Do machines or people secure the deal?

Few things in business are as frustrating as seeing potential business slip out of your grasp. It’s especially disappointing when the reasons are nothing to do with your competence, quality or pricing, says Elumatec’s MD Neil Parton.

A couple of years ago, we were approached by a business that, on the face of it, had everything going for it; a leading force in cladding and facades with a superb reputation, they were finding themselves missing out on orders.

The reason was nothing to do with their expertise, their design capabilities, technical ability or fabrication skills. In fact, many buyers stated that if it weren’t for one specific issue, they would have secured the deal. That issue was the outsourcing of part of their fabrication process.

No one was saying that the outsourced components weren’t up to scratch: the supplier of the sub-structures had been carefully chosen; and the quality standards were high and had no significant impact on the finished cladding or facade installation.

Instead, the issue was the perceived loss of control or continuity. A trusted provider was introducing an ‘unknown’ third party into the supply chain. That single fact, however well the outsourcing was managed, was sufficient to make some buyers go elsewhere.

The decision to move fabrication of the sub-components in-house was part of a wider strategy. The business had identified that control of their entire process was essential for them going forward. Reliance on outsourcing had to stop. But, naturally, that meant that significant investment in new production assets would be required. Workflows would need to be changed and the layout of the shop floor amended. It also meant staff would need extra training, skills development work and that new quality procedures would need to be introduced.

As you would expect from a highly professional organisation, planning was a key part of the project. Having been identified as a possible machinery supplier, we soon found ourselves part of the plan. It was immediately clear to us that, from the outset, nothing less than outstanding service would meet the grade, and our team made that a priority.

Even though Elumatec is a machinery supplier with an impressive product portfolio, it’s our people that really hold the power to transform the operations of our customers. We set about the project just as we’d expect, gaining an understanding of what was required and what issues were critical.

We found a business that wanted to talk and to listen. Discussions about their market, existing fabrication equipment, the various options, solutions and set-up were frank and open. What’s more, this team was on our wavelength. They had experts with lots of ideas, but they retained both curiosity and an open mind. I believe that the ability to look at the wider picture – not to be fixed on a certain solution – is a key characteristic of a successful business. Happily, the customer was of the same mind, and together we were able to pinpoint the precise machinery configuration required.

The customer is now the proud owner of an SBZ122/71 CNC machine and its associated software. This is a machining centre that is ideally suited to working aluminium and thin wall steel profiles. It’s fast but stable and easy to adjust for bespoke fabrication work. It incorporates ergonomic design and safety features and is frugal in its power consumption. It’s based on a user-friendly Windows operating system, uses our trusted eluCam software, and can even be programmed during operation.

There’s no doubt that the machining centre can perform. The engineering is proven, but again, it’s the commitment and expertise of the project team that ensures a successful outcome. The training we delivered was thorough and tailored, enabling the workforce to get up to speed as soon as possible.

In this case, we managed to combine all the essentials on the customer’s wish list alongside efficient and economical operation. This puts the customer in the best possible position to challenge its competitors, and those orders that were going elsewhere can now be secured. The business can quote with confidence and is gaining business that they might otherwise have lost on price.

By understanding the challenges our customers are facing, we can help to find both solutions and opportunities. We can help to create the firm foundations from which a business can grow. Our approach is holistic and although we make brilliant equipment, supplying a machine is only part of the picture.