NORMA Group – creating a close working partnership 27 October 2014

NORMA Group prides itself on its ability to work with customers to create engineered joining technology for applications in a host of industries. Will Lowry spoke to Jean-Luc Kirmann, director of application engineering – EMEA, about the steps involved in working with customers and the benefits of a close partnership.

NORMA Group is able to supply a wide range of engineered joining technology. What type of plastic solutions can it offer?
“NORMA Group has a large product portfolio of approximately 30,000 engineering joining technology solutions – supplying components for different applications in vehicles, aircraft, trains, ships, washing machines, water pipelines, and for applications for the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry.

In this portfolio we can supply a variety of plastic products, with our key range being Quick Connectors – which can be used in cooling water systems, emissions reduction systems, as well as charged air systems – mainly in the automotive, truck and off road industries. We can supply a unique selection of Quick Connectors including NORMAQUICK® S, NORMAQUICK® PS3, NORMAQUICK® V2, NORMAQUICK® MK, as well as a broad variety of versions and sizes that meet European and US standard. We can also design and provide Quick Connectors that include function such as valves, sensors, or heating elements.

We can do this because of the manufacturing capabilities within the Group. We offer full production capabilities for multi-material, multi-component, and multi-layered products. Overall, 200 NORMA engineers globally combine a unique know-how in metal and plastics technology.”

Can you give us an example of NORMA working with a customer to create a solution? What steps were involved in the development process?
“We recently had a project with a customer that makes agriculture vehicles such as tractors and harvesters. We already supplied a range of Quick Connectors and fluid pipes to the customer for numerous applications. During one of the meetings with the customer, our application engineer noted that one of our Quick Connectors was being used in a complicated system – made of plastic and metal – for the closing of the fuel line when draining water from the fuel tank. The customer explained that they had to assemble the components for the complicated system themselves, and that the components were heavy, expensive and not very user-friendly.

To create a solution we worked with the customer to understand the critical functions of the system. Only then could we redesign the system to optimise these functions, as well as reduce weight and installation time.

Our solution involved designing a system that was fully plastic – using the minimum number of components – helping to reduce weight and make it easier to install. As part of the process we designed a sample using 3D printing. Whilst the 3D printed part was not fully functional the customer could see and hold the part to see its shape and how it would work. This helped us finalise the design and make sure the customer was happy with the results we could offer.

Once the customer was happy with the design the next step was to create the tooling for the moulds in the plastic injection process to make the components. We are now at the stage where the tooling has been launched and in the next few weeks we should get the final components to make the first prototype system. We can then start to test the solution with the customer to make sure that it is suitable for the application and meets all the requirements. Once the prototype has been validated the customer will be able to start production of the components.

By working with us the customer can now buy the components for the whole system from one supplier. We have also optimised the design and been able to improve the system by reducing weight, making it user-friendly, as well as enhancing the functionality.”

How does NORMA Group ensure it is supplying engineered joining technology according to its customer’s needs?
“The key success point in making sure we are providing the right solutions is to work very closely with our customers. We believe it essential to have a close working relationship with the customer, as this enables us to identify all the potential solutions we are able to offer for applications. We have technical meetings with customers where we are constantly looking at ways in which we can work together to help improve the functionality of applications, as well as if there is any weight or costs that can be saved. Through our engineering department we can provide optimal solutions. Our application engineers identify and propose new ideas and our specialist product engineers create the products and technology. This structure within the engineering department is global and we can work with customers and OEMs around the world, whether it is Europe, Asia-Pacific or the Americas.

An additional benefit is that we often find that customers do not necessarily know what we are able to supply and don’t realise our capabilities. It is only by visiting customers and interacting with them, and seeing the applications for ourselves, that we are able to ensure that the most optimised solution is proposed.

Looking to the future, having a close relationship with customers will become even more important, especially with the growing trend for replacing metal and rubber components with plastic components. At NORMA we have introduced new plastic components that are able to withstand even higher temperatures, meaning customers can now replace metallic or rubber components. This helps the customer improve recyclability and reduce weight, which is especially important in the automotive market in relation to emission reductions and the new Euro-6 standard.”

Will Lowry Content Director t: +44 (0) 1727 743 888

Will joined Fastener + Fixing Magazine in 2007 and over the last 12 years has experienced every facet of the fastener sector – interviewing key figures within the industry and visiting leading companies and exhibitions around the globe. Will manages the content strategy across all platforms and is the guardian for the high editorial standards that the brand is renowned.