Fighting fit: Studer remains in good shape despite the pandemic

Studer managing directors - (L-R) Jens Bleher; Stephan Stoll; Daniel Huber; and Sandro Bottazzo
Studer managing directors - (L-R) Jens Bleher; Stephan Stoll; Daniel Huber; and Sandro Bottazzo

Studer’s annual press conference took place virtually at the end of April this year and as usual there was a theme running through the whole event. Dave Tudor looks back on the interestingly named ‘Studer Fight Club’.

Just over a year ago, grinding specialist Studer was faced with a decline in sales – yet the company still recorded the third best year since its founding.

However, the economic situation was already deteriorating significantly at that time. With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries imposed lockdowns in February and March, some of them severe.

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 flurry of sales. The positive mood of customers has accompanied Studer into 2021. An economic recovery has begun.

Due to the worldwide travel restrictions and protective measures – and in the true spirit of digitalisation, this year's Studer press conference took place virtually – with a record number of participants. 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, its annual worldwide sales event. This year, online proceedings were united by the common motto: "Studer Fight Club" where the company reported live from the boxing and training studio set up especially for these conferences.

Fritz Studer AG CEO, Jens Bleher reflects on the events of the past year: “We’re accustomed to fluctuations in sales because machine manufacturing is notoriously a very cyclical business and you need to be able to manage these fluctuations in order to survive.

Jens Bleher presenting at the Studer 'Fight Club' press conference

“However, a new threat was appearing on the horizon for the world economy: The coronavirus pandemic. Initially it was a matter of protecting the staff and safeguarding the company," he recalls.

Studer reacted quickly and introduced extensive protective measures. The Studer Corona Task Force went into action from the outset, preventing outbreaks in the factory and ensuring the company could continue to provide a full service to its customers. The company is doing everything in its power to ensure that this remains the case.

Studer has successfully withstood the effects of COVID-19 and the downturn and reports that overall the situation is considerably better than during the financial crisis ten years ago. The company has reacted to a decline in sales through the proven annual work-hour model and where necessary, with short-time working.

Major developments have been continued and the product portfolio further developed. Numerous group projects from United Grinding Digital Solutions have played, and continue to 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." Mr Bleher adds. "All in all, we consider ourselves to be well positioned, which is a decisive advantage, particularly in the current competitive environment."

Apprentices at Studer

Apprentices were also affected by the pandemic, but even in these challenging times, Studer has adhered to its tried and tested vocational training. "The number of Studer apprentices remains high – they make up over 11% of the workforce," Mr Bleher enthuses.

Studer apprentices

“Our priority was to ensure that their training remained professional and unaffected and this was reflected in the success of the apprentices in their final year, who were able to prepare thoroughly with all passing their final exams. We will continue to invest in apprentice training; we’ve recently purchased a new NC lathe for their workshop.”

Sales, service and marketing activities

“Even after a year like 2020, it’s still important to be positive,” says Sandro Bottazzo, CSO of Fritz Studer AG.

“We started 2020 with a healthy order intake backlog from the previous year which help sustain the business through the worst of the pandemic. A strong December 2020 also put the company in a buoyant mood. 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," Mr Bottazzo reveals.

Sandro Bottazzo with the Studer S31 cylindrical grinding machine

"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 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 to the ongoing structural changes in the automotive industry.

Order intake in 2020 from Asia, North America and North Eastern Europe remained at a very encouraging 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 a strong end-of-year spurt from Italy. "In total, we sold our grinding machines in over 40 different countries worldwide in 2020," Mr Bottazzo states.

He continues: “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.

“This global network of service technicians is certainly unique in the universal cylindrical grinding machine market and it will continue to expand. We are convinced that sustained success is only possible if we remain close to our customers."

Digital services

Studer has also further developed its portfolio of digital services. Customers can now purchase the complete United Grinding Digital Solutions retrofit package with a maintenance contract at a special price. With a wide portfolio of services, Studer offers everything from one source throughout the entire life cycle of a cylindrical grinding machine.

Insights into Studer production

The United Grinding Group has developed a digitalisation roadmap which Studer is now implementing step by step. The business uses all the technologies it offers to customers in its own production.

The package includes Production Monitor which 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 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 shopfloor 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, via the standardised umati interface, a wide variety of external production equipment and manufacturers can also be integrated.

"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," ", explains Stephan Stoll, COO of Fritz Studer AG.

Digital tools are another step towards digitalisation: Work instructions, test processes and checklists are largely paperless and are always available in the latest version. Tablets and screens have already become indispensable aids for the Studer assembly specialists and are used in a suitable form depending on the workstation.

Technological developments

At the Studer Tech Centre, 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", says Daniel Huber, CTO of Fritz Studer AG.

“These are precisely the advantages offered by the Studer OPC-UA solution. In the Tech Centre all machines are also connected through OPC-UA to our United Grinding Digital Solutions applications according to the umati universal machine tool interface standard and are equipped with additional sensors.”

A notable recent innovation is laser measuring technology with Studer LaserControl. Studer has many years’ experience in researching the use of machine integrated laser measuring technology for measuring grinding wheels or workpieces.

Based on this experience and the latest laser measuring technology, Studer has further developed the tool monitoring systems used in other industries to measure workpieces on grinding machines. The latest generation of its LaserControl measuring system is ideal not only for contact-free measurement of tool cutting edges in tough conditions, but also for rotating workpieces, which considerably reduces measuring time.

The system is fast, precise, and reliable thanks to premium laser optics and the latest evaluation technology. Highly dynamic and contact-free measurement also allow a quality assessment of high-precision PCD tools.

Outlook for EMO Milan

During the press event, Studer gave an insight into its latest technology, but one future innovation remained under wraps. You’ll need to visit EMO in Milan from 4 - 9 October 2021 to learn more about that!




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