Floods in NRW: Superior experiences “a small miracle”

When masses of water and mud enter Hall 1 of Superior Industries in Werdohl, North Rhine-Westphalia, in mid-July, large parts of the paint shop are destroyed. But just one month later, there is no longer any sign of the destruction caused by the flood and production of premium car wheels is running at full speed again – all thanks to system partner KehraTec and the rapid delivery of robots from KUKA.

The flood drove the water a good one meter high into production

At the beginning it was just a trickle. But then the heavy rain set in and it became more and more. The nearby stream at the company premises of Superior Industries in Werdohl in North Rhine-Westphalia developed into a raging river. “The fire department was still on site with two pumps and sandbags, but at some point they had to give up,” recalls Frank Schneider, project manager at Superior. Around 2 p.m. on July 14, the sporadic dam broke and the water had an easy time of it. Hall 1 in particular was hit by the mud masses, as it is located at the lowest point of the plant site. “Within a very short time, the water was a good meter high in the paint shop,” says Schneider, adding, “The entire conveyor system, ovens, control cabinets and ten robots were in the water.” Fortunately, no one was injured.

The fire department was still on site with two pumps and sandbags, but eventually they had to give up.”
Frank Schneider, Project Manager at Superior

Als während des Hochwassers im Rheinland mitte Juli Wassermassen und Schlamm in die Halle 1 von Superior Industries im nordrhein-westfälischen Werdohl eindringen, werden große Teile der Lackieranlage zerstört.
Due to the high water, the water stood about one meter high in the paint shop of the premium car wheel manufacturer Superior Industries. © Superior

System partner KehraTec rushes to the rescue

Superior Industries received quick help from Carsten Kehr, Managing Director of KUKA systems partner KehraTec, who was on vacation at the time of the flood disaster. “I came back immediately and got in touch with KUKA right away,” he says. His own company, which is located just a few kilometers from the Superior plant site, was also affected by the flood. “But we first pulled out all the stops for Superior so that new robots could be delivered quickly,” explains Kehr. Within 14 days, KUKA delivered ten robots in record time: nine KR QUANTEC and one KR CYBERTECH.

Ein KUKA Roboter steht in der überfluteten Halle der Firma Superior nach dem Hochwasser in Nordrhein-Westfalen.
Ten KUKA robots in Superior Industries’ paint shop fell victim to the floods. © Superior

Just four weeks after the flood, production is back in full speed

Within another week after delivery of the new robots, commissioning took place. All 35 KehraTec employees were on duty – even on weekends. “This was an open-heart surgery where there was not a moment of doubt,” says Kehr. Since Monday morning, August 16, just over a month after the flood, Superior Industries has been producing at full speed again. “It’s actually hard to believe: this was a small miracle,” says project manager Schneider. The manufacturer of premium aluminum wheels was already in the process of building a second paint shop before the flood. “However, the new plant will not go into operation until early 2022 at the earliest, so there was no alternative to continuing production,” says Schneider.

Ein KUKA Roboter steht in der überfluteten Halle der Firma Superior in
Fast and uncomplicated help: Only one month after the flood disaster, production at Superior was running at full speed again. © Superior

The act of strength was worth it

One reason why KUKA’s help at short notice worked so well is obvious to Schneider: “We have been relying on technology from KUKA for years and we appreciate the good cooperation with KehraTec. Both teams helped us quickly and without complications.” KUKA robots will also be used in the new painting system. The question remains as to what can be done against future flooding. After all, this summer’s flood was not the first in the area. “We had a flood once before in the late ’90s, but not on this scale,” Schneider explains. This time, he says, the heavy rain raged for hours and also created a second torrent against which the fire department was powerless. “A civil engineer has since widened the stream and additional pipes have been laid so that the water can drain away better in the future,” says Schneider. While the flood hit the company hard, Schneider also says, “I’ve been with the company for 34 years, and I’ve never seen so many people work so super together.”

Floods and high water, but also heat waves and forest fires – there have been many of these, especially this year. It is not only news like this that shows the challenges of our time. Climate protection and sustainability concern everyone. And they are more than just a trend. Rather, they are part of a worldwide movement. But what is this development all about? Our three-part focus on sustainability tells you everything you need to know.

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