New Challenges, New Beginnings at Schütte

I needed to talk to our customers to hear directly what we were doing right and, more importantly, where we needed to improve. 

Through the last 30-plus years, I have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to get to know and work with a lot of great people in the manufacturing industry. The majority of this interaction was with people in North America, yet a significant amount of my friends and associates are from other countries and cultures.

In 1985, I had been on the manufacturing side for quite a few years. I had purchased our company’s first CNC machine and was programming and running it. I realized firsthand the tremendous savings to be gained by using these machines. In 2001, some friends and I had the opportunity to form a company and become a machine tool distributor. Then came time to rent an office location, set up all of the procedures and policies, do payroll, hire employees, get medical insurance coverage and 401K, set up bank accounts, credit cards and lines of credit, and so on. All of this was a lot of work, but I really got an education and quickly.

With the combined reputation in the market of our sales team, Machine Tools of Indiana was able to acquire representation agreements in the state of Indiana with some of the premium machine tool builders. In the past, I had run some small businesses, so I formed a corporation. We grew quickly. We added another division, hired more people and sold consumable products for our EDM line of machines.

In 2008, I had the opportunity to go to Index Corp. as president and CEO. In the beginning, there were many struggles, but with perseverance, we saw success and growth. It is interesting that as we gain experience in our lives, through both success and failure, we really grow in mind. We come up with ideas, individually or together, and try different things to accomplish our goals. Some ideas work better than others, so we keep trying and adjusting our plan until we have success. Index almost doubled in size through the last nine years. This growth is due to the hard working people at Index Traub and many of you PM readers who have become customers and friends. But change is inevitable.

During PMTS earlier this year, I visited several of the machine tool builders. In one of the booths was an engineer who wanted to sell me a Schütte multi-spindle. I explained my background to the gentleman, and we had a nice conversation for a few minutes. He asked for my information, which I gave him. At 7 a.m. the next day, I received a phone call from Martin Welcker, the owner of Schütte in Cologne, Germany. He explained who he was and started a conversation about the possibility of me joining Schütte. I was asked to take over the North American operations and bring Schütte to the forefront of the industry. Nothing to it, right? Over the next 60 days, we had many phone conversations and a personal meeting, and I agreed and decided to accept the challenge.

So now, I have a great new challenge ahead with Schütte. Schütte is one of the top multi-spindle manufacturers in the world. The quality is second to none. So why had I not found Schütte a fierce competitor when I was with Index? Schütte should have been one of the top contenders for market share in sales each year. I had to find out what was holding us back.

When I arrived for my first day on the job, I didn’t know what I would find. At Schütte, I found a small group of well trained, hard-working individuals. With this in mind, I needed to talk to our customers. I wanted to hear directly what we were doing right and, more importantly, where we needed to improve. I was told that our service, support and parts deliveries were not as responsive as they should be. Our customers told me that our people were good when we arrived, but the time that it took to arrive at the customer facility was too long. This could be caused by the lack of spare parts availability or by a lack of manpower. 

So, we got to work. We contacted Germany, and together we developed more streamlined procedures to dramatically improve parts delivery times. We have also hired some new people so the manpower is up to the task. We have started a continuous training program to improve the knowledge level and skill set for our service and support staff. We will continue to improve and strive to make Schütte’s service and support second to none.