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A breath of fresh air at
General Motors

Interview with Bill Eppich, Vice President WEISS North America


Mr. Eppich, you are Vice President at WEISS North America and have been responsible for the company's operations for years. On the American continent, WEISS products are marketed solely by your enterprise. Now you are also exclusively supplying a giant in the automotive industry, General Motors. What exactly does this involve?

 B. EPPICH We are the exclusive and strategic partner to General Motors for body assembly systems - i.e. rotary index table systems, which we will install at GM within a period of three years. And this is not restricted to just one site. In fact, we will be supplying all the US production facilities. As such, Opel in Europe is not included, although Opel is already a customer of WEISS Germany anyway (laughs).
So what does this mean in terms of figures?

 B. EPPICH We are currently anticipating a volume of more than 70 CR heavy duty tables for the passenger and commercial vehicle range. Electromechanical TC tables are also an option. Taken over the entire term of the contract, we are looking at a seven-figure deal here.

How did the tender process go?

 B. EPPICH The bar was set very high in terms of the selection criteria. It was an unbelievably tough competitive situation. It is important to remember that pretty much every large, established US vendor wanted a piece of the action. So before the final contract was awarded,
we went through a detailed qualification process in both the US and Germany. Our products, engineering, design, and technological capabilities were all tested here. When all was said and done, we came out well ahead of the competition.

So what was it that made the difference?

 B. EPPICH There was no single factor that swayed the balance. Instead, we scored highly in various fields. Perhaps the most important aspects were the compact overall dimensions and the fast emergency stop function of our CR range. Together, these features allow GM to save valuable production space, as the safety clearance distance to the system can be reduced. This obviously lowers total costs as well. Another key fact is that production output increases with our solutions – as our speeds are quite simply amazing.

So the price was not the key factor?

 B. EPPICH No. Our offer, our service and our product philosophy create added value which goes beyond the purchase price. You see, thanks to our quality, we can offer guarantees that you will not find anywhere else. Once a production system of this kind is at standstill because a rotary table has failed, this quickly eats through money. This is something that the managers at GM consider very carefully before awarding any contract.

Besides this, all of our freely programmable products are designed to be capable of being reused in a new system context. So the purchase will pay off over an extended time period.

Is the fact that your products are "Made in Germany" also an advantage
in the US?

 B. EPPICH Products that are manufactured in Germany are definitely viewed as high grade in the automation industry. Of course, the market works quite differently here than in Europe. For example, Rockwell is pretty much the control system standard over here. So we are absolutely delighted about the excellent partnership with our new colleagues from Milwaukee.

Mr. Eppich, America was hit hard by the global economic crisis. How is business now?

 B. EPPICH We had a solid foundation. And now? Well, we are in an even better position than we were two years ago. Demand is constantly on the rise, and we have new faces both in sales and control system development. We also have a clear growth objective for 2011.