Our Strategy

Our profile

Bekaert company profile

Bekaert is a world market and technology leader in steel wire transformation and coatings. Bekaert (Euronext Brussels: BEKB) is a global company with headquarters in Belgium, employing 27 000 people worldwide. Serving customers in 120 countries, Bekaert pursues sustainable profitable growth in all its activities and generated combined sales of € 4.4 billion in 2012.

Bekaert employs unique technologies to deliver a quality portfolio of drawn steel wire products and coating solutions on a global scale. We purchase more than 2.7 million tons of wire rod per year as our basic material. Depending on our customers’ requirements, we draw wire from it in different diameters and strengths, even as thin as ultrafine fibers of one micron. We group the wires into cords, weave or knit them into fabric or process them into an end product.

Bekaert is unique for its combination of steel wire transformation and coating technologies, which brought forth a wide variety of products, tailored to our customers’ needs.

Global market leadership

Ever since making its first investment in Latin America in 1950, Bekaert has shown its pioneering spirit by investing in growth markets worldwide. We set up operations in Latin America, Asia and Central Europe when early signs of opportunities appeared. Overall, our business platforms in growth markets account for about 70% of combined sales in 2012. In the mature markets, we continue to diversify our product offering and introduce innovations that add value in a highly competitive environment.

In the EMEA region, Bekaert is present in both the mature Western European markets as well as the growth markets of Central and Eastern Europe. The mix of market maturity and the alignment of product offerings to local market needs are major reasons why Bekaert achieved stable sales volumes in Europe in 2012.

The market demand in North America reflected a continued difficult economic environment in the US. The addition of the Canadian ropes activities to consolidated sales and favorable exchange rate movements offset the impact of the divested specialty films and industrial coatings activities in North America.

In Latin America, Bekaert manufactures a broad product portfolio spread across the region: from wire and cord solutions for the automotive industry to barbed wire for agriculture, as well as ropes and meshes for mining and construction. This well balanced mix of markets and products resulted in a solid performance for the region in 2012. Bekaert increased its share in the Chilean partnership in which it now holds a majority stake.

Sales in Asia were substantially lower as a result of the solar business collapse, which materially impacted the sawing wire activities in China. The other activity platforms recorded solid sales volumes, while operating in a highly competitive environment. Bekaert further invested in the region with capacity expansions in India and acquisitions in China and Malaysia.

Bekaert will continue to pursue its strategy of global market leadership. We are ready to take on the challenges that lay ahead and to safeguard our global market leadership, also under highly volatile market conditions.  

Global Market Leadership

Technological leadership

Innovation is a key driver of Bekaert’s technological leadership. Within Bekaert, innovation is put into practice along two main axes: product innovation and process innovation. Product innovation helps us better serve current and new customers. Process innovation enables us to increase our operational excellence while minimizing the impact on the environment.

Our innovation approach aims to create added value for our customers, expanding our horizons through international cooperation and offering reliable solutions based on proprietary equipment.

We team up with customers and suppliers around the globe to develop, implement, upgrade and protect both current and future technologies. Listening closely to our customers and understanding how our products function within their production lines and products is key to developing fit-for-use solutions.

Our global technology platform consists of two main Technology Centers in Deerlijk (Belgium) and Jiangyin (Jiangsu province, China). Business and customer-specific projects are further supported by various development labs and innovation teams around the world.

R&D is key for Bekaert as it offers our customers the most innovative solutions.

Open innovation on a global scale

We seek international partners for cooperation with universities and research institutes. Bekaert continues to cooperate with academic institutes, technology clusters,

as well as research partners from different countries in order to bring an outside-in approach.

  • Bekaert is active in the Strategic Initiative Materials (SIM) program and shall continue to do so. We have a research partnership with the Universitiy of Leuven (Belgium), the metal research activities cluster in Ghent (Belgium) and the ‘Université de Lille’ (France). Bekaert is an active member of the Flanders Mechatronic Center and collaborates with the Dutch Polymer Institute (DPI) in Eindhoven (The Netherlands).  
  • In China, we have a partnership with the Institute of Metal Research (IMR) in Shenyang (Liaoning province) and with Tsinghua University in Beijing.
  • In Slovakia, we have a research contract with the University of Trnava.
  • In the US, collaborative research efforts continue to be carried out at the Colorado School of Mines.

For Bekaert, open innovation goes beyond cooperation with universities & research institutes. To remain a technology leader, we listen carefully to and cooperate closely with our customers. Moreover, there is an increasing trend in co-development projects with our strategic suppliers. We also consider corporate venturing by investing in companies and venture capital funds worldwide. Our related investments are minority interests in young start-up companies with innovative technologies that can support the sustainable profitable growth strategy of Bekaert.

Innovation in a nutshell

  • In 2012 we invested € 69 million in R&D.
  • An international team of 400 R&D specialists works on customer-driven research projects.
  • We acknowledge the importance of innovation: 50 first patent applications were filed in the course of 2012, a record number for Bekaert. IP protection applies mainly to products and brands, but also to processes and equipment.

Bekaert’s in-house engineering department designs, assembles, installs and maintains the equipment for our various plants worldwide. Our engineering activities span the complete cycle from machine concept to automated production line, and close the loop by improving machine design based on production data. Production efficiency is supported by global spare parts asset management. Our engineering department has teams at different facilities in Belgium, China, Slovakia, India and Brazil.

Operational excellence

Bekaert believes that operational excellence is a prerequisite to a successful strategy. A constant drive to improve our business processes and a permanent focus on Total Quality Management are inherent in the Bekaert DNA. Also the Group’s efforts to optimize the efficiency and synergy potential within the organization are an illustration of Bekaert’s pursuit for excellence.

Both in a significant global expansion mode like in the past decade, or in a realignment scenario like in 2012, Bekaert constantly evaluates its operational, technological and organizational set-up.
We will continue to pay increased attention to the efficiency of our organization and to integrating our corporate philosophy in our most recently added production platforms. It is crucial that all our employees continue working better together at delivering top performance, resulting in satisfied customers.

Bekaert's driving principle of operational excellence will become even more pivotal in tackling the challenges that lay ahead.

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