From managers to entrepreneurs
Driven by a combination of passion, pragmatism and gut instincts, it didn’t take long for Dominik Weibel and Marco Wüst to get their company eMDe on the road to success.
What would prompt two successful managers to give up their jobs at large corporations in order to launch their own business in the fiercely competitive sheet metal processing market? Weibel and Wüst cite various reasons for their decision to set up the eMDe sheet metal plant, but say the most persuasive was the opportunity to put unconventional ideas into practice, experiment with new methods, and apply their own concept of customer service. As well as offering flexibility, quality, fast response times and fair prices, they also make use of services and methods that are relatively uncommon in the B2B arena.
Everyone starts from the same baseline
eMDe processes steel, stainless steel, and aluminum using a TruLaser 3030 connected to a LiftMaster and a TruBend 5170. Most of its customers work in the construction, steelwork, equipment manufacturing, and medical technology industries. “Basically, anyone in this business who works with high-quality TRUMPF machines is starting from the same baseline. So we need to set ourselves apart by focusing on rapid internal processes, new ideas for customer acquisition and retention, and skilled, motivated employees,” says Weibel. The company has eight dedicated employees who strive to maintain the flexibility required to process customer orders in a matter of hours. “Marco Wüst and I are hugely involved in the production side and everyone who works for us is probably a tiny bit crazy, and that’s what makes it all work!” says the 38-year-old entrepreneur.
Fast work starts with fast quotations
Whatever time of the day or night, even before the production facilities at eMDe swing into action, customers can calculate online how much it will cost to manufacture a part – all thanks to TRUMPF’s online quotation calculator WebCalculate. Once the customer has registered on the eMDe customer portal, they can simply select the WebCalculate service and upload a drawing of the part they need.
They enter the material and the type of processing, and a few seconds later they will receive a quotation containing a breakdown of the individual and bulk prices. If everything looks fine, the customer can immediately place an order. The prices are based on the figures calculated by eMDe in TruTops Calculate, which runs in the background. “The online calculator enables us to reach out to customers who only need one part. It helps people to get past any psychological barriers about calling and asking for a quotation,” says Weibel. He receives between four and 10 inquiries a week through the tool. “Obviously not all of them end up placing an order, but the figures show that people are genuinely interested in having this option.”
The eMDe managing directors are convinced that the online calculator and automated quotation system provide a huge boost to the speed of upstream processes. And they also believe that it’s worth getting involved in process simplification at an early stage so they can build on their experience and help shape future developments. Weibel and Wüst have used WebCalculate as a basis for developing their own tools, which they feel make the program even more user-friendly.
A price calculated online will never be very competitive because it’s calculated automatically without the instinctive knowledge of business that you or I might apply.
One of the tools keeps track of every new user that registers on the site. If they haven’t responded to a calculation within two or three days, then something has obviously gone wrong. “That gives us the opportunity to get in touch and ask why they canceled the quotation process,” says Weibel. They also get a heads-up on orders that exceed a specified total. “We apply a different series of calculations to big orders. A price calculated online will never be very competitive because it’s calculated automatically without the instinctive knowledge of business that you or I might apply. Although WebCalculate offers an option to limit the number of pieces that can be calculated online, we prefer to call the customer the next day and chat to them in person rather than simply missing an opportunity because they couldn’t get to the end of the online quotation process,” says Weibel.
Transparency for customers
eMDe also optimized the order tracking system that forms part of WebCalculate. Every customer receives an encoded link with their order confirmation that gives them access to their drawing in PDF format as well as all the order details. They can use this link to check their order status at any time, and as soon as the order is shipped they receive a tracking link for the Swiss Post Office or whichever carrier is responsible for delivery. In addition, every part shipped features a QR code, which the customer can scan when they receive their order to view all the order documents in a digital format, from the order confirmation to the delivery note. This level of transparency is a big selling point for eMDe’s customers. “Even some bigger customers are now telling us they prefer to run an occasional spot check to ensure that our process steps have been properly executed and documented rather than relying on ISO certification,” says Weibel.
Even the internal processes stipulated by many companies haven’t stopped people from using the online calculator. “Many customers instruct their employees to request multiple offers by email, which are then put on file,” says Weibel. But when a company is in a hurry, his experience suggests that eMDe is unbeatable. “By the time our competitors have submitted their quotations, we’ve often already delivered the parts! And in those cases a few euros here or there don’t make much of a difference.”
Online calculation with WebCalculate is as easy as creating online photo albums.
Educating people about the online calculation tool is also important. “Many customers think that when they enter their data there’s actually somebody sitting there who calculates a price and clicks send,” says Weibel. That’s why the company decided to post a video on its website that explains the process, emphasizing the fact that it’s a tool that is as easy to use as the ones designed for creating online photo albums.
Customer retention is the key to success
Weibel and Wüst are also entering new territory when it comes to customer acquisition and retention. “We draw on ideas from other industries that are still rarely used in the B2B arena,” says Weibel. For example, the idea of customers referring other customers may not lead to a cascade of new orders, but it does produce at least a few hits.
eMDe also found a shrewd way of addressing the fact that the company doesn’t make products under its own name that could serve as a reference. Last year Weibel and Wüst invited its customers to exhibit their products for three months in a pop-up store. The showroom was located in a neighboring region.
“Every market becomes saturated eventually, but the store enabled us to present what we do to an entirely new group of customers, using our existing customers’ products to demonstrate our expertise,” says Weibel. The store also got plenty of walk-in customers, so eMDe enjoyed the extra benefit of referrals from end customers.
A personal touch
One of the basic tenets of eMDe’s corporate philosophy is to keep customers happy. That starts with a warm welcome to the company and extends all the way through to delivery of the goods with a neatly placed shipping label. “That’s where our industry could pick up more tips from the restaurant trade, because it’s often the little things that make a difference,” Weibel argues. He also believes in personal contact. If a steady stream of orders from a customer suddenly dries up, he gets in touch to find out if something has gone wrong. And if someone working for a business partner moves on to new pastures, eMDe’s presence on social media networks allows them to keep in contact.
Always on the move
In the future Dominik Weibel and Marco Wüst are hoping to tap into even more market segments, which is one reason why they want to be where their potential customers are. At this year’s edition of SwissBau, Switzerland’s leading trade fair for the construction industry, which was held in Basel in January, only two other sheet metal processing companies exhibited apart from eMDe. Weibel finds that extraordinary: “Visitors to that exhibition include timber construction specialists, kitchen makers, and other companies that need sheet metal parts. That’s where we should be exhibiting instead of cannibalizing each other at sheet metal fairs.” Weibel and Wüst, a duo who have made great strides in their industry, are willing to do things differently – and their success shows that it’s sometimes good to go with your instincts.
Contact us: MastersofSheetMetal@trumpf.com
This articel was first published in spring 2016.