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I was recently a guest of Studer Grinder Company at its manufacturing headquarters in Thun, Switzerland. Every couple of years, Studer invites its sales force and some selected customers and guests to see what's new with Studer grinders. And there is much new with this machine tool builder. In the last couple of years, Studer has been on a campaign to address the biggest complaint about Swiss grinders—their price. At the conference in Switzerland, the company introduced additional models of what it calls its Lean line. These machines have been built and equipped to meet a specific price point. While that sounds very un-Swiss, it is very marketing savvy. And it's especially smart if the market is here in the United States.
Often when the Swiss are discussed in manufacturing circles the presumption is that, while they make great equipment, they tend not to be the best at marketing their excellent technology. For years, many Swiss and other machine tool producers had a very engineering-based set of marketing sensibilities. Most of their sensibilities had little to do with marketing and almost everything to do with engineering. The idea then was to build the best machine tool possible and then put a price on it. Economics took a back seat to what engineering could conjure up.
In the last few decades, that's changed. Studer saw it coming and has successfully assimilated its excellent engineering and Swiss quality with marketing and customer service. Studer is not alone in this but is indeed one of the outstanding examples. New models are flying out of Thun in a steady flow. Moreover, they are models that address what customers want and need rather than what Swiss engineers think they need. It's a philosophical difference in approach. Production volumes are up and a major plant expansion is under way in Thun. The plan is working.
Input for what customers want and need comes from conferences such as the one I attended in Switzerland and from the company's field representatives. In the United States for example, Studer has wisely aligned itself with a master distributor, United Grinding Technologies (UGT) in Dayton, Ohio.
It takes a sender and receiver to make communication happen. Today, when UGT makes a marketing or technical suggestion to the Swiss, it's listened to and usually acted upon. Perhaps that's a relationship all companies might try to emulate.