Author Topic: Article series on Visiting Festool HQ and Factory in Germany  (Read 3954 times)

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Offline Nicholas Noe

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Hi everyone,

I recently traveled to Festool's HQ in Germany to learn more about the company and tour their facilties. (I'm the Senior Editor of Core77, an online Design/Technology magazine with a focus on Industrial Design.) As a Festool owner/user and a former industrial designer, it was a bit of a dream assignment for me.

The trip was awesome. My only regret was that I couldn't bring several dozen of you along, so you guys could see what I saw and learn what I learned. I've visited a fair amount of companies and I'll say this one's special.

I wasn't there on vacation of course--great German beer and pretzels aside--but was sent to write it up. The resultant articles will be rolled out during the coming week, here's the first:

Visiting Festool, Part 1

I hope you enjoy the series, and thanks to @neilc , @Peter Halle and others who dug the Jory article and provided input in advance of the trip.

Will keep youse posted as the rest of the articles go up.

happy building,

- Nick

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Offline Wooden Skye

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Re: Article series on Visiting Festool HQ and Factory in Germany
« Reply #1 on: June 05, 2015, 06:07 PM »
Rain

Good article look forward to reading the rest of the series.
Bryan

TS 55, (2) 1400 Guide Rails, 1900 Guide Rail, MFT/3, Domino DF 500, 2 domino systainers, ETS 150/3, RO 90, CT 26, (2) OF1400, RO 150. RTS 400, LR 32 set, PS300 jigsaw, 3 abrasive systainers, (2) sys toolbox, (2) sys mini, clamps and other accesories

Offline neilc

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Re: Article series on Visiting Festool HQ and Factory in Germany
« Reply #2 on: June 05, 2015, 08:43 PM »
Thanks Nicholas - enjoyed the first article.  And I agree 100% - it's a design driven company - thoughtful design with very deep systems thinking and that entire customer experience at their core.

Not sure how many parts are in the series, but please keep us updated with new releases!

Neil

Offline Don T

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Re: Article series on Visiting Festool HQ and Factory in Germany
« Reply #3 on: June 06, 2015, 12:43 AM »
Thank you for sharing this was a great read.
RO150, C12, DF 500 Q, CT33, TS75, MFT3, Kapex 120, MFT3/Kapex, MFK 700, RO 90, ETS150/3, CT22, Centrotec Installers Kit, Parallel Guides & Ext, Carvex, OF1400, LR32 Set, MFS400 w/700 rails, KA UG Set, First Aid Kit, RTS 400 EQ, Vecturo OS400 Set, CT Wings, CT Drill Guide, Pro 5, CXS

Offline Nicholas Noe

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Re: Article series on Visiting Festool HQ and Factory in Germany
« Reply #4 on: June 06, 2015, 08:06 PM »
Hi guys, the next installment is up, this one a brief look at their product history:

Visiting Festool, Part 2: The Company's History of Innovation

I was thrilled to be inside of their museum, I just wish I could've spent more time there!

hope you dig it,

- Nick
« Last Edit: June 06, 2015, 08:13 PM by Nicholas Noe »

Online Peter Halle

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Re: Article series on Visiting Festool HQ and Factory in Germany
« Reply #5 on: June 06, 2015, 08:11 PM »
Read that this morning.  I have to give you kudos for your writing and the fact that you are doing an in depth series.  I suspect most of the others will be doing a one and out but honestly whereas you were a Festooligan before you went you understand better both the aura, the process, and the system.

Well done!

I regret that I didn't get a chance to meet you at JLCLive!

Peter
Disclaimer:  I have been involved with the development of some TSO Products.  I have offered thoughts and ideas freely.  I am not paid but I may receive products during the development process or afterwards.

Offline Nicholas Noe

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Re: Article series on Visiting Festool HQ and Factory in Germany
« Reply #6 on: June 08, 2015, 05:39 PM »
Thanks Peter, it was a real treat to be able to visit, and a pleasure to be able to cover such a company. Catch you at JLC Live in 2016!

- Nick

Offline Nicholas Noe

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Re: Article series on Visiting Festool HQ and Factory in Germany
« Reply #7 on: June 08, 2015, 05:40 PM »
Hi everyone, the next post in the Festool article series is up:

Part 3 - The Thinking that Drives Festool

- Nick

Online Cheese

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Re: Article series on Visiting Festool HQ and Factory in Germany
« Reply #8 on: June 08, 2015, 06:09 PM »
Well that's certainly interesting. Now that Christian Oltzscher has been promoted to CEO of Festool GmbH, maybe NAINA will become a thing of the past. [thumbs up]

@Nicholas Noe
Thanks again for posting. I've read the 2 pervious installments. Just curious if you brought up the NAINA issue when you had their corporate ears?
« Last Edit: June 08, 2015, 06:12 PM by Cheese »

Online Peter Halle

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Re: Article series on Visiting Festool HQ and Factory in Germany
« Reply #9 on: June 08, 2015, 08:02 PM »
Christian is an incredible person, manager, executive, and visionary.  He deserves every accolade thrown his way.  The FOG wouldn't be here today if it weren't for him.  Honestly I wish he were on this side of the pond so that I could converse more often.

Peter

<<EDIT:  Thank you to the Member who let me know about an incorrect word.  Christian deserves every accolade...>>
« Last Edit: June 09, 2015, 05:25 AM by Peter Halle »
Disclaimer:  I have been involved with the development of some TSO Products.  I have offered thoughts and ideas freely.  I am not paid but I may receive products during the development process or afterwards.

Offline Nicholas Noe

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Re: Article series on Visiting Festool HQ and Factory in Germany
« Reply #10 on: June 10, 2015, 10:22 PM »
@Cheese , the NAINA issue came up, and the gist of it was that they won't bring products over just for the sake of bringing them over: they have to ensure that the products will fit the market first; that some products would have to be modified (I'm assuming electrically); and that they'd need to have their ducks in a row to launch them.

That's what was said; if I can speculate on what was unsaid--and to be clear, I'm drawing on my own industrial design background and speculating, not quoting a Festool representative--they have to ensure that there is enough demand before they make the major financial commitment of retooling products for North America.

What I mean by that is this: Let's start with the electrical rework, creating motors and chargers that run on 110 rather than 240, which requires ordering new components from a supplier. In order to have economies of scale, you don't just order a couple dozen of these components; you must order them in the thousands or tens of thousands. That's a lot of units.

As for ensuring demand, consider that products are sent from Europe to North America via container ship. Again, in order to have economies of scale, you need to fill X number of containers. No sane company commits to something like that until they can be sure it's a financially-sound decision.

As for the ducks in a row, I took that to mean the marketing. Launching a new product requires a lot of manpower and man-hours. You have to coordinate with dealers to set up demonstration events for customers, and you have to create marketing materials that clearly explain exactly what the product does and what the benefits are. Videos have to be created, crews need to be hired, demonstrators have to be trained, people have to get on airplanes and fly around the country, et cetera. My point is that a new product launch is not a trivial undertaking; it's a lot more massive than you think, with a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes.

Festool doesn't share their sales numbers, so I have no idea what the tipping point is. I also don't know how they calculate that there is enough demand to bring a product over, but I am guessing that several dozen people expressing enthusiasm in the forum may not be enough, when business realities dictate that they need to sell X-thousand units in order for it to be a sensible decision.

I realize none of what I've written gets you the product you were hoping to get, but hopefully some of this clears up why things aren't so easy to bring to North America.

- Nick
« Last Edit: June 10, 2015, 11:04 PM by Nicholas Noe »

Offline Nicholas Noe

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Re: Article series on Visiting Festool HQ and Factory in Germany
« Reply #11 on: June 10, 2015, 10:30 PM »
Hey all, next installment is up. This one provides insight into how Festool decides what to produce, and what the design process entails. In this story we see the six-year process of how the Conturo came to be.

Festool's Design Process & the Story of the Conturo

- Nick

Offline ScotF

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Re: Article series on Visiting Festool HQ and Factory in Germany
« Reply #12 on: June 10, 2015, 10:54 PM »
Awesome article. Thanks for posting links to it. I really enjoyed it and learned a few things.

Offline neilc

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Re: Article series on Visiting Festool HQ and Factory in Germany
« Reply #13 on: June 10, 2015, 11:39 PM »
Excellent series, Nicholas!  Really well done.

neil

Offline Nicholas Noe

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Re: Article series on Visiting Festool HQ and Factory in Germany
« Reply #14 on: June 11, 2015, 06:42 PM »
Hi guys, the next installment is up. This one is more geared towards industrial designers specifically, as it's a Q&A with Festool's lone internal industrial designer, a very talented young man named Timo Kuhls.

Part 5: Q&A with Festool Industrial Designer Timo Kuhls

Credit where credit is due: Timo is not Festool's only industrial designer, he shares duties with an outside consultant named Roland Schirrmacher, who has been doing industrial design for Festool for three decades.

For those of you not familiar with the profession of industrial design (most folks aren't), I'll briefly explain it. You guys know that graphic designers design posters, brochures and pamphlets--all 2D stuff. Industrial design is a much broader profession as it encompasses anything 3D that comes out of a factory, from automobiles to sneakers to cell phones to furniture.

Look at your coffee maker, or the chair you're sitting in if it was mass-produced, or the computer/monitor/keyboard that you're using to read this right now. At some point those items didn't exist, and an industrial designer sketched them, or sculpted them out of clay, or modeled them in a computer to determine what the form should be. He then worked with the engineers responsible for developing the guts and creating the tooling to mass-produce those items, and eventually they come out of the assembly line of a factory.

In broad strokes, the difference between an industrial designer and an engineer is aesthetic, ergonomic and human factors training versus pure technical training. An engineer is the guy who makes sure the motor delivers the appropriate levels of torque without burning out; an industrial designer is the guy who makes sure the button to turn the motor on is easy to press, created in a different color for clear visibility, and located in a place where it won't be engaged by accident.

I'll stop myself here because I could go on and on. Bottom line, I hope some of you guys find this informative or interesting.

- Nick



« Last Edit: June 12, 2015, 06:48 PM by Nicholas Noe »

Offline Nicholas Noe

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Re: Article series on Visiting Festool HQ and Factory in Germany
« Reply #15 on: June 11, 2015, 06:48 PM »
And thanks @Wooden Skye , @neilc , @Don T , @Peter Halle , @Cheese , @ScotF and anyone else who took the time to read these. As someone who has to cover a lot of stuff, covering and writing about Festool was a real blast and a breath of fresh air.

It ain't over yet btw, I think I've got one or two more untold Festool stories in the can.

- Nick

Offline raph38

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Re: Article series on Visiting Festool HQ and Factory in Germany
« Reply #16 on: June 12, 2015, 01:26 AM »
ow man, i waaaaaaant that kitchen systainer !

Offline Slartibartfass

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Re: Article series on Visiting Festool HQ and Factory in Germany
« Reply #17 on: June 12, 2015, 07:32 AM »
That pepper salt mill is hilarious. Want one so I can carry a drill in the house..... Cool with the left and right selection.....

Online Peter Halle

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Re: Article series on Visiting Festool HQ and Factory in Germany
« Reply #18 on: June 12, 2015, 08:08 AM »
Another great article!

Peter
Disclaimer:  I have been involved with the development of some TSO Products.  I have offered thoughts and ideas freely.  I am not paid but I may receive products during the development process or afterwards.

Online Cheese

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Re: Article series on Visiting Festool HQ and Factory in Germany
« Reply #19 on: June 12, 2015, 12:55 PM »
@Nicholas Noe 
I was reading part 4 and the beginning of the 2nd paragraph of the article struck me immediately.
 
"We know who our customers are," says Steve Rangoussis, Festool USA's Chief of Sales and Marketing. Cabinet shops, installers, finish carpenters, remodelers, furniture builders, but not just any furniture builder: Heirloom furniture builders."

I thought, I'm not so sure you do know, as he never mentioned the hobbyist group. Now, I understand that Christian Oltzscher's target audience is the professional, however that's who they design/develop tools for but it is not necessarily their largest customer base.

I immediately wanted to fire off a reply to Steve, but I just kept my thoughts to myself and finished the article. However, over the last couple of days, Steve's (pompous?) statement kept playing back in my mind.

So today I tune into the FOG and this thread shows up.

http://festoolownersgroup.com/general-friendly-chat/festool-hobbyists-what-is-your-day-job-or-business/msg401580/?topicseen#msg401580

I can only hope that someone, somewhere forwards this thread to Steve so he can indeed get to know who his customers are.

Looking forward to the untold Festool stories. [thumbs up]


Offline RL

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Re: Article series on Visiting Festool HQ and Factory in Germany
« Reply #20 on: June 12, 2015, 12:56 PM »
Terrific articles, Nicholas, I have enjoyed reading all of them.

Offline Nicholas Noe

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Re: Article series on Visiting Festool HQ and Factory in Germany
« Reply #21 on: June 12, 2015, 01:29 PM »
@Nicholas Noe 
I was reading part 4 and the beginning of the 2nd paragraph of the article struck me immediately.
 
"We know who our customers are," says Steve Rangoussis, Festool USA's Chief of Sales and Marketing. Cabinet shops, installers, finish carpenters, remodelers, furniture builders, but not just any furniture builder: Heirloom furniture builders."

I thought, I'm not so sure you do know, as he never mentioned the hobbyist group. Now, I understand that Christian Oltzscher's target audience is the professional, however that's who they design/develop tools for but it is not necessarily their largest customer base.

I immediately wanted to fire off a reply to Steve, but I just kept my thoughts to myself and finished the article. However, over the last couple of days, Steve's (pompous?) statement kept playing back in my mind.

So today I tune into the FOG and this thread shows up.

http://festoolownersgroup.com/general-friendly-chat/festool-hobbyists-what-is-your-day-job-or-business/msg401580/?topicseen#msg401580

I can only hope that someone, somewhere forwards this thread to Steve so he can indeed get to know who his customers are.

@Cheese , easy, guy, easy! To be clear, Steve was making those comments within the context of a discussion about *target* customers, i.e. the people whom they set out to design the tools for. A large part of their research comes from visiting professional shops and observing professional operations. I think we can all agree that this approach has yielded some fantastic results for those of us hobbyists (I include myself in that category, as I don't use my tools to earn a living) that have purchased Festool products. And it's far more practical than visiting the workshops of hobbyists to observe their processes; you're simply going to find the common problems faster at a high-volume shop.

As for "pompous," I gotta contest that. It's true that I don't know Rangoussis beyond interacting with him at the press events, but I can tell you what I observed at HQ between events: He's the kind of guy who starts to get himself a coffee at the coffee-dispensing machine, then notices a half-dozen people have come out of a conference room and queued up behind him, and he turns around to hand out full cup after full cup, only fixing up his own after everyone else has one.

If you worry that the hobbyist base is not appreciated, I don't think that's so; IMHO, any sales exec appreciates any customer base contributing to sales. But the context of the conversation we were having (which I hoped had been clear due to putting Steve's quote right after Christian's paragraph) was about target markets.

hope that clears things up,

- Nick

Offline Nicholas Noe

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Re: Article series on Visiting Festool HQ and Factory in Germany
« Reply #22 on: June 12, 2015, 01:43 PM »
@Cheese

Ah, one more thing I forgot to mention (might appear in one of the articles, but since you asked): In the early days of Festool USA--around '04/'05, when the brand started to gain traction--the ballpark figures were 30% professional and 70% hobbyist. This is probably due to the fact that Festool's early U.S. distributor was Woodcraft.

The modern-day estimate, however, is 60% professional and 40% hobbyist, about 3:2. That fact coupled with the company's steady U.S. growth means that both bases have increased, but that the professional side is increasing faster. My guess is that trend will continue.

I also suspected that there were more hobbyists on the FOG than pro's, but that's probably just my perception, i.e. more to do with what topics I click on to read.

- Nick

Online Cheese

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Re: Article series on Visiting Festool HQ and Factory in Germany
« Reply #23 on: June 12, 2015, 02:00 PM »
@Nicholas Noe
OK, now I'm with you on this conversation.

In my own little mind I didn't correlate that the 1st paragraph & 2nd paragraphs were the same conversation. The picture between them kind of broke them into 2 separate discussions/statements.

Thanks for the input.

Offline Nicholas Noe

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Re: Article series on Visiting Festool HQ and Factory in Germany
« Reply #24 on: June 12, 2015, 06:32 PM »
Hi guys, the next one's up. This one covers the extensive testing and quality control the company does at their German facility in Neidlingen.

Part 6: Festool's Product Testing & Quality Control

I really regret that I can't show you some of the cooler things I saw, but photography inside the facility was strictly prohibited. So the photos in this one were provided by the company and are pretty limited. Suffice it to say they've got a team of people working on stuff that your average end-user might never think about. They devote a considerable amount of resources to testing and quality.

Something I found interesting and didn't write about (had to edit for length) is that what they call R&D facilities are different than what we Americans might think of. Rather than a skunkworks, Festool's R&D had a bunch of operations and rigs designed to beat the crap out of the existing tools--way beyond what I envision them undergoing even in daily use on a jobsite--to try to get them to fail so that they could fix it before it goes to market. Really cool to see.

Then again, when we walked into the facility they *did* have a blanket conspicuously thrown over something--roughly the size of four Systainers wide, maybe three deep--that we were dying to peek under, so maybe they do have a skunkworks hidden away in there. Naturally it was verboten for us to look under the blanket. With any luck we'll find out in future what was under there.

- Nick
« Last Edit: June 12, 2015, 06:45 PM by Nicholas Noe »