Der Wimpel

AHP Merkle GmbH
Nägelseestr. 39
79288 Gottenheim
Germany

phone: +49 7665 4208-0
fax: +49 7665 4208-88

Our aim is first-class quality

Interview with Christen Merkle

The Managing Director of AHP Merkle reveals what matters when it comes to hydraulic products and why a new company head office had to be built in 2009.

Mr. Merkle, today AHP Merkle is making advances in many areas. What does AHP stand for and what were the milestones in the development of your product range?

In German AHP stands for "Ausrüstungen, Hydraulik und Pneumatik". In English this translates as "Equipment, Hydraulics and Pneumatics". The "P" could be deleted at this stage because today we only manufacture hydraulic cylinders. The decisive developments in our company were the first » AHP Standard Cylinders in 1974. In 1983 the » Block Cylinders were added to the line. Then in 1986 we developed » Hydraulic cylinders with external guide, which to date have been used successfully in the automotive industry, for example at BMW and PSA Peugeot Citroën, Daimler and Ford, etc. The » DIN Standard Cylinders followed in 1988 and in 1994 we launched the first » Push Unit on the market.

Our » Core Pulling Unit is a particularly interesting product. All our customers who use the product are impressed. Its function is not that simple to explain because the unit is a dual-action hydraulic cylinder, which works by pulling but still uses the large piston area. A sliding bed which holds the cores is guided precisely using ball guides. The core pulling unit is more expensive from the outset, but overall is often the more reasonable solution as the design of the element is approx. 35% more compact than comparable solutions and delivers the same performance. It requires considerably less time and effort during the design stage as we can offer the product as a standard element.

What are the next developments coming up in your company?

In addition to other projects, at the moment we are actively working on the locking cylinder. At the same time, we are trying to make the selection of products as easy as possible for our customers. That's why we have translated our homepage into 14 languages and developed the » ahp.book. The ahp.book is our product catalogue which contains over 500 pages. Together with the book, the customer receives the entire component library on CD, which was also completly revised in 2009. Simply insert and the entire product portfolio is available to the designer. Is any software installation required? Not necessary! There is direct access to all diagrams. The update function is also important here. This provides the designer with constantly updated » CAD data.

How do the products from AHP Merkle differ to products from competitors in terms of quality and price?

We are located in the high product quality segment, i.e. we offer quality information, product and service! In the last twelve years we have only increased our prices twice which was made possible through the optimisation of our production processes and thus the resulting increased efficiency. Since the universal introduction of CNC technology we are able to continuously improve the quality and maintain the price level. For us it was always important to deliver the best quality. The standard hardened, ground and chromium-plated piston rods are a quality feature which have given us a tremendous boost. And not forgetting 
the new building completed at the end of 2009. We realised this investment despite the financial and economic crisis and we are confident that we and thus also our customers will benefit from the associated savings thanks to state-of-the-art storage techniques and optimised processes for incoming orders, which are currently increasing significantly.

Are there any notable applications that have been realised using AHP Merkle hydraulic cylinders?

Absolutely! We equipped a test stand for jet engines at Lufthansa with our hydraulic cylinders. And also the vuvuzelas, which were sold in Germany during the Football World Cup, were manufactured using our hydraulic cylinders.

In what industries are you currently most successful?

The industries in which we are successful include classic mould construction, tool construction, automotive and mechanical engineering. We are the market leader for hydraulic cylinders in the area of mould construction. Whether there are other industries that must be developed by us, in addition to those operated by us, I do not know. I think we have found our industries. It is important for us that we follow our customers to where they would like to have our products. Whether it be through another overseas representative or us delivering abroad directly, is secondary. Our customers know that they can rely on us. Regardless of where they want to use the product, we'll deliver.

How did you survive the crisis year of 2009 and what measures did you adopt?

2009 hit us a lot harder than we anticipated. In the last 15 years we always experienced continuous growth and then suddenly we were facing a 20% drop in sales. However, there was no reduced working hours put in place in our company in 2009. As an owner-managed family company we decided, because the employees have been making a solid contribution for years, not to put them on reduced working hours when things aren't going good for once. We concentrated on new projects in this period. The ahp.book was created and also the new building of our company head office in Gottenheim built That was probably the most difficult phase in 2009 - pushing through the planned new building with declining sales figures. We made the decision nevertheless. Looking back now it was the right decision because today we are optimally positioned with spacious production and office areas in order to process our order books which in the meantime have become more than full.

The questions put to Christoph Scholze by :K, appeared for the first time in :K 07/2010.

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