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MACHINE TOOLS Enhancing technology at every turn

May 20, 2021

2020 was the crisis year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But Studer ended 2020 on a positive note, thanks to an excellent order input at the beginning of the year and above all, due to a strong year-end spurt. To discuss the company’s various activities, progress through the pandemic, production and more, the online press conference 2021 of Fritz Studer AG was recently held, its theme this year being ‘Studer Fight Club’. A post-event report….

Due to worldwide travel restrictions, protective measures and in the spirit of digitalisation, this year’s Studer press conference took place online. To cater for the individual time zones, three events were held on the same day. Around 120 participants from more than 30 different countries participated in the event. Traditionally, the Studer press conference takes place as part of the Motion Meeting, the annual worldwide sales event. This year, the event came with the motto ‘Studer Fight Club’. Studer reported live from the boxing and training studio set up especially for these conferences.

The last Motion Meeting took place over a year ago, and although Studer had experienced a decline in sales at that time, the company still recorded the third-best year since its founding. However, the economic situation had already deteriorated sharply. "We are accustomed to this, because machine manufacturing is notoriously a very cyclical business and you need to be able to manage these fluctuations in order to survive", said Jens Bleher, CEO, Fritz Studer AG and went on, “Initially, it was a matter of protecting the staff and safeguarding the company". Studer reacted quickly and consistently introduced extensive protective measures. The STUDER Corona Task Force went into action from the outset. This meant that outbreaks in the factory could be prevented and Studer was able to always provide full service to its customers

Studer has successfully withstood corona and the downturn, and overall, the situation is considerably better than that during the financial crisis ten years ago. The company has reacted to drops in sales with the proven annual work-hour model and where necessary, with short-time working. Major developments have been continued and the product portfolio has further developed. Numerous group projects from ‘UNITED GRINDING Digital SolutionsTM’ play a key role in connection with digitalisation. Structural alterations and investments in new products, machinery and equipment have also been considered. “Studer invested in 2020 and will continue to do so this year. All in all, we consider ourselves to be well-positioned, which is a decisive advantage, particularly in the current competitive environment,” added Bleher.

Apprentices at Studer

While also affected by the pandemic, even in these times the company has stuck to its tried & tested vocational training. Bleher explained, “The number of Studer apprentices remains high and they make up over 11% of the workforce.” The company was also able to always ensure professional training. This is reflected by the success of the apprentices in their final year who were able to prepare thoroughly, and all passed their final exams. In addition, an internal follow-on solution could be offered for all. Studer is continuing to invest in apprenticeship training, such as a new NC lathe for the apprentice workshop.

In addition, STUDER vocational training produced top level performances once again last year. All four Studer participants won medals at the SwissSkills in the disciplines of polymechanics and automation. With one gold, one silver and two bronze, they achieved the best results in years. “Studer thus, has the current Swiss champion in polymechanics and will be represented again at the next WorldSkillls," Bleher concluded.

Sales, service and marketing activities

Studer’s start to the year 2020 was promising until the point in March when one country after another around the world implemented drastic and strict lockdown measures. The company was able to start the last year with a good backlog, thanks to the positive order intake from the previous year. "Thanks to the very good order intake towards the end of last year, particularly from Asia and Latin Europe, but also in some cases from Central Europe, we generated a substantially higher order volume than during the last major crisis in 2009,” cited Sandro Bottazzo, CSO, Fritz Studer AG and continued, “This was a positive development because the general market decline was similar to that experienced during the financial crisis more than eleven years ago. Many of our customers are expecting a stronger second quarter or second half of 2021 in particular, which is precisely why many grinding machines were still ordered in December."

He further added that another key factor of Studer’s success is the broad portfolio of different universal external, internal, production and conventional cylindrical grinding machines. The new S33 launched in 2019 was by far the bestselling STUDER cylindrical grinding machine last year, followed by the internal grinding machines as well as the new S31 and the new favorit. Sales of the entry-level external grinding machine, the favoritCNC, have also developed very positively.

Summing up the market in general, the order situation in Germany in particular was low compared with previous years. This is partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic but also the ongoing structural changes in the automotive industry. The order intake in 2020 from Asia, North America and north-eastern Europe remained at a very pleasing level. This was mainly due to high demand from the job-shop and aerospace industry segments. However, Latin Europe was also quite positive, thanks to the strong end-of-year spurt from Italy. Bottazzo explained that in total, they sold their grinding machines in over 40 different countries worldwide in 2020.

Another key success factor over the past year was STUDER Customer Care. "Thanks to our local, customer-focused network of over 130 STUDER service technicians worldwide, we were able to provide our customers with continuous support during the pandemic, despite international restrictions,” asserted Bottazzo and added, “This global network of service technicians is certainly unique in this form in the universal cylindrical grinding machine market. We are convinced that sustained success is only possible, if we are and remain close to our customers.”

Studer has also further developed its portfolio of digital services. Customers can now purchase the complete UNITED GRINDING Digital SolutionsTM retrofit package with a maintenance contract at a special price. With a very wide portfolio of services, the company offers everything from one source throughout the entire lifecycle of a cylindrical grinding machine.

Insights into Studer production

The United Grinding Group has also developed a digitalisation roadmap, which Studer is now implementing step by step. “In addition, we use all the technologies that we offer to our customers in our own production,” revealed Stephan Stoll, COO, Fritz Studer AG. UNITED GRINDING Digital SolutionsTM can be mentioned as an example. The Production Monitor provides an overview of the operating status of the company's manufacturing and assembly production equipment at any time. It shows customers in real-time whether & which machines are in operation and can display the corresponding production history. This is not only of particular interest and benefit for managers on the shop floor but also for machine operators of unmanned machines. Not only can Studer machines and other machines from the United Grinding Group be integrated into this app, but a wide variety of external production equipment and manufacturers can also be integrated via the standardised umati interface. Stoll emphasises that at the workstation, the system also allows many detailed analyses and status reports, including information on order statuses, maintenance intervals and any servicing that may be required. Digital tools are another step towards digitalisation, where tablets and screens have already become indispensable aids for the Studer assembly specialists and are used in a suitable form, depending on the workstation.

At the heart of Studer – Technology development

At the STUDER Tech Center, innovations are created, and customer-specific requirements are put through their paces. Digitalisation is also a key issue in technology development. “Today and in the future, we need a transparent yet secure connection, so that process information can be easily transferred to external systems”, mentioned Daniel Huber, CTO, Fritz Studer AG and went on, “These are precisely the advantages offered by the STUDER OPC-UA solution. In the Tech Center, all the machines are also connected by means of OPC-UA to our UNITED GRINDING Digital SolutionsTM applications according to the umati universal machine tool interface standard and are equipped with additional sensors.”

One technology innovation is the laser measuring technology with STUDER LaserControlTM. Studer has many years of experience in basic research on the use of machine-integrated laser measuring technology for measuring grinding wheels or workpieces. Based on these findings and the latest laser measuring technology, the company has further developed the tool monitoring systems used in other industries to measure workpieces on grinding machines. The latest generation of the STUDER laser measuring system, the LaserControlTM, is suitable not only for the contact-free measurement of tool cutting edges in the toughest conditions but also for rotating workpieces, which considerably reduces measuring time. It is unbeatably fast, precise & reliable, thanks to premium laser optics and the latest evaluation technology. Highly dynamic and contact-free measurements also allow quality assessment of high-precision PCD tools.

Outlook for EMO Milan & Studer Award 2020

Although Studer gives an insight into the company's technology, one future-oriented area remains under wraps. The company is working on the innovation for EMO 2021. Studer and the whole United Grinding Group look forward to surprising one with several innovations at EMO in Milan, on October 4-9, 2021. The Studer Award 2020 was also announced, which went to Dr Mirko Theuer from the Institute for Production Engineering and Machine Tools at Leibniz University Hannover. He convinced the entire jury with his study entitled ‘Continuous generating grinding of cutting tools’.

Standing tall

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Studer has managed to come above it triumphantly and show success in its operations. And more so, it plans on continuing to do so this year and the years to come, with its continuous technological developments and prospering customers.

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