In 1876, Albert Leitz founded the Wurttemberg Wood Boring Factory in Oberkochen, Germany and the company began to specialise in the manufacture of hand and machine driven tools. To this day, whilst being an international company in over 35 countries and the UK’s largest supplier of tooling to British wood derived industries, Leitz GmbH & Co KG remains family owned.
Leitz, together with Boehlerit GmbH & Co KG, Austria and Bilz GmbH & Co KG Ostfildern, Germany, form the Leitz group of companies. Boehlerit is a specialist in the development and production of innovative tungsten carbide and diamond cutting materials along with coatings technology. Bilz is a leading manufacturer of thermal clamping systems for high speed machining solutions. The 4300 employees of the Leitz corporate group generate a turnover of over €460m.
Thirty years ago, Leitz acquired British saw manufacturer CD Monninger – established in 1867 – to set up Leitz Tooling UK. In 1990, it moved to its present headquarters in Harlow, Essex, a site which also acts as one of eight service centres in the UK which deal with all types and makes of tooling, saws, routers, diamond and bandsaws.
What are the benefits of being a Leitz Tooling UK customer?
“Companies using Leitz tools are already ahead of the game and enjoy many advantages,” explains Simon, “because Leitz takes the long-term view. Through quality and consistency of service, we can actually reduce tool usage and increase productivity. In many cases, life expectancy monitoring, balancing and rechecking is included in the price of the product.
“Our customers enjoy a staggering range of benefits which come with the purchase of our products, from tools which are safety tested, training and seminars to reduced running costs, and these benefits often mean increased productivity for our customers. The fact is that we regularly hear from customers who have chosen to purchase ‘cheaper’ tools, and ended paying many times the cost in terms of machine down time, lost productivity, increased second op costs and high scrap rates.”
How does Leitz like to do business, and what differentiates it from its peers?
“Leitz Tooling mainly covers five specific industry sectors – advanced materials, furniture, panel-based products, windows and doors, and construction. In the UK this means our unique offer includes not just large stocks of standard products, but experts in each field, both nationally and locally.
“We have within our range different systems depending on the customer’s needs and expectations. Our technical sales team will help advise the customer on the most efficient solution to their machining and production processes.
“As explained earlier, we hold customer specific seminars at our UK head office as well as industry specific seminars with selected partners, nationally. This often allows the customer base access to additional knowledge data to help enable them to make informed decisions to increase their respective efficiencies in their markets.”
What has been the company’s trading experience of the past five years given the tough economic climate?
“Being a global business, the drop-off in Europe has been compensated with the increased business seen in China, South- east Asia, India and the emerging Eastern markets. We have continued in our traditional fashion of research, development and innovation. Some of the results of this were exhibited at this year’s Ligna.
“In the UK, we have been working with many companies who were interested in efficiency. This has paid them dividends now the market is growing again. We have many case studies where customers were changing tools every shift, now once per week.
“Other areas where we have introduced new technology such as our MC33 coated tools, better surface finishes, higher cutting speeds, more components produced per hour and lower tooling cost per component.
“To summarise, the last five years have been used to prepare for the future.
What's on the agenda at the moment?
“All businesses need good skilled people. We are currently recruiting additional technical sales representatives and working closely with our local college in Harlow on their apprenticeship schemes resulting in new young blood coming into our fold.
“We host free of charge weekly tooling seminars for customers at our Harlow HQ and our new factory and production line tooling audits are in great demand. With changes to European standards, manufacturers need to be confident their tooling meets the latest legal and safety requirements. We offer this, again at no charge, and one advantage over a visit from the Health and Safety Executive is that we can also advise on changes – sometimes as simple as a setting or feed speed – to increase productivity and energy efficiency.
“Development in e-commerce is high on the agenda, our on-line shop (http://shopuk.leitz.org) is evolving and our monthly newsletter gives advice, shows the occasional case study and demonstrates special offers to our customer base. The ThermoTech window system has been a resounding success with many companies taking advantage of our specific skill-set in this market.
Looking forward, what's in the pipeline for Leitz?
“We are investing in our UK production capability. For example fast track diamond tool production, solid carbide router production, new generation tool control and inspection systems, all geared to speeding up service to the market.
“Workshop and factory reviews. These are becoming more popular as businesses are looking to reduce their risks from an HSE viewpoint and also using us to help them reach their green goals through process improvements.
“Whereas some companies are reducing their service teams, we run 29 customer service vehicles who look after 3000+ UK customers annually. Recently we have invested in a new service centre in Manchester and doubled the size of our service centre in Basingstoke. By servicing our tools to the original specification, customers enjoy the repeatability and consistent high quality for which the Leitz brand is famous. This is all looking forward.”
Tel 01279 454530