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Keeping Conveyor Belts Running

Flexible Steel Lacing Company (FLEXCO), headquartered in Downers Grove in Illinois/USA, is the parent company of FLEXCO Europe GmbH. There are additional subsidiaries in Australia, Chile, China, Great Britain, India, Mexico, Singapore and South Africa. In 1907 FLEXCO was already optimizing conveyor systems using heavy-duty belt conveyors like those used in the coal or steel industries. Over the years the company gained a great deal of know-how and developed a more extensive line of accessories, which was continually improved. Accessories include belt cleaners and plows which keep bulk material from sticking beyond the transfer point. Innovative pulley lagging prevents slippage at the drive pulley, belt guidance systems avoid belt drift. Lateral skirting systems and impact beds also ensure that no conveyed items are spilled during transport. The product portfolio also includes mechanical fasteners that simplify maintenance and repair work on conveyor systems. Using these innovative solutions, users can substantially reduce downtime and increase productivity.

Until 2012 the Group operated on the market with Walther Sülzle GmbH and Anker-Flexco GmbH. In August of that year, the two firms merged to form the new FLEXCO Europe GmbH. Walther Sülzle, the great-grandson of company founder Wilhelm Sülzle, has been managing director of the companies since 1991. Since 2013 he has had executive-level support from Joerg Schairer, who is responsible for strategic management of the company, as well as for administrative and sales management of FLEXCO Europe GmbH.

How it all began

Between the Swabian Alps and the Black Forest lies the placid town of Rosenfeld, not far from Autobahn 81. Here Wilhelm Sülzle founded a tool smithy in 1880, which initially manufactured small tools from iron and steel for local needs – generally produced by hand. With the mechanization of agriculture and industry in the 1920s, agricultural equipment and machines were sold as commercial products. At that time, belt hooks, belt connectors and connection mechanisms were also manufactured. They were needed in industry and agriculture to join leather transmission belts. In 1949, the company itself began to manufacture and sell innovative fasteners and related assembly devices under the ANKER brand. They were innovative even then because the belt fasteners were welded on a cross wire that ensured high stability of the hook geometry. The brand was then strategically developed to be the leading brand for mechanical fastening systems for light-duty conveyor belts, filter belts, and belts in the laundry industry in Europe as well as major international markets. In order to coordinate sales activities in Europe, Russia and North Africa, the company founded Anker-Flexco GmbH in Rosenfeld as a joint venture with FLEXCO in the USA in 1991. Ever since, products have been sold through technical distributors and vulcanizing companies rather than directly to end customers. On January 1, 2012, Walther Sülzle sold his shares of Walther Sülzle GmbH and Anker-Flexco GmbH to the FLEXCO Group. That summer Walther Sülzle GmbH and Anker-Flexco GmbH finally merged to become FLEXCO Europe GmbH. The Group currently has 60 employees at the Rosenfeld location and generates an annual revenue of 18 million Euros.

Innovative, convincing technology

The conveyor belt fastener systems are comprised of three components: ANKER conveyor belt fasteners, hinge material and hinge pins, and installation tools and machines. All components are carefully harmonized. State-of-the-art solutions have emerged from decades of intensive development work with users, original equipment manufacturers and materials suppliers. Depending on the industry, system and conveyed material, various fastener systems and metals are used. Some products are especially abrasion-resistant or resistant to acids and chemicals.

The innovative systems are developed and produced in a more than 5,000 square meter production and warehouse facility. Proper hook geometry is guaranteed during production using a profile projector to inspect random samples. With press tests on various belt materials, overall function is checked and then a 100% visual inspection performed. Users can always rely on receiving flawless products. The assembly equipment and press-in machines are sourced in the company's own production facility in Rosenfeld. Individual components are manufactured on state-of-the-art CNC milling machines; other parts for machines and universal combs are produced on wire eroding systems. In tool and jig production, employees manufacture and maintain all production equipment. "We strive at all times to provide innovative products to satisfy user requirements", says Joerg Schairer. "We also always want to be an attractive employer in the region."