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Elliott Matsuura’s Frank Haydar on the critical need to provide prompt customer service and support

SHOP: You have been in this industry a long time. What would you say has been the most important change you’ve seen within your customer base?
HAYDAR: They are lot more knowledgeable with respect to the ever changing, complex and improving technology and so they are a lot more demanding. They are also understanding the need for automation and lights out manufacturing. 


SHOP: How has Elliott Matsuura had to change over this time span to respond to the change within its customer base?
HAYDAR: We have had to adjust to understand our changing customer needs and requirements.  Customer requirements are a lot more complicated today and we provide “solutions” as opposed to just selling commodity machine tools.


SHOP: About 10 years ago in an industry interview you commented that Canadian manufacturers are not competitive enough and as a result work is going elsewhere. You said we need to find ways to make Canadian manufacturers more competitive globally. Where do we stand ten years later? Are Canadian manufacturers better or worse off than they were when you made those comments?
HAYDAR: Canadian manufacturers have very definitely made strides and progress and have started to see the light with the productivity improvements that automation brings. This is especially true with one of the biggest challenges in the industry today being the lack of skilled labour.


SHOP: Has the pandemic caused a sizeable surge in interest for automation? If so, do you see this as a lasting trend for Canadian manufacturers?
HAYDAR: I believe this trend towards automation will continue to gather steam as the years go on.


SHOP: How far can automation technology go towards alleviating the skilled trades problem?
HAYDAR: Obviously, it will help as you will not require the same number of skilled help and/or machine operators.


SHOP: What have been the most essential things Elliott Matsuura has done over the past decade to improve the global competitiveness of Canadian manufacturers?
HAYDAR: There are several things that we have undertaken:
a) Continuing to educate and improve our own personnel in order to be able to help and guide our customers by providing the best solutions and answers to meet their objectives. 
b) Representing a few automation and robotic firms to improve our customers competitiveness with a “one stop shop.” 
c) Continually partnering with “brand” manufacturers that have a reputation for quality and reliable equipment.


SHOP: Of course, your customers have to be willing to meet you halfway; they have to be willing to invest. Many Canadian manufacturers are small and studies show they tend to be slower than their U.S. counterparts to invest in new technologies. Have you found this to be true and how do you combat it?
HAYDAR: Yes, still definitely true with respect to investment against our American counterparts. It is fact that our Canadian manufacturing sector is of course much, much smaller than the U.S. market. Having said that, Canadian customers are starting to understand the importance of productivity advantages, which translates into profitability gains. Automation, machines with additional pallets, and robotics for lights out production are important elements to increased productivity.  


SHOP: Is access to capital still a factor given the small size of many Canadian manufacturers? Does it require companies such as Elliott Matsuura to get creative with their customers to make deals happen?
HAYDAR: Absolutely, in my opinion one of the major competitive advantages that Elliott Matsuura has over our competitors is that we are able to offer “preapproved financing/leasing” agreements (in most cases) to small and medium-sized machine shops at extremely competitive rates. We try to make the transaction as affordable as we can to enable the customer to finalize a purchase.


SHOP: Half of your employees are in direct service. What does “service” encompass for Elliott Matsuura? 
HAYDAR: That is one of the very first conscious decisions we made as a management team 40+ years ago. We wanted to provide the best, and prompt service and support are critical to the success of customers and our company. We preach this fact to all our team members regardless of their position. We recognize that if a machine goes down, the customer is in trouble. Not being in production causes issues and in turn they fall behind in their deliveries to their respective customers and at the same time they incur additional costs by paying operators for idle and non-productive time.


SHOP: How did you manage to provide support during the pandemic and did that create any new ways to provide support that you see continuing to use after the pandemic?
HAYDAR: As an essential business during Covid we did so very carefully. We have a sufficient number of service and application technicians and we asked our team members on a volunteer basis to visit and respect all government and health protocols when at a customer’s facility. 


SHOP: What was behind Elliott Matsuura’s recent decision to support Renishaw’s additive manufacturing offerings? What’s the future for additive manufacturing in Canada?
HAYDAR: First and foremost, our excellent relationship with Renishaw and the “brand” recognition. Renishaw approached Elliott and we both agreed that this should be a win/win opportunity for both parties. It’s a great opportunity for entry into the additive world to complement the Matsuura Lumex brand while at the same time not being a direct competitor to Renishaw. Renishaw gets the Elliott coast to coast sales distribution channel. 


SHOP: In all the years you’ve spent in this industry what would you consider to be the single most important lesson you’ve learned?
HAYDAR: Response time is critical today, even if you do not have the required answers. By doing that among other things, you build customer confidence and cement relationships. You build credibility and trust by representing reputable and reliable machine tool manufacturers, being in position to provide the best manufacturing solution to enable the customer to achieve success, and by providing a great level of service and support coupled with affordable financing options. In simple English, do what you said you were going to do! SMT

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