In order to perfect our product line and the service we provide to our customers, GWS Tool Group continually analyzes the feedback we receive from our end users, distributors and employees. As the New Year approaches, we’d like to take this opportunity to share with you some of our findings, look at some industry trends and provide an overview of our plans for 2020.
Election years always bring a degree of uncertainty to the marketplace. The upcoming year will certainly be no exception. While this may affect buying decisions in some industry segments, we see our core markets of aerospace and medical remaining strong, with a large backlog of demand for high-quality machined components.
Our right-sized business model, coupled with a strong customer base, makes it unlikely that any economic slowdown will affect our business or keep us from our goals of adding value and providing superior products to our end users. In fact, we believe we will thrive in the new year, with strong growth in both market share and additional business opportunities.
Product Line Performance
The past year saw solid growth in the sales of standard tools from our catalog. That being said, our specialization in custom tools continues to pay dividends and remains central to our value proposition. Our ability to engineer a tool that is a perfect fit for a unique application is vital to our customers’ productivity and profit. Continuous advancements in aerospace and medical science, along with progression in manufacturing technologies, means that demand for custom tools will remain a strong growth area for us in the future.
At the same time, we listen carefully to our customers and distributors to determine which of our custom products can cross over from custom to catalog. Examples in 2019 include the AlloyCat whiskered ceramic inserts for high-temp alloys and high feed mills for Titanium alloys and 5-axis machining.
For 2020, we will be releasing two previously custom items to the catalog: a line of 6-flute variable index milling cutters for steel, stainless and high temperature alloys; and another high efficiency milling end mill for Titanium, featuring all new substrate and new heat-diffusing tool geometry.
Tech to Free Up Workforce
Industry 4.0, the digitalization of the manufacturing process that connects machines with networks so data can be shared and analyzed, continues to gain traction with our customers. Data logging allows patterns over time to emerge. These can be studied so that procedures can be adjusted to eliminate inefficiencies.
Rather than reducing the number of employees, automation seems to be more of a measure to make up for the shortage of workers caused by the skills gap. It is used to perform simple tasks, freeing up a worker to be re-trained and promoted to a higher-level operational position. This model is a win-win-win for the employer, employee and production. This trend will become more pronounced as skilled Baby Boomers retire. The skills gap is a challenge at GWS, just as it is in all of manufacturing, so we use the same multi-pronged approach as many of our customers to address it.
Revamped Distribution Model
You will see a new look in our distribution network in the New Year. We will be leaning in with our distributor partners who make it clear they want to lean in with us. This will mean working with a leaner, more mobile network, but one in which every member is in lockstep with us and our target end users.
We will continue our practice of purchasing equipment that will give us new capabilities or improve our throughput for both product and quality control processes. A good example is our plan to bring onboard more tool coating vessels in 2020. Increased automation is also on our to-do list for 2020, along with more i4.0-ready machines that communicate directly with our state-of-the-art machining centers.
Finding opportunities to acquire organizations that will expand our geographic reach or extend our product capabilities will continue in 2020. We can’t give specifics, but any company we consider will continue to be judged on two criteria: alignment with our value proposition and product quality beyond reproach. At the end of the day, quality drives value for our customers.
A Great Year Ahead
Frankly, we are pumped up and totally optimistic about the approaching year. We have great clients; we are poised and ready to serve them with our world class distributor partners and we’re ready to invest in whatever is necessary to deliver our promised value to our customers.
2020 also brings the energizing effect of looking forward to another visit to Chicago for IMTS. In anticipation of a large volume of traffic, we have already upgraded our presence with a bigger booth in a better location. We hope to see you there and look forward to the opportunity to discuss your unique tooling needs in person over a beer or mimosa.
As always, if there’s a GWS product you’d like to discuss right away, contact us anytime.