Photo: Jürgen Kromberg, Ganzheitliche Produktion

Pioneers. Innovators. And not just thanks to full digitization.

Contract manufacturer BAM GmbH in Weiden, in the Upper Palatinate region of Germany, is anything but standard– a corner stone of its success. The company pioneers time-saving and cost-saving digital processes, promises 24/7 operation, offers machining, 3D printing, sheet-metal machining, and more. And the firm is growing at pace. 

read time: 14 min

Author: Jürgen Kromberg, Ganzheitliche Produktion

Eight years ago now, IT Specialist Marco Bauer took over an exciting contracting company with eight employees and four machining centers. Today there are more than 190 employees and around 40 NC machining centers. You soon notice that, alongside the usual technology required for a manufacturing JobShop, there is a huge variety of other technology and no paper. The true secret to the success of the newcomer, who freely admits he has no idea about turning and milling, was full digitization.

Although, his admission isn’t entirely true. The IT specialist had previously been a builder in a metalworking company. Working in production, he noticed just how much paperwork, besides just the workpiece drawings, accompanied the manufacturing contracts at the machining centers. However, at the time, he knew there was no other real alternative.

Fast-forward to today and there are better options for generating digital working plans, including time and cost calculations, which are not only paperless, but also much quicker and cheaper to implement.

But one thing remains true; the firm with the biggest edge, is the one that can massively reduce the pre-production costs to create a sizeable advantage over their competitors (especially as a service provider).

The disadvantage? This isn’t the kind of edge you can simply buy, install and run. It’s something you have to generate and develop yourself. But at BAM GmbH this was quite simple, for two main reasons. Firstly, because their young CEO (Bauer was just 24 when he took over the company) was a fully signed-up and pioneering digital protagonist. And secondly, because the digitization of the then-small JobShop developed hand-in-hand with the company’s expansion. Bauer concedes, »In an existing organization with an established production planning system, moving from analogue to digital processes would certainly require a lot of persuasion and persistence.« But he is convince »The effort is worth it. Certainly, we consciously invest in the most modern manufacturing equipment for machining and sheet-metal machining, as well as for 3D printing, but having your business and technical administration digitized is the key for high efficiency and has the most growth potential. Without the immense advantages that digitization allowed us, we wouldn’t have grown so quickly.«

BAM GmbH started eight years ago as a prototype operation with the initial idea of growing as an online business. And this is, of course, where the advantages of digitally generated offers are most evident (as most orders are single-piece runs or lots of one). The calculation algorithm functions fully automatically and is complete within seconds. Bauer sets the scene, »We calculate around 3,000 requests per month over this rapid platform. We’d never manage that with traditional paper methods unless we had a really big and extremely pricey, dedicated calculations department.« They simply wouldn’t be profitable, or would have to make parts extremely expensive.

The BAM GmbH digital business predominantly (but by no means exclusively) deals with 3D-printed parts, for which – by the nature of what it is – there are already 3D-CAD models. These are the perfect input for a fully automatic, digital calculation of the work plans and price within seconds. Bauer explains »The 3D-printing customers for additive manufacturing, who are digitally oriented anyway, have no problem sharing their construction data for their products with us so we can calculate the quote. It’s the opposite for the ‘subtractive’, that is, the typical machining customers – we almost always have a bit of back and forth there about data protection and security. We get plenty of objections to simply uploading and sending highly sensitive construction data to the internet.«

But one has to wonder why, since »The same companies, however, have no problem sending their construction data, fully unencrypted, via email. For the digital JobShop business model, Germany is definitely one of the toughest markets in the world. And that’s why we’re – as far as we know – still the only digital contracting manufacturer here.«

It’s a business that has achieved incredible and rapid growth in just eight years and, for example, within the last two years, invested 25 million euros in more manufacturing equipment. If you ask the Executive Majority Shareholder Bauer, how a medium-sized enterprise like BAM GmbH finances this kind of huge investment? He’ll tell you »certainly not on credit from a bank. For two reasons. Firstly, BAM GmbH achieves a much higher profit margin than your typical JobShop, thanks to increasing digitization in place of time and cost-intensive administrative processes. And secondly, the Unger family (German auto-parts billionaires featured on have been shareholders for some time now, and we agree completely on our joint business strategies. And so, BAM GmbH is able to finance its investments almost entirely without the involvement of banks.«

 Answering our questions (from the upper left, clockwise): Marco Bauer, Josef Wittmann, Ralf Schnurr, Marcel Alter, Jürgen Güntner.
Answering our questions (from the upper left, clockwise): Marco Bauer, Josef Wittmann, Ralf Schnurr, Marcel Alter, Jürgen Güntner.

And on the subject of collaborative, streamlined (anything-but-standard), business approaches, let’s not forget the unusually broad variety of options that this contracting manufacturer offers. BAM GmbH offers comprehensive precision manufacturing of all kinds (including honing), but primarily turning, milling and drilling, as well as 3D printing for metal and plastic, and industrial sheet-metal working with lasers/ punching, bending and welding. And last but not least, BAM’s special-purpose machinery for plant engineering. And all of this, wherever possible, is automated on the workpiece side to allow for 24/7 operation.

Is this young company not perhaps overstretching itself? Bauer can explain, »Our aim is to be the one-stop-shop for everything, online. We want to fulfil our customer orders to a high professional level, as simply, quickly, professionally and cheaply as possible, and that requires us to have the most comprehensive offer of technical services.« He reiterates, »The investment required to achieve this is possible thanks to the increasing digitization of our processes, which makes us leaner. When we’re selecting which manufacturing equipment to invest in next, we always consciously choose the newest developments.« He explains this logic: »These are the options that, if they meet our needs, promise us the greatest benefits and returns.«

 Advantage MT 733 two plus: Option to work autonomously, off the bar or with (via robot handling systems) pre-formed/cut slugs/blanks.
Advantage MT 733 two plus: Option to work autonomously, off the bar or with (via robot handling systems) pre-formed/cut slugs/blanks.

An example of these far-from-usual investment decisions includes the three machines, which were first presented at the 2018 AMB in Stuttgart, and which BAM GmbH ordered.

+ For example, the Artery Universal multifunctional turning center, which was presented by Weisser Söhne, is spectacular in many aspects, not least its design. BAM GmbH opted for this, alongside the milling head capable of performing the ‘High Dynamic Turning’ process, in order to use the ‘FreeTurn’ tools from Ceratizit. Josef Wittman, Head of Manufacturing, explains the decision: »No. As striking and unusual as the design of the ‘Artery’ is, that wasn’t what persuaded us to invest. It was actually the very high-quality workmanship and the HDT concept with the view to more efficient turning than has yet been possible. Not to mention the extremely high long-term precision, even with lengthy cycles of high cutting capacity, that we’ve come to expect from Weisser-Vita – also possible thanks to the HDT. That is really the talking point.«

+ Then, the equally universal HyperTurn 45 G3 by Emco. No, not a spectacular development, but one that has impressed pragmatic and demanding users like BAM GmbH. Wittmann says, »It's very compact for its operational range, has a relatively small footprint and is very productive, with two tool turrets, especially as it bridges delivery and empty routes very dynamically. This machine is perfect for small components.« He emphasizes, »Unfortunately, unlike for milling/drilling, there isn’t such a comprehensive and coherent product offer for various working areas from one provider when it comes to turning. We could also opt to invest in others, in addition to turning, like those at Hermle AG – we have 13 machining centers from them with various working areas.«

+ Last but not least, from STAMA the MT 733 two plus was another BAM new investment after the 2018 AMB – and was also the reason for this user report. A ‘Project Machining Center’, is how Wittmann describes this newly developed multifunctional milling-turning center. He explains, »We had a request from one of our existing customers for around 15,000 parts per year for a geometrically very demanding component made from aluminum forge material with 40 tools, and we knew that we’d need very special manufacturing equipment for this potential job.« Handy, then, that there were regional machine representatives effectively creating a hinge between machine users and manufacturers. Like the Berner+Straller GmbH sales representation with their three offices in Nuremberg, Munich and Dresden, who represent, among many other notable machining brands, STAMA and Weisser Söhne. Sales Engineer Jürgen Güntner reports, »We knew both the particular project requirements of our customers, BAM in Weiden, and of course the newly developed MT 733 two plus from STAMA, and thought that they’d be a good pairing. So we brought the two together at the AMB 2018.« And Wittmann remembers, »We knew immediately, right then, that the MT 733 two plus was exactly what we needed for the potential project order – our evaluations just confirmed that.«

 Advantage MT 733 two plus: Two independent, five-axis working areas for autonomous turning and milling.
Advantage MT 733 two plus: Two independent, five-axis working areas for autonomous turning and milling.

And why did they decide in favor of the MT 733 two plus, as the tallest in the range? Wittmann explains, »This configuration level is the most versatile and, as a contracting business, you need the most versatile manufacturing tools you can get.« He reminds us, »The MT 733 two plus works both from the left on bars and also with rear loading via the portal loader for handling pre-formed or pre-cut parts. That was a key criterion for our decision.« He continues, »It’s also technologically versatile, as the first spindle on the MT 733 two plus offers an enormous 59 kW, while the second spindle, with its 15 kW, reaches up to 20,000 rpm. We can both mill precisely, and efficiently drill tiny holes, with 120 bar coolant fluid pressure to ensure processes reliability and, of course, we can achieve optimal turning too.« STAMA Sales Engineer Marcel Alter emphasizes, »Thanks to the fully symmetrical portal principle, and also the polymer concrete base frame, the MT 733 two plus offers fantastic static rigidity and low dynamic flexibility, which also works in favor of a long cutting-edge service life and high precision.« Wittmann sums up, »This turning/milling machining center also has the advantage of two autonomous, five-axis working areas for optimal machining. Also, when OP20 is finished, the part, which is machined on six sides in two clamping positions, can be removed automatically from the rear – this reduces the processing time again.«

And even with the order of 15,000 parts per year with a time-per-piece of four minutes, the MT 733 two plus isn’t at capacity. As we come to the end, Bauer confirms, »No, of course it’s not. But we’re sure that we will win more contracts for it. Thanks to our extensive digitization of both administrative and technical processes, and our workpiece-side automation – partially with robot cells we have developed ourselves – BAM GmbH is extremely competitive.«

 Powerful: The coolant fluid system for both spindles with 120 bars each for high process reliability.
Powerful: The coolant fluid system for both spindles with 120 bars each for high process reliability.

Another BAM-man joined us in our research. Ralf Schnurr’s business card describes him as a Technology Evangelist, which he explained to us, »Translated, it means ‘the bearer of good news’. It’s my job to publicize and promote how digitally forward-thinking we are, in the hope that our digital methods are accepted by more and more customers – I’m a bit like a digital missionary.« So once again, and always, anything but standard. And that’s the key to their success.

For more information: