Schwanog specializes in small lot production of form tools, but also manufactures tools used in polygon turning, broaching, and whirling. As a tooling manufacturer, surely Schwanog’s niche is one of the nichiest. And yet, in addition to their headquarters and facilities in Germany, the market they’ve built is large enough to require operations in France, China, and the United States, as well as sales and support staff in India and Brazil.
Schwanog doesn’t produce round tools such as end mills, reamers, boring tools or drills (except form drills). And a large percentage of their turning tools are designed for small features and parts. So, considering their somewhat smaller potential market, I wondered how it is that Schwanog became an international company. I think the answer has to do with their ability to deliver quickly at lower than expected cost, while providing a higher productivity alternative.
Two aspects of their overall solution that help with quick delivery at low cost, are the design and sale of their own proprietary tooling system and their machining strategies.
The Schwanog system starts with a holder and blank. The rest is a matter of imagineering. That is, instead of single point turning, when feasible and more productive, it can be better to combine operations into one tool or to introduce multiple cutting edges on the same tool to double or multiply the cutting points or surfaces in order to reduce cutting time. The decision to use form tools is often a collaboration between the customer and the knowledgeable Schwanog staff located around the world. In the U.S., applications staff are local in IL, WI, IN, OH, NY, and PA, and in Canada, in Ontario. Questions typically explored: Is the part volume high enough? What is the cost of the tool compared to single point tools? Can wear be managed through offsets? What are the alternatives and what is the cost per part difference? Properly analyzed, that decision will usually save thousands of dollars in production time on an annual basis.
In Schwanog’s own manufacturing facility one of the key advantages is their ability to save client’s money by using GF Machining Solutions Cut 2000 Wire EDM with Automatic Wire Changer (AWC). Because flexibility is so important to their ability to address different parts in small lot sizes (typical lot can be as few as 3-5 tools), Schwanog saw the value in being able to change EDM wire size automatically. Implementing this feature meant that they could continue to run unattended around the clock. For Schwanog, running unattended means being able to machine many different parts on one machine without an operator on site to attend to the different wire size requirements.
So many businesses are built on volume, taking advantage of scale, tweaking seconds from a process then multiplying it by millions of cycles. As George Bailey lamented about the hardware business in It’s a Wonderful Life, “you spend your life trying to figure out how to save three cents on a length of pipe.” Well, Schwanog has found success in another, much more interesting approach: save customer’s money by helping them design faster, combine operations, and integrate processes. Then give them quick delivery, high quality, faster cycles, and all at lower cost.
Even very narrow niches with very small lot sizes can be exploited when the right system processes are implemented. Read more details on Schwanog and GF Machining System’s operations.