Investing in Ceramics: Not the Same Old Grind
Serving the U.S. MarketFor more than 20 years, the Retsch line had been represented in the U.S. by a number of different distributors. While the relationships with its agents were harmonious, the company felt it could do more. "The office was established because the U.S. market is probably one of the biggest—or the biggest—in the world," says Patricia Jung, president of Retsch, Inc. "We felt that, through our distributors, we were not as close to our customers as we would have liked to be." The subsidiary allows the company to interact directly with its U.S. customers, building and strengthening relationships first-hand.
Additionally, the distributors had focused on only a limited number of different products, instead of the whole range offered by the company. "We want to make sure our customers know of the entire Retsch product line that is available, and we also want to develop the market for our entire line," says Jung.
Retsch’s products have evolved based on the growing requirements of the industries it serves. "We have always adapted the line to the needs of our customers," says Jung. "Customers have contacted us and we have developed new instruments, or additional accessories for existing instruments, to fill their application needs. Since there are so many different products that all require special grinding mechanisms, we developed a whole line of grinders to be able to crush any kind of solid. Whether it’s plant material, bones, chemicals, fertilizers, powder coatings, feeds, ceramics or coal—anything that is solid, except for pure metals, can be ground in a Retsch mill."
The other segments of the company’s product line also emerged to better serve and anticipate the needs of its customers. "If you do size reduction [for lab analysis], very often it’s also necessary to do a volume reduction to ensure that the labs don’t receive a quantity of material that is too big for them to analyze," explains Jung. "The sample must be reduced in a representative manner, so [Retsch created] a line of sample dividers. When you’re dealing with powders, the next question is, ‘What is the particle size?’ So we also have quite an extensive line of sieve shakers for dry and wet sieving." The company also offers drying, feeding and cleaning equipment.
Try Before You BuySince the company’s equipment is used in such a wide variety of industries, and in different applications within those industries, choosing the best model can sometimes be daunting—unless you’re an expert. That’s why Retsch works closely with each of its customers to ensure proper equipment selection. "Some customers have small quantities to grind or big quantities, for example, and the feed sizes are different," explains Jung. "We believe that the customer should know before he buys that the instrument will satisfy his requirements."
To help that effort, the company created a no-cost customer testing laboratory. The lab includes equipment from the entire Retsch product line, and, without obligation, customers are encouraged to send in samples for analysis. Retsch also supplies application data sheets for customers to fill out. The completed sheets include information on what the material is, the sample volume, and the desired feed size and fineness. Additional information on the sample, such as any potential health hazards, should also be included. Finally, customers should specify the type of analysis that follows and how they are currently preparing the sample.
After studying the application data sheet information, the Retsch team determines which piece of equipment will best meet the customer’s requirements. They then run the specified analysis and return the ground sample to the customer, along with a test report. The customer can study the results and confirm the choice of equipment before the purchase is even made.
This is a win-win situation for everyone, according to Jung. "The customer knows that the equipment will do the job," she says. "We don’t just sell a product and then leave the customer alone. We want our customers to be satisfied, because our entire business has always been based on long-term relationships."