Groovin' In Tennessee

In business, there’s a maxim that says showing up is 80 percent of the job. What that means, of course, is getting out and physically visiting customers is a key to success.

Columns From: 9/1/2001 Modern Machine Shop, ,

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Chris Koepfer

In business, there’s a maxim that says showing up is 80 percent of the job. What that means, of course, is getting out and physically visiting customers is a key to success. Manufacturing is still very much about relationships. In spite of the tremendous technological advances that make communication so much easier, it’s more often than not face-to-face interaction that gets the job done.

What’s true for individuals can also be true for companies. The United States is a wonderful market for manufacturing technology. Too often, however, foreign companies tend to dabble in our lucrative market with a minimum of commitment and investment. This is a business model that creates resentment in the domestic market and often opens the door for those who would restrict free trade. Isolationism and protectionist tendencies still run deep in the American psyche.

One of many overseas companies that “gets it” is Horn USA, Inc. (Franklin, Tennessee). Paul Horn, the parent company, was founded in Tübingen, Germany, in 1968. Its specialty was and is grooving tools—special and standard. The company’s success has grown steadily, first in Germany and then in the rest of Europe.

I first came across Horn USA at IMTS 98. That show was the company’s debut in the North American market. Horn set up business in Franklin, Tennessee. At first, it was simply a toehold in the market—sales, some inventory and staff—with the charge of setting up distribution channels for the cutting tool business.

This scenario is all pretty standard stuff when trying to enter a new market. In the last 3 years, since the successful IMTS debut, the company has grown its base and acceptance in the U.S. market.

I recently had an opportunity to visit its growing operation. The primary reason for my visit was to see a new wrinkle in the typical “sell in America, manufacture in the home country” philosophy. Horn USA proudly showed me its new tool manufacturing operation.

It’s small, but it’s a start. The machines and processes are quite literally duplications of those used in Germany with an important exception. Horn’s U.S. factory will make both inch and metric size cutting tools.

According to Horn USA’s general manager, Ian Bain, “making products to a market’s specs and close to the market is simply common sense.” Horn’s approach is one other companies might consider, whether they are trying to penetrate a domestic or foreign market. 

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