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‘Customer success is our primary focus’: says Fritz Studer AG’s Sandro Bottazzo

‘Customer success is our primary focus’: says Fritz Studer AG’s Sandro Bottazzo

In conversation with Nishant Kashyap during EMO 2023, Mr. Sandro Bottazzo, the esteemed CSO / Managing Director of Fritz Studer AG, shared insights into the company’s significant presence at the event. The interview delves into the latest industry trends, the evolving landscape of customer demands, and Studer’s strategic approach to the burgeoning Indian market.

Can you provide an overview of Studer’s presence and participation at EMO Hannover 2023? What are the key highlights or products you are showcasing?

At this year’s EMO event, our group’s motto is “UNITED FOR YOUR SUCCESS,” and we are thrilled to showcase 16 machines at our booth, including some world premieres.

Talking about Studer, we are showcasing some of the latest innovation in automation systems. This year, we proudly present three brand-new automation systems at our booth, marking a historic milestone in our product lineup.

The first of these groundbreaking systems is insertLoad, a versatile automation solution designed to facilitate the loading and unloading of S33 and S31 universal cylindrical grinding machines. insertLoad excels at handling workpieces between centers and into the chuck, accommodating center distances of up to 1,000 millimeters (39.4 inches). This addresses a previously unmet need in standardized automation systems. Workpieces measuring up to 100 mm (3.94 inches) in length and weighing 1.5 kg (3.3 lbs) in alternating mode or 5 kg (11 lbs) in a single mode can be seamlessly handled. Equipped with a Fanuc robot, one of its standout features is its rapid setup time, allowing users to configure the loading system and initiate production in less than 15 minutes.

Next up is roboLoad, a loading system tailored for CNC radius internal cylindrical grinding machines. Launched two years ago, this automation system has earned acclaim for its user-friendliness, enhancing efficiency and flexibility in operations.

Completing our trio of automation solutions is uniLoad, an automatic loading system designed to empower users of the S31 and S33 external cylindrical grinding machines, boosting both quality and productivity.

But that’s not all—another standout feature of our booth is our entry-level product range. We don’t just cater to high-end systems; we understand the diverse needs of our customers. Whether you’re in a market like India or elsewhere, we offer a wide array of products that cater to every requirement, from entry-level options to top-tier systems.

Studer is leading grinding solution providers in the world. How do you maintain that leadership position? What are the key ingredients to maintain that leadership position and stay ahead of the curve? 

I would say “customer success” is our primary focus. The core mission of our group is to ensure the success of our customers. Every product, solution, or initiative is meticulously crafted with the customer at the forefront of our considerations. We maintain a close and collaborative relationship with our customers to thoroughly comprehend their requirements. In all our endeavors, whether it’s the introduction of new products, the integration of cutting-edge technologies, or our after-sales services, we approach everything with the utmost dedication to meeting our customers’ needs.

What are the five biggest trends you see in the industry and how is Studer positioned to address them?

  • Automation: Automation is a prominent trend in the industry, streamlining processes and reducing manual labor, ultimately enhancing productivity.
  • Sustainability: Sustainability practices are gaining traction, with a focus on eco-friendly manufacturing methods and materials to reduce the environmental impact of production.
  • User Friendliness: The emphasis on user-friendly interfaces and intuitive controls is growing, making it easier for operators to harness the full potential of machines.
  • Connectivity and Digitization: The integration of IoT and digital technologies is reshaping the industry, enabling real-time monitoring, data analysis, and predictive maintenance.
  • Efficiency: Efficiency remains a central concern, with manufacturers continually seeking ways to optimize processes, minimize downtime, and maximize output.

At the end of the day, it’s worth noting that Studer is well positioned to cater to these emerging trends. With a commitment to innovation, sustainability, user-centric design, digital integration, and a strong track record in optimizing efficiency, Studer is poised to meet the evolving needs of the industry and provide solutions that align with these prominent trends.

Customers’ demands are evolving rapidly. According to you what customers are demanding these days?

Indeed, the demands in our industry are continually evolving. Machine tool business differs significantly from fast-paced sectors like consumables or electronics, where requirements change rapidly. In our field, the shifts occur at a more measured pace. However, as I mentioned earlier, automation is a notable exception. In many European and American countries, there’s a noticeable shortage of labor, which has led to a substantial demand for automation. As a testament to this, we’re showcasing three loading systems for the first time in our history at our booth, highlighting the significant interest in automation.

Furthermore, there is an increasing demand for improved usability, enhanced flexibility, and user-friendly control systems. These factors are becoming increasingly important considerations for our customers.

Energy saving and sustainability is another big concern among the global manufacturing community.

Given your global presence, how do you perceive differences in customer demands between developed nations like Germany, Switzerland, Japan, and the USA, versus emerging markets like India or Brazil? What fundamental variations do you notice in customer preferences?

In the precision grinding industry, the global standard for quality and grinding expectations remains often similar. However, disparities do arise in terms of the knowledge and expertise of individuals involved. For instance, in Germany, where many customers have highly educated personnel, the skill level is notably high. In contrast, in certain Southeast Asian markets, finding skilled labor can be more challenging.

Additionally, the importance of automation varies across regions. In countries with abundant labor markets and large populations, automation may not be the top priority. However, in regions like Germany, Switzerland, Italy but even North America and China, automation is increasingly significant, and customers are willing to invest in it to enhance their operations.

However, we have observed a great move towards automation in Indian market as well in recent past.

Finally, we have group-wide competence centers in Asia and the USA to implement customer-specific, market-specific application solutions. And we are very decentralized in terms of sales and customer care. Together with our agents we have around 300 peoples in Sales. In Customer Care we have have even more than 250 peoples including close to 150 service technicians worldwide.

You spoke about Indian market also demanding high precision products. Please share your opinion on the Indian machine tool industry?

The Indian market holds significant importance for us, as we’ve had a longstanding presence there. Our subsidiary in Bangalore and our valued partner, Francis Klein, have been key contributors to our presence in India. We remain dedicated to this market and have firm confidence in India’s growth trajectory.

While there are formidable players in India, it’s important to note that we primarily focus on mid to high-end products. The Indian market, though price-sensitive, is rapidly catching up with the developed world. I am confident that in the next five to ten years, India will continue to progress, with a gradual improvement in the standards of quality. I believe that within this timeframe, India will achieve a level of excellence in our industry comparable to other developed nations worldwide.

Nice to know that. So, any particular challenge you face Indian market? 

India’s vast expanse necessitates a distributed workforce with local expertise, ensuring a meaningful local presence.

Furthermore, India’s price sensitivity poses a challenge, as the willingness to pay equivalent prices to other markets remains relatively low.

Additionally, the prevalent demand for used machines in India presents a significant challenge for companies like ours, as it affects new machine sales in high-end categories.

As we are aware, the machine tool industry has historically had a strong reliance on the automotive sector for a significant period. However, could you shed some light on other emerging sectors that you anticipate will play a substantial role in driving business growth for the machine tool industry in the forthcoming years?

As for Studer, there has been a notable shift in our sales dynamics over time. In the past, approximately 40% of our sales were attributed to the automotive sector, which has now decreased to around 20%. This transformation has occurred over the last five years as we successfully diversified our portfolio.

During this period, we’ve expanded our presence in several key segments. Notably, the aerospace industry has emerged as a significant sector for us, where we’ve established a strong presence across Asia, the Americas, and Europe. Likewise, the semiconductor industry has experienced rapid growth, with numerous customers relying on our solutions. Additionally, the job shop sector, catering to diverse industries, has been one of our pivotal focus areas and will continue to be. The machine and machine tool industry as well as die & mold industry are also our key industries.

What are your views on the future of machine tool industry in Asian market? 

The global market is a significant arena for us, with over 60% of our turnover originating from outside Europe. Within this landscape, Asian countries hold substantial importance. Notably, China and Japan stand out as substantial markets, alongside South Korea, India, and Taiwan, which also yield considerable business opportunities. Furthermore, emerging markets such as Indonesia, Vietnam, and Singapore are steadily gaining prominence. Overall, I foresee the Asian market playing a pivotal role in shaping the future of the machine tool industry.