Service at its core

By Emily Vasquez

New technology makes old school customer service easy for saw blade maker

January 2015 - For Lenox it’s all about face time. As the need for lower prices and higher quality tooling grows, Lenox upped the ante by combining new technology with old-fashioned face-to-face interaction. 

Based in East Longmeadow, Massachusetts, Lenox has made hacksaw blades since 1910, expanding its tooling to over 70 countries. But as the manufacturing industry advances, so do the needs of each customer. While the industry has improved since the Great Recession, the economic decline forced companies to re-evaluate business strategies and find places to cut costs. Often band saw maintenance becomes low priority, which can cause major clogs in finished product delivery and ultimately raise costs. 

More than just a band saw 

Glenn Tatro, senior sales manager and director of technical services at Lenox, has 35 years’ experience in the sawing industry, which allowed him to notice a recurring trend, namely: “The band saw is the most neglected piece of equipment in the plant. The maintenance is poor, they run it down, they run it until it won’t run anymore and then they search for people who can help them with their problems.” 

Claiming to have the largest service team in North America, Lenox goes beyond selling blades. It also trains operators to run the band saw correctly. Lenox’s team is equipped to address customers’ maintenance issues, many of which they aren’t even aware. Lenox’s technical and operational support was created in 1965 with just one member. Then known as Technical Services Group, Lenox renamed it the Sawing Solutions Group this past November in order to accurately reflect the expertise of its applications specialists.

Matt Lacroix, director of marketing and global business team leader, summarized the goal to provide practical customer service. “We’re trying to come in and understand [the saw user’s] work operation and process, and ultimately design a solution that’s going to help them lower their total [production] cost. So it’s not about the one saw. How are we going to help them find the right product? Find the right preventive maintenance schedule? Are we going to put a training program in place for operators?” 


It isn’t always easy to communicate to customers how important it is to design and manage a healthy maintenance routine. “We’ve come across two types of people, people who saw for a living and people who don’t saw for a living,” Tatro explains. “The people that don’t saw for a living do not understand the value of buying the right product for the right application and just want to know what the price is, versus the people who do saw for a living who understand that they’ve done everything they can to reduce cost.” Lenox application specialists model programs to reduce cost without raising prices.

Value of education

With an average tenure of 17 years, each Sawing Solutions Group member is trained and cross-trained to stay current with the latest sawing technology. In 2010, the company opened the Lenox Institute of Technology to educate its internal staff, distributors and customers on the latest metal-cutting techniques and operational strategies. Based on field experience, instructors offer students hands-on learning, online resources and help coordinate on-site training with sales representatives and applications specialists. 

Long-standing relationships with customers are a crucial component of optimizing service, says Lacroix. “[The customer] can pick up the phone and tell the guys, ‘Hey, we’ve encountered this tough material, we are having challenges with it and we’re not sure how to cut it. Can you swing by and help us understand this a little bit better?’” Applications specialists are available nationwide to stop into a customer’s plant within 24 hours of receiving that call for help.

Regardless of the initial problem, Lenox conducts an additional 13-point inspection, checking for a solution for the current problem and addressing any issues that might cause substantial downtimes in the future. This is part of Lenox’s mission to teach customers the importance of preventive maintenance. It isn’t just about selling a part but rather educating the customer to use the part to its maximum capacity and increasing lifespan, Lacroix stresses. 

“A lot of times people get busy. They want to cut, cut, cut, and they don’t want to stop the saw. Just like your car, if you run it into the ground, eventually something’s going to break.” What would have been planned downtime can quickly become a catastrophic failure, causing weeks of downtime, adds Lacroix.

Last year, Matt J. McDonald Steel Co., Boston, had mechanical problems with its sawing equipment. “My tool steel plate saw started snapping at an alarming rate,” states Mark McDonald, plant manager. To remedy the issue, McDonald called the plate saw manufacturer to no avail, as FFJ-0115-sawing-image2the vendor wanted to fly the troubleshooter out on McDonald’s dime. McDonald declined but called Lenox’s distributor and had an applications specialist into the shop the following day without charge. After a half hour of evaluating the machine, the part was replaced within 24 hours. 

One blade does not fit all

Avoiding unplanned downtime is crucial to uninterrupted output. Lenox has expanded its use of various technologies to make sure every customer gets immediate results. Every visit, applications specialists bring an iPad, ready to analyze the situation and advise plant managers. SawCalc software puts technical know-how in the palm of an operator’s hand. Applications specialists can use SawCalc to identify the correct blade and sawing parameters by inputting specific material characteristics and machine model. 

A.M. Castle & Co., Franklin Park, Illinois, found that its existing blade was no longer meeting cutting objectives. Lenox evaluated the blade using SawCalc and found an alternative blade was better suited to cutting stainless steel. Lenox applications specialists trained operators how to run the blade and included a trial run. Castle ultimately cut sawing time in half. 

A free, web-based program with a simple interface, SawCalc encompasses over 9,000 machines and 5,000 metal products, creating a visual for customers to compare competitors’ costs and demonstrate how the “one blade fits all” model can become a costly mistake in the long run. “If you give SawCalc the parameters, it can tell you how long it should take to make your cuts. You can then enter the parameters for the blade they are using and it will give a side-by-side comparison,” says Tatro. SawCalc reveals time loss from using the same blade for every order, says Tatro, adding that a half hour of additional cutting time can cost hundreds of dollars hourly for a shop.

Although Lenox’s technology is evolving, these partnerships are strengthened by face-to-face visits and footwork done by the applications specialists, he says. Lenox’s goal is to show the customer how to evolve as well, hoping to reduce the long-standing mentality to maintain the same operations from decades past just “because we always have run it that way.” 

“We don’t care if we sell you 50 less blades than last year, we want to make sure you are getting the efficiency and productivity that you need and lower your costs, because we are looking for long-term customers.” The technology allows Lenox to make that happen. FFJ



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