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Studer navigates global challenges to post impressive results

Global manufacturer of high-precision grinding machines increases its sales in key markets such as the USA and China

Posted on 20 Feb 2024 and read 1009 times
Studer navigates global challenges to post impressive resultsFritz Studer AG, a global manufacturer of high-precision cylindrical grinding machines, invited 65 journalists earlier this month from around the world to its annual press conference at the company’s headquarters in Steffisburg, Switzerland. The event, which was attended by Machinery Market’s online editor John Hunter, took place under the slogan ‘Sound of Studer’.

Opening the proceedings, Studer’s CEO Jens Bleher, said: “The recently completed 2023 fiscal year — the year of our 111th anniversary — was extremely successful.” Despite the globally challenging investment environment, the company was still able to increase its sales in key markets such as the USA and China. Asia remained the largest market for the company, followed by Central Europe.

Mr Bleher pointed out that ongoing and continuous investments in product development and site infrastructure are paying dividends. He explained: “We have turned our announcements into reality and used the time to improve our market position and strengthen ourselves for the long term.” Studer was able to gain market share in many regions of the world last year and this was backed up with a strong showing by its Customer Care segment. Mr Bleher also said that it was a positive sign for the upcoming fiscal year that the number of orders increased towards the end of 2023.

Aerospace sector ‘flying’

While the development of incoming orders was weaker in individual markets, such as Germany, China, and some Asian countries, other parts of the world saw more positive results. Studer CSO Sandro Bottazzo said that the aerospace sector has once again generated the largest increase in new orders and has now overtaken the declining automotive and supplier segment in the volume of sales. While demand from tooling manufacturers did not reach expectations, the precision engineering sector, which is dominated by contract manufacturers remained very strong.

StuderPictured left: 60 journalists from around the world gathered in Steffisburg for the annual press conference

Mr Bottazzo added: “I am very pleased that our grinding machines are so highly trusted by small and medium-size enterprises — this sector remains strategically important for us.” The mechanical engineering and die and mould sectors also performed well. Additionally, the increasing demand for precision cylindrical grinding machines within the semiconductor industry has benefitted Studer.

Furthermore, orders for Studer CNC universal cylindrical grinding machines were very solid in 2023. The machine with the highest volume of orders was the S33, followed by the favoritCNC, the S31, the S41, and the favorit. Mr Bottazo continued: “When it comes to internal cylindrical grinding machines, it was the third-best year for incoming orders in the company’s history for the S131.” Orders for the new S100 internal cylindrical grinding machine also exceeded targets.

The development of Studer’s Customer Care segment was a stand-out success. Mr Bottazzo said: “Here we were able to set a sales record for the second consecutive year.” This applied to all business areas, from maintenance and service, to spare parts and overhauls. The development of Customer Care in Eastern Europe during 2023 went particularly well — Studer’s own skilled engineers now service machines in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary.

On the topic of international trade fairs, Studer participated in around 30 exhibitions and Open Houses in 2023. In addition to CIMT in Beijing and EMO in Hanover, an Open House at United Grinding North America proved very successful. At EMO 2023, Studer demonstrated three automation solutions for the first time in its history with the new insertLoad loader as well as the roboLoad and uniLoad unveiled.

High-speed grinding

In 2023, the focus for Studer remained on the development and advancement of ‘state of the art’ grinding technologies for the benefit of its customers. The S36 production external cylindrical grinding machine, for example, is particularly suitable for components related to e-mobility. Studer’s CTO Daniel Huber said: “Now our customers can use all spindle variants and automation solutions without restrictions on the S36.” Thanks to the new, powerful 25kW (33hp) grinding spindle, it is possible to use grinding wheels up to 160mm wide. A new option is high-speed grinding with CBN or diamond grinding wheels. With the fully compatible easyLoad and uniLoad loading systems, customers can highly automate their production with the S36.

Mr Huber was particularly pleased with the introduction of the new entry-level S100 internal cylindrical grinding machine which has proved popular and is comparable to the favoritCNC for the external grinding market. Thanks to last year’s development, the S100 now has a new, powerful dressing spindle, which is also planned to be rolled out with further new models in the future.

New features were also announced for the successor model to the popular favoritCNC, including an angle display of the wheelhead, the popular QuickSet set-up function, and a conventional mode which enables the manual grinding of workpieces without any programming.

A particular focus in development in 2023 was also on C.O.R.E., the ‘revolutionary’ hardware and software architecture which has been adopted by the whole United Grinding Group. Mr Huber said: “The C.O.R.E. touch operating panel already allows for an unprecedented level of intuitive use, and soon there will be a customisable interface, where operators can define and save their workspace.” Data collection and analysis, as well as new sensors and instruments, were also a focus.

StuderPictured right: Press conference took place under the theme ‘Sound of Studer’

On the subject of sustainability and energy usage, Mr Huber said that the SmartJet cooling system developed by Studer, already significantly reduces the need for coolant and energy in the grinding process, setting new industry standards. Looking to the future he said he sees great potential demand from the semiconductor industry as the need for high-performance semiconductors is rising due to the growth of e-mobility and photovoltaics. Studer’s S41 CNC universal cylindrical grinding machine with in-situ X-ray measuring head sets the standard in wafer manufacturing and is already extremely successful in the market. He added: “In the long term, only the machine manufacturers who offer intelligent and efficient machines incorporating the latest technology can be successful.”

Studer COO Stephan Stoll gave an overview of operations. He said: “The production-mix of the machines manufactured has shifted to more complex systems.” Due to active procurement management and the normalisation of global supply chains, orders were completed on time in 2023. Mr Stoll positively assessed the implementation of the joint production strategy within the United Grinding Group, which has been of great benefit to Studer.

High-quality spindles

He added that key operational projects included investments in automated manufacturing tools and ‘state of the art’ test stands. Studer is one of the few grinding machine manufacturers to produce its own high-quality spindles. The expertise for these strategically important machine components was specifically expanded last year. Comprehensive structural and logistical measures were further enhanced in Steffisburg and at the internal grinding competence centre in Biel to enable further growth.

Sustainability of production has also played a significant role in 2023 in the company’s operations. Mr Stoll explained: “Since February 2023, the Steffisburg site has been connected to the local district heating network, thus heating all buildings in an environmentally friendly way.” Furthermore, the conversion of all buildings to LED lighting is largely complete — energy consumption and CO2 emissions have significantly decreased as a result.

Mr Stoll also gave an outlook for the coming fiscal year. He continued: “After the considerable investments of the past years, the redesign of our logistics processes and warehouse infrastructure is now imminent.” The centrepiece of this project is a central logistics hub with a directly-connected container warehouse. The higher efficiency of the fully automated warehouse system benefits the entire machine production and the handling of spare parts.

Rounding off the press conference, Mr Bleher emphasised the great importance of well-trained staff. He said he was very pleased with the recent successes of Studer employees at the prestigious SwissSkills event last year. Studer apprentices Luis Salzmann (first place, design engineer EFZ) and Noah Rossel (second place, automation engineer EFZ) won the gold and silver medals with their outstanding performances. He concluded: “Studer is represented for the third time in a row at the WorldSkills. We are very proud of this, and it also illustrates our commitment to vocational training.”