May 152007
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We were fortunate to have Dan Durant of Festool on hand demonstrating the impressive line of Festool tools during the Highland Woodworking Spring Tool Sale on May 5th. Then last week on a trip to see my daughter who is studying in Germany, my wife and I had the opportunity to visit the Festool factory. Festool is a world-renowned tool manufacturer known for its high quality, precision and reliability. The factory is located in Wendlingen, a beautiful small town south of Stuttgart. Mr. Raichle, a representative for Festool, greeted us and kindly gave us a complete tour of the factory.

First, we visited the manufacturing section where we found the heart of Festool, the motor. They cast their own motor housing and wind the armature after turning the shafts with zero tolerance. Festool feels that the motor is the most essential part of any of their tools, and therefore will never outsource its production.

We then proceeded to the assembly division. Every tool has its own U-shaped assembly line. Mr. Raichle explained that this was a new concept for Germany and Festool. With the U-shaped assembly line the workers stand inside the U and parts are loaded from the backside. The U-shaped assembly line is very efficient. Festool went to Japan to Toyota and studied their manufacturing techniques. Along with the U-shaped assembly line, Festool started a “just in time” parts program. Mr. Raichle explained that the non-manufactured parts come into the factory up to four times a day depending on demand. Workers replenish parts for the assembly line. The supplier supplies parts on consignment, paid only for each delivery. This new system has doubled Festool’s efficiency and improved the quality control. Festool is selling their knowledge about manufacturing, assemblage, and just in time parts programs to other manufacturers in Germany and England.

U-shaped assembly line

Another unique part of the assembly line is the demand cards system that dictates the workers’ hours. Festool employs workers on a demand basis. Each section in the plant has a demand board, which tells the workers what specific tool needs assembling or parts manufactured. Depending on the quantity demand, one to eight technicians perform the necessary assemblage of any tool. When there are no cards on the board, the workers go home.

Festool has great respect for ideas offered by their employees and encourages their input. The workers receive extra money for their ideas. We saw several ideas by workers that are now a part of the production process. We also got a sneak preview of some of the new tools Festool will be offering. We saw a compound sliding miter saw with a dual laser. You are going to love the chop box when it gets here later this year. We also saw a portable tablesaw with the precision of a stationary saw. They did not know when this tablesaw would get to the USA, but hopefully it will be soon.

We left the factory with a new appreciation of one of the world’s great tools. Check ’em out in our new catalog or online on our website. As one customer of Highland Woodworking told me before I left for Germany, his fellow workers would drive to the jobsite in big new trucks with their cheaper tools, while he drove an old truck but had the best tools to do the job. He said while their tools would wear out from use, his Festool tools where always reliable. I guess it true when they say, “The bitterness of poor quality lingers long after the sweetness of cheap price is forgotten”.

Shop for Festool at Highland Woodworking.


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