengths, even as thin as ultrafine fibers of one micron. We group the wires into cords, weave or knit them into fabric or process them into an end product.

Bekaert is unique for its combination of metal transformation and coating technologies, which brought forth a wide variety of products, tailored to our customers’ needs.

Global market leadership

Ever since making its first investment in Latin America in 1950, Bekaert has shown its pioneering spirit by investing in growth markets worldwide. We set up operations in Latin America, Asia and Central Europe when early signs of opportunities appeared. Overall, our business platforms in growth markets account for more than 70% of combined sales in 2011.

In the mature markets, we continue to diversify our product offering and introduce innovations that add value in a highly competitive environment.

In the EMEA region, Bekaert is present in both the mature Western European markets and the growth markets of Central and Eastern Europe. The mix of market maturity and the alignment of product offerings to local market needs are major reasons why Bekaert performed fairly well in Europe in 2011. The automotive markets showed good performance in Central Europe and the construction sector picked up slightly.

Sustained demand in all markets except construction and agriculture and a positive product mix led to increased sales in North America. The strong nominal sales growth was, however, to a large extent offset by unfavorable exchange rates.

In line with the strategic focus to concentrate on its core technological competencies, Bekaert divested the Bekaert Specialty Films business in September 2011. The division accounted for about 3% of Bekaert's consolidated sales, mainly on the account of North America.

In Latin America, Bekaert manufactures a broad product portfolio spread across the region: from wire and cord solutions for the automotive industry to barbed wire for agriculture, as well as ropes and meshes for mining and construction. This well balanced mix of markets and products resulted in a solid performance for the entire region in 2011.

Increased competition and stringent credit restrictions created challenging conditions in China as from mid-2011. Demand slowdown, substantial overcapacity and a drastic price drop in the solar energy sector in particular, drove sales down from last year. Bekaert defended its market positions in a highly competitive environment while extending its presence in other promising sectors through acquisitions. Both in India and Indonesia, Bekaert continued its successful growth path.

Bekaert will continue to pursue its strategy of global market leadership. We are ready to take on the challenges that lay ahead and to safeguard our global market leadership, also under highly volatile market conditions.  

 

 

Technological leadership

Innovation is a key driver of Bekaert’s technological leadership. Within Bekaert, innovation is put into practice along two main axes: product innovation and process innovation. Product innovation helps us to better serve current and new customers. Process innovation enables us to increase our operational excellence while minimizing the impact on the environment.

Our innovation approach is based upon 3 pillars: creating added value for our customers, expanding our horizons through international cooperation and offering reliable solutions based on proprietary equipment.

Customer-driven innovation is what distinguishes us from our competition. We give our wires and wire products specific properties using high-tech coatings, thereby creating added value for our customers. Listening closely to our customers and understanding how our products function within their production lines and products is key to developing fit-for-use solutions.

Global cooperation is paramount to success. Our global technology platform consists of 2 main Technology Centers in Deerlijk (Belgium) and Jiangyin (Jiangsu province, China). Business or customer-specific projects are further supported by various development labs around the world. They work together on cutting edge projects in countries across the globe and consist of top class engineers from all over the world.

R&D is key for Bekaert as it offers our customers the most innovative solutions and secures our technological leadership position.

Open innovation on a global scale

We also seek international partners for our cooperation with universities and research institutes. Bekaert continues to cooperate with academic institutes, technology clusters as well as research partners from different countries in order to bring an outside-in approach.

  • Bekaert is active in the Strategic Initiative Materials (SIM) program and shall continue to do so. We have a long partnership with the Belgian universities of Leuven and Ghent, sponsoring research programs. Bekaert is an active member of the Flanders Mechatronic Center. 
  • In China, a framework agreement has been set up with the Institute of Metal Research (IMR) in Shenyang (Liaoning Province).
  • In Slovakia, a research contract has been renewed for an additional period of 3 years with the University of Trnava.
  • In the US, collaborative research efforts continue to be carried out at Colorado School of Mines. In Europe, a 4 year collaboration has been set up with the Dutch Polymer Institute (DPI) in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, for research on coatings.

For Bekaert, open innovation goes beyond cooperation with universities & research institutes. For example, we license technology for alternative manufacturing of steel fibers and spring wires. To remain a technological leader, we listen carefully to and cooperate closely with our customers. Moreover, there is an increasing trend in cooperation with our suppliers. The unique characteristics of our raw materials are important elements in the process of developing unique products.

Innovation in a nutshell

  • In 2011 we invested € 90 million in R&D
  • An international team of R&D specialists work on customer-driven research projects
  • 48 first patent applications were filed in the course of 2011, a record number for Bekaert, bringing our portfolio to more than 330 patent families with more than 2 000 patent applications and patents.

Bekaert’s in-house engineering department designs, assembles, installs and maintains the equipment for our various plants worldwide. Our engineering activities span the complete cycle from machine concept to automated production line, and close the loop by improving machine design based on production data. Production efficiency is supported by global spare parts asset management. Our engineering department has teams at different facilities in Belgium, China, Slovakia, India and Brazil. In 2011 we inaugurated a new engineering plant in Jiangyin (Jiangsu province, China) because the existing site had outgrown its premises.

Operational excellence

Bekaert believes that operational excellence is a prerequisite to a successful strategy. A constant drive to improve our business processes and a permanent focus on Total Quality Management are inherent in the Bekaert DNA. The task of putting these ambitions into practice on a day-to-day basis is in the hands of the Bekaert employees.

Worldwide, Bekaert has expanded significantly in recent years. In full support of our customers, we constantly evaluate our operational, technological and organizational set-up. We will continue to pay increased attention to the efficiency of our organization and to integrating our corporate philosophy in our most recently added production platforms. It is crucial that all our employees continue working better together at delivering top performance, resulting in satisfied customers.

Bekaert's driving principle of operational excellence will become even more pivotal in tackling the challenges that lay ahead.

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