Surface finishing is tremendously important in this business field. Graf meets the highest quality requirements for his clients. He has been using Bürkle roller coating machines with UV dryers for many years. This also explains the statement by Adalbert Lindner that was quoted at the beginning. „For reasons of quality, we and Lindner actually felt that only roller coating could provide the highest level of finishing. In addition, we have three manual spraying stations for the highly diverse individual painting jobs and, above all, for irregularly shaped workpieces“, explains Graf.
It is precisely these manual spraying stations that made it necessary to invest in additional technology and capacity. For one thing, proficient painters who are able to perform this challenging manual work are few and far between in Lower Bavaria. Then a major contract was awarded as part of the complete renovation of the „Grande Dame“ in Bad Ragaz. The Grand Hotel Quellenhof in the Swiss municipality of Bad Ragaz celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. The five-star hotel with over 100 luxurious suites is a flagship of top-class Swiss hotels. 20 years after the last full renovation of the hotel it was time to create a „new Quellenhof“. After two years of planning, the hotel was completely closed from February 2019. The complete overhaul was carried out for 45 million Swiss Francs over a 5-month construction period. Felix Graf was involved.
His company applied all of its know-how as a complete interior designer to the suites. „For us, the required 25,000 to 30,000 surfaces mean finishing a good 12,000 m² of wide-ranging surface geometries individually and with a high degree of flexibility“, says Felix Graf, describing the job description for this sub-area of his services. During the planning period for the work at Bad Ragaz, it already became clear that „it was absolutely impossible to do manually. Roller coating wouldn‘t work because of the geometries“. An initial inspection of the „ROBUS“ spray coating machine presented at the Holz-Handwerk trade fair in Nuremberg awakened Graf‘s interest in the technology. His company was already familiar with Bürkle. And not only because of its roller coating machines: back in 1969, a veneer press from Freudenstadt was set up in the Graf workshop. Together with an application engineer from the Austrian subsidiary in Wels of his paint supplier, the Stuttgart-based paint factory Votteler, the details were discussed at the Bürkle technology centre.
It was particularly important that the „ROBUS“ spray coating machine could not only be used for coating, but also staining. Surface staining is method that is being used increasing rarely. However, Graf‘s customer base requests it when it comes to giving the appearance of fine woods a special emphasis. The Bürkle specialists around spray coating project manager Martin Brümmerstädt accepted the challenge. „Until then, we had no experience whatsoever of staining with the spray coating system. We were all the more surprised that we very quickly managed to achieve goods results in collaboration with Graf and Votteler“, recounts Brümmerstädt, describing the results of tests in the Bürkle technology centre.
Felix Graf had found his desired alternatives and complement to the bottleneck of manual painting. And that‘s not all: „We were able to deploy our existing staff to operate the system. Stained dark walnut, which we were able to use for the display cabinets in the suites of the Quellenhof, would not have been at all feasible by hand in the desired design. The surface has a consistent, heavenly quality. Unfortunately, staining is a dying art“. Felix Graf becomes almost sentimental, going well and truly into raptures as he talks about the look and feel of the surface quality.
Graf is not a man who minces his words. He speaks clearly about his market, the focus and structure of his company as well as collaboration with his market partners on the supplier side. His company operates almost exclusively in the contract business. This type of business requires a very high degree of flexibility, commitment and creativity, the company boss firmly believes. The company‘s machinery is also set up accordingly. „The extensive automation of production is not much use to me“, he says, with a practical example from the overhaul of the „Grande Dame“ ready to hand.
„If the door of a display cabinet is damaged for some reason on Tuesday, I have to be able to replace it with a new one by Friday at the latest. No machine will do that for me, nor will CNC. Generally, the deadlines in the contract business are becoming increasingly tight. Consequently, for us, it absolutely essential to have flexible equipment and flexible employees“, says Graf with understandable conviction. His opinion on collaborating with market partners is equally clear. Whether the specialists providing the materials, paints and varnishes to be used or the machine suppliers. Graf makes no secret of his guiding principle
for procurement. „I mostly buy machines by instinct“, he declares with a laugh. What is important to him is the personal quality of the consulting, the credibility of the company and the clear assignment of responsibilities among the persons involved. He wants to be able to talk on an equal footing with his partners. Consistency from people is a high priority for him. He appears to have found all this in his collaboration with Bürkle – time and again since 1969. It is also fitting to quote Rainer Maria Rilke, who was a guest in Bad Ragaz several times in the 1920s and was cited as follows at the ceremonious opening of the Quellenhof: „Remain open to encounters, for they are the value of such a building full of tradition“. Felix Graf also successfully fosters these encounters and values with his company and his market partners.