Things are certainly heating up in the production halls at voestalpine BÖHLER Bleche in Mürzzuschlag. This is where high-quality plates and sheets are hot-rolled for the aerospace industry. But plant manager Andreas Z. always remains cool.
At first glance, it is not what you would expect to find in rural Styrian Mürztal with its picturesque landscape. But this is home to high-tech advancements at voestalpine BÖHLER Bleche in Mürzzuschlag. For decades, the company has been supplying high-quality rolled flat products for further processing to renowned aerospace customers around the world. Plant manager Andreas has been part of the experienced team for 15 years.
Into the deep hot rolling water
Immediately after completing his studies in mining machinery in Leoben, Andreas submitted an unsolicited application as a production technician directly to the voestalpine BÖHLER Bleche rolling mill in Hönigsberg. Even back then, he was heavily involved in hot rolling processes. In 2009, he moved to the finishing shop at the Mürzzuschlag mill and took charge of the heat treatment process chain before becoming plant manager of the entire hot rolling mill in 2015. Today, Andreas is very grateful for the broad manufacturing overview he acquired during his years as a technician. “It was the only way I could develop the necessary feeling for the process chain, its possibilities, and its limitations,” he explains. Valuable experience that he is happy to share with the 125 or so employees he works with today.
A day at work
Andreas points out that these colleagues are an essential part of his work. The supportive and open atmosphere, respectful communication, and discussions as equals make his job even more exciting. “It is incredibly fascinating when we handle yellow and red-hot materials and process them into high-performance materials. The employees always do their best and we work together through thick and thin, even when things get difficult,” says the plant manager. Andreas has an extremely broad area of activity in the hot rolling mill because as plant manager he juggles countless things at the same time. His tasks include managing the ten salaried employees and almost 115 employees in the mill as well as supervising and supporting a wide variety of projects ranging from investment projects to technology projects for the hot rolling equipment and auxiliary units. Occupational safety, quality management, the continuous improvement process, and researching and testing new rolling technologies also fall within his area of responsibility. Andreas takes part in many meetings where he establishes contacts with raw material suppliers, assists on customer visits, provides advice, and supports the development of new solutions.
And together with his wife, Andreas also takes care of their three children every morning. After their first cup of coffee, preferably with a dash of milk, he and his wife take turns getting the children ready for the day. That is why the family father enjoys the leisurely family breakfasts on the weekend all the more.
Temperature contrasts with vision
In a way, Andreas is also a man of contrasts. As fascinated as he is by working with red-hot ferrous materials in sweaty temperatures, he is a winter person. When he is not playing ice hockey with his club, he can be found on the ski slopes; in the warmer months, he is often out mountain biking or in his garden at home. The passionate hobby photographer likes to recharge his batteries with his family and friends.
Andreas enjoys the outlook when he sits in an airplane and looks at the wings that have components made from “his” raw material. And he also enjoys his future career outlook.
"Looking back, I find it really fascinating and it makes me proud to see how much we have invested over the years in modernizing the mills, how they are operated, managed, and regulated. I look forward to continuing to accompany voestalpine BÖHLER Bleche’s aerospace strategy with the entire team in the coming years."
Zinc meets titanium
voestalpine BÖHLER Bleche also processes titanium, a material of the future that is particularly interesting for aerospace. As Europe’s only manufacturer of titanium sheets and plates, the company demonstrates a fine touch as well as courage in working with this sophisticated material. “I am not afraid of titanium…,” says Andreas with a wink, “…even if it is extremely sensitive and the process is different than that of our conventional product range.” The furnace temperatures are lower than for other materials. Temperature windows and forming steps must be adhered to even more precisely. And parameters must be met with pinpoint accuracy in order to fulfill the requirements and specifications. This means that rolling operations require a longer-term planning horizon and intensive process times.
voestalpine has been an established supplier to the aerospace industry for around 100 years. The Group manufactures extremely complex, highly stressed, safety-critical components for renowned customers worldwide so that virtually every aircraft flies with a piece of voestalpine. After the severe turbulence during the Covid-19 pandemic, the company with its focus on aerospace is providing insights into the very special (aero)dynamics of this business area.