Family-owned Austrian company J. Meissl GmbH is among the leading suppliers worldwide of innovative sun and weather-protection systems. For cutting a wide range of canopy materials, Meissl relies on the latest technology from Swiss cutting system manufacturer Zünd. A G3 3XL-2500 has automated the company's cutting operations and dramatically reduced production times.
Pfarrwerfen is a picturesque community of 2,200 souls in Austria's Salzburg region. This is where, for more than 40 years, family-owned Meissl has been producing sun protection systems for the global marketplace. One of the company's worldwide top sellers was the so-called "umbrella bar", popular in the '90s and no doubt a major contributor to the rise of après-ski culture. In the last several years, the company's focus has broadened. Meissl umbrellas, which can span an area of 200 m2 (more than 2,100 sq. ft.) and have a diameter of 16 m (nearly 53 ft.), are now widely used all over the globe. They shade the terraces of luxury hotels from Japan to Kazakhstan, festive beer gardens from Vienna to Munich, and many a bar on windswept Sylt beaches or clubhouse on US golf courses. Meissl has become a valuable resource for know-how in the manufacture of custom outdoor textile solutions for the hospitality industry. Every umbrella project that comes out of production is unique - a one-off, custom solution.
Added value staying close to home
Hermine Meissl, head of the second-generation family business, explains: "The clients we serve are located in 30 countries around the globe, but the added value we generate remains 100% regional." From frame to canopy, each umbrella is manufactured exclusively in Pfarrwerfen. "Our local roots, along with extensive technical know-how, legendary flexibility, and a high degree of customization, make up the "secret sauce" for the success of our products." What Hermine Meissl's father started in 1976 as a metal-working shop, is now an ultra-modern umbrella factory with 45 employees and exports exceeding 50%.
In 2017 Meissl invested close to 2 million Euros in modernizing and optimizing the facility by expanding the production area and investing in the latest manufacturing technologies. The latter included a state-of-the-art G3 3XL-2500 single-ply cutting system from Zünd, configured for automated processing of umbrella fabrics. With a working area of 3.2 x 2.5 m/126 x 98 in. and equipped with an automatic roll-feed system, the Zünd cutter gives Meissl the capabilities to easily and efficiently load and advance 3 m/10ft-wide rolled material. "Now that we have the ability to cut 3 m rolls, we are able to produce much larger panels", explains Manfred Deisl, Director of Planning and Construction. This also has the welcome advantage of reducing the number of cross-seams, which goes beyond mere aesthetics. Another significant benefit lies in the improved roll handling that comes with the automatic roll-feed. Rolls, which often have to be switched several times a day, are delivered from suppliers in all different widths and are often very heavy and difficult to manage. The roll-feed device facilitates roll handling tremendously. The ability to process wider rolls was an important aspect of Meissl's thorough evaluation process, which involved testing a range of materials with very diverse properties.
Many materials, one cutting system
As diverse and individual as the company's umbrella systems, so are the fabrics involved in their production. Advanced textiles commonly used are acrylic and, increasingly, polyester fiber. "Our umbrellas have to stand up to extreme conditions. They must be impervious to fluctuations in temperature and humidity. Beyond that, they also need to have good insulation values, be fire retardant, or provide sound absorption - sometimes all of these specifications combined," explains Deisl. These requirements force us to regularly test new materials for their application potential. Many fabrics are coated on one or both sides or may be rubberized. This makes them stiffer, tougher, and more challenging to cut. The Zünd cutter is able to process all of these materials quite easily and has proven to be absolutely reliable in continuous operation. "The automatic roll-feed system feeds and advances the most diverse materials completely tension free onto the cutting surface. Zünd's high-precision cutting tools deliver consistently high cut quality without causing the material to bunch up. Even with thicker materials, we have encountered no loss of quality or reduction in processing speed. To comply with the latest regulations in noise and sound protection, we are now adding in fleece materials. These can be so thick that, in the past, we had no choice but to laboriously cut them by hand. All around, the new cutter from Zünd has facilitated our production enormously", says Deisl. Right from the start, even the operators were fired up about the new cutting capabilities and application potential. "Because operating the Zünd cutter is so intuitive, the learning curve was surprisingly short, and it took the operators very little time to pretty much know their Zünd cutter inside out."
Solid, reliable, competent - a great fit all around
Time pressure is part of daily life at Meissl, and flexibility paramount for everyone in production - equipment included. "It is an absolute must for us to be able to count on our production machines to operate reliably. With minimal downtime, the Zünd cutter has been setting new standards. If an issue does arise, we can rely on a quick response from the service department", says Deisl and concludes: "In the end we decided to go with Zünd because it was a perfect fit all around. It wasn't just the technology behind the software, cutting tools, or roll-handling system that convinced us, there were other, "softer" factors such as competent support and fast, professional service that ended up making our decision an easy one."