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More and better service should guarantee future business

Schmeißer Machine Tools: More than trade in used machines
More and better service should guarantee future business

The repair shop at Schmeißer Maschinenbau in Günzburg puts the emphasis on quality. When in 2008 the market suddenly collapsed, the company decided to concentrate on customer service, and this should in the future be even further extended.

Schmeißer Machine Tools in Günzburg is one of the most important addresses for anybody looking for a used conventional S11 Universal Grinder made by Michael Deckel. Reconditioning this classical machine tool has always played an important part in this family business. „I would dare to say that we are the No. 1 in used machines of this type not just in Germany and Europe but throughout the world“, says Ralf Schmeißer confidently. „We have nearly all parts for the S11 in stock“, he continues. and points at the stockroom with its huge selection of spare parts. The skilled toolmaker knows his machines inside and out, because he himself has operated these and many other machines which the company offers to the tool-making, mould-making and machine-tool industries. His advantage is that he knows which machines he should buy and which not. In addition, he only buys machines for which he can still obtain spare parts, otherwise he won’t buy.

This intimacy with the machines from Michael Deckel started in 1985, when his father, Herbert Schmeißer, Managing Director and owner of the company, took over the representation for these machines in Baden-Württemberg. In the middle of the 90’s, when a customer would only buy a new machine if he could get rid of the old one (assuming the manufacturer refused to take back the old machine in part-exchange) he went into action. „I parked my car in the street, leaving the garage free for the used machine which I took in part-exchange and it was thus no problem to sell the new machine“, recalls Schmeißer when talking about the beginnings of the used machine business. The only problem now was to sell the used machine
After the decision to expand the business, the garage in Niederstotzingen was soon too small. This was replaced by a rented workshop with 100 sq.m. which was after a few weeks itself too small. After 10 years of expansion a storage space of around 400 sq,m. was found to be necessary, and at this point Schmeißer decided to make a substantial investment. When things didn’t go as expected in Niederstotzingen, he invested around 1 mill. Euro in 2,300 sq.m. of storage space and in modern offices in Günzburg.
However, in 2008, shortly after the move, the Lehmann Bank in USA went bankrupt. Business suddenly plunged. „Over a period of 18 months our turnover dropped on average by 68 %,“ recalls Ralf Schmeißer. In order to survive, expensively purchased used machines had to be sold under the buying price. The team of qualified mechanics in the workshop had to be quickly retrained in customer service. „We even took on new people as service engineers“, says Schmeißer, „but we had additional costs until they were fully trained. The turnover sank, but the profit was significantly higher“, adds Ralf Schmeißer. When Government at national and state level – a letter was even written to Chancellor Merkel which she actually answered – did not find itself in a position to help, the family had to raise money privately. In addition to this, private investors, including members of staff, were prepared to help with their savings.
Obtaining credit is still a problem because the banks are not prepared to lend money for the purchase of larger machines which would offer a better profit margin. Buying and overhauling machines which are mostly small only has a low profit margin, and correspondingly more machines have to be sold in order to reach the necessary level of turnover. This is the reason why Schmeißer wants to concentrate more on customer service for manufacturers, users and also dealers. „Qualified staff for the service function cost a lot of money, but they also bring in a lot of money“, he states. And if business is to be expanded, he will also need suitably fitted-out service vehicles, which cost around 60,000 Euro each. Moreover, for the service department to function properly, it is necessary to have four or five service engineers, who must always be on call. „That all needs time, but we are working on it“, says Ralf Schmeißer optimistically.
Even during the crisis the highly-trained workshop team had a good basic utilisation rate because of the servicing requirements for Michael Deckel’s S11. In the meantime the company also services high-speed radial drilling machines sold by the Alzmetall subsidiary Donau Werkzeugmaschinen. „If in the future we are able to have up to 5 partners of this calibre, we will be able to run a more balanced business“, forecasts Schmeißer. Referring to the sale of used machines, he sees a positive development: „Every year we seem to become more and more interesting for customers who are just around the corner.” Good references and the resulting mouth-to-mouth publicity mean that customers actually come to us rather then we to them. Although in the past machines were exported and „there is hardly any country in which we have not sold“, said Schmeißer, export never accounted for more than 10 % – 12 % of turnover.
But something else has become clear in this quality-conscious company. In the future every machine will continue to be checked mechanically and electrically, that is the minimum requirement. And every machine will continue to be delivered with an instruction manual, an electrical circuit diagram and a list of spare parts. „But in the meantime we offer a number of options depending on the customer’s requirements and budget“, emphasises Schmeißer. The customer inspects a machine and decides how much it is worth spending on it. „We can overhaul the machine, part-overhaul or we can offer the customer a cheaper machine which he considers to be neither a cheap machine nor an expensive machine but the right machine for his requirements and which is thus worth its price.“ This is Ralf Schmeißer’s philosophy. In addition to used machines, Schmeißer Werkzeugmaschinen has now been given the agency for the Italian machine tool manufacturer Affilatrici 3M. These easy-to-operate and robust spiral drilling and countersunk grinding machines fit in well with the programme of the Günzburg company.
To quote Ralf Schmeißer: „We have set ourselves the target of being a good and reliable partner for our customers.“
Dr. Rolf Langbein
Titelbild Industrieanzeiger 19

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