Fritz Studer AG has a lot of experience in its more than 100-year history and after a record year in 2018, it reported another very successful year in 2019. Akin to each year, it hosted the Motion Meeting 2020 in Thun, Switzerland, which under the theme ‘The Art of Grinding’, highlighted its further investments, how it is making its customers successful and plans ahead.
The company presented some of the things that make it one of the leading manufacturers of cylindrical grinding machines. “This claim requires us to overcome limitations and focuses concentration on barely perceptible details, which ultimately make the difference, in order to achieve what initially appears impossible. At times like these, there is a special focus on the efficiency and quality of our processes and products,” said Jens Bleher, CEO, Fritz Studer AG.
Sales & machine portfolio
At the annual press conference, Bleher reported a successful 2019, even if the economic situation has deteriorated significantly. “With the third best year in the company’s history, we were further able to increase our market shares,” mentioned Sandro Bottazzo, CSO, Fritz Studer AG. Studer recorded a strong growth in North America in particular, where it achieved the second best result in the company’s 100-year history. The company was also able to further increase its turnover with internal cylindrical grinding machines. “In the Asian region in particular, we maintained incoming orders for internal cylindrical grinding machines at the high level of 2018. Internal grinding makes up to 20% of our turnover today and the trend is only increasing,” Bottazzo cited. He further revealed that with good marketing and communication, they have been able to carry out some successful campaigns and have more than 35 trade fairs for 2020.
Three machine types also achieved record incoming orders: the S121, S141 and S151, the flagship of internal cylindrical grinding machines. The new universal cylindrical grinding machines – the favorit, the S33 & S31 – have also got off to a very successful start. “The launch of the new universal machines were both, a feat of strength and a highlight,” explained Bleher.
The company didn’t even need a year to sell around 100 of its new machines. Customers underscore the top quality and precision of the new machines. In America, a longstanding Studer customer, who has purchased a new S31, was delighted that he could achieve another increase in reliability and precision.
Helping customers grow
The customer segments at Studer developed very differently in 2019. In the automotive sector, in particular, market conditions were much more challenging than that in 2018. However, thanks to this broad diversification, the company was able to offset weaker market segments with stronger ones. For example, the aviation industry was one of the segments that flourished in 2019. “Our company has been very well positioned in the aerospace customer segment for many years and is a preferred supplier of many component suppliers,” asserted Bottazzo, when reviewing the past year.
The proportion of new customers was almost 40% in Studer last year. Smaller markets like Great Britain also achieved a very good order intake in 2019. In truth, the market share was also increased in the company’s home market of Switzerland. “Grinding is a technology where you have to look at the really detailed needs of the customers,” asserted Bottazzo and went on, “We have always been organised in such a way that we really listen to what the customers’ needs exactly are and fulfil them.”
Customer care was further developed in 2019 and the organisational changes initiated in 2018 & 2019 were successfully completed.
Exciting times for technology
2019 was also very exciting for Studer’s system division. Various new projects have been started, advanced and completed. For example, thanks to STUDER WireDress® it was possible to reduce the cycle time for an application from the medical sector by a whole 70%. A life cycle solution project was carried out in Biel, in which ceramic components for use in mass spectrometers were form-ground with high precision in several grinding trials with the customer.
“You can expect a new product from Studer in a few months,” conveyed Daniel Huber, CTO, Fritz Studer AG and continued, “This is a new hydraulic synchronous tailstock. The hydraulics of the redesigned synchronous tailstock have been replaced by a servo drive with an electrical clamping function. The repeatability and accuracy of the clamping force have been increased to the exact gram. An even lower contact pressure can now also be selected.”
The digital world of the United Grinding Group
Four fundamental priorities for the group’s digitalisation journey have been developed from a wide range of digital projects – connectiviy, usability, monitoring and productivity. In the area of connectivity, the umati standardised communication interface provides the long-awaited possibility of simply connecting any machine, which is umati-capable, to the production monitor to monitor its operating status.
“Digitalisation is also finding its way into production. As a user of our own machines, we are the internal customer, so to speak, and we support our developers with practical tests and suggestions for product improvements from the user’s point of view,” averred Stephan Stoll, COO, Fritz Studer AG.
Investments in the future
Further, significant investments were also made at the Steffisburg location in 2019, underlining the commitment of the United Grinding Group to Switzerland as a workplace. A major project for modernisation of the company’s cubic production was successfully completed last year. “Technically harmonised milling centres allow automated, high precision manufacturing of our key components,” mentioned Stoll. A further investment was also made in the component production and implemented this year. This concerns the complete production of spindle shafts – a key component for the function and precision of the grinding machines.
“We also want to maintain and develop our expertise and efficiency here and increase our internal value added. Naturally, we will continue to use the latest production and process technology and a reasonable degree of automation,” said Stoll.
Further smart factory projects
Stoll further averred that digitalisation is also finding its way into assembly. Instead of using outdated drawings, the assembler drags the most recent data as a 3D representation directly onto the screen at the workstation and has optimal working documents. Via a chat function, the employee can easily send questions and ideas for improvement to the relevant engineering department and create a short and direct feedback loop.
The conference also gave an exposure to Studer’s automation solutions, machine overhaul and the portfolio of STUDER Universal external grinding machines. The automation solution highlighted was STUDER easyLoad, which is suitable for shaft components up to a part length of 300 mm and a gripper diameter of 4-30 mm.
Overhaul & universal cylindrical grinding machines
Machine overhauls and maintenance enjoyed a double-digit increase once again. The customers receive a new one-year warranty on the overhaul, including ensuring parts availability again. Coming to the universal cylindrical grinding machines offered by the company to its customers, five such were highlighted – favoritCNC, favorit, S33, S31 and S41.
Fritz Studer Award 2020 & image campaign
The Fritz Studer Award was announced for the sixth time this year at the conference. "Its aim is to encourage innovation in the industry," said Huber. The Fritz Studer Award 2020 will focus on innovative machine concepts, simulation models of dynamic and thermal behaviour, digital solutions to support the grinding process and more.
Besides this, the company introduced its new image campaign which is intended to refocus on the company’s own strengths (precision, quality and passion). The campaign was introduced with the launch of the STUDER S31, a cylindrical grinding machine for small to large workpieces in single, small and large series production.
The angle of India
United Grinding is committed to India as it definitely sees ample potential in the Indian market. In the coming years, they are optimistic that India will become the fourth biggest market after Europe, America and China.
“India will see investments in defence, aerospace & aircraft components from private sectors,” said C R Sudheendra, President – India Operations, United Grinding GmbH and continued, “New investments will continue on the automotive side for the new BS VI compliant engine & transmission. Investments will happen in companies into contract manufacturing of smart phones. Plus, investments will happen in companies into contract manufacturing of railway parts as our country expands its network for high-speed trains. United Grinding Group machines have provided solutions to similar applications in other countries and we are looking forward to sharing our machine, process expertise & knowledge with companies in India.”
Rising with time
Fritz Studer AG is only booming with time and under all market conditions. The cylindrical grinding machine manufacturer is always on its toes, with something new to offer each year in every form, providing its customers outstanding products, while helping them flourish and accomplishing their requirements to the fullest.