"You need to put passion into everything you do; that's the only way to do it well" These are the words Hermann Merz uses to underline what makes his activity stand apart from the crowd. Whether it’s the relationship with workers or clients, or investment in technology, master joiners put their whole selves into their work by placing people at the centre.
I got to the meeting at the Merz joinery workshop in Aichach in Bavaria, a few minutes ahead of schedule. But here respect is shown for other people's time and I was not kept waiting. While waiting a few moments for the managing director, an employee led me across an incredibly large showroom before climbing the outstanding glass and wood staircase that leads to the penthouse". Once up there, I sat down and spotted an enormous kitchen on display. It had every accessory you could imagine. Remarkable! Frontal pieces with no handles, everywhere I looked. While I imagined that everything opened electrically with a simple touch (as clearly it did) Hermann Merz appeared.
I know from a few preliminary conversations that the master joiner had changed a number of things in the company, which is precisely why I was visiting. As a result, I thought I would be meeting with someone stressed, always with his smartphone to hand and an eye on the clock. I couldn't have been more wrong. He welcomed me warmly with a friendly smile and a firm handshake and we started talking straight away. Initially, the main reason behind my visit to the workshop, the state-of-the-art production technology, took a back seat.
Hermann Merz told me in which direction he feels client demand will head in the joinery industry and how he intends to configure his company in the future in line with this scenario.
Merz splits potential clients into two groups. Price can be their key factor so they are simply looking for something low cost. "That is not our target market". Or we are talking about something unusual and exclusive. This is the ideal environment for the master joiner, who states: "Clients are increasingly turning to the web to take an initial look. But then they want to get a closer look, try out the product and get a feel for it. Anyone without a showroom, in my opinion, will pay the consequences in the long run". This is why Merz expanded his showroom last year, bringing it to 1,500 m². This is where we can show off everything the company has to offer: furniture and accessories for quality interiors. kitchens, bedroom furniture, work environments and internally produced stairs and doors for homes.
The joinery team includes 24 employees, six of whom are apprentices and three master joiners. "Each individual colleague is essential. It is like a football team and applies to each and every position, from the manager to the person doing the cleaning. Only together are we great".
As a result, Hermann Merz and his wife Monika do everything they can to provide their employees in the workshop and office with an ideal, modern work environment: "On the one hand it is extremely difficult to find a valid workforce and, on the other, we would like to ensure that the older members of staff stay with us as long as possible and in good health, providing us with their priceless skills. Obviously, training also plays a key role for us".
Last year, along with a considerable expansion of the offices, there was a complete reconfiguration of production. We aim to achieve continuity and automated processes from design right up to production. In this context, Hermann Merz highlights: "We invest in machinery and software in order to expand with the same number of employees and hope to be equipped to deal with future challenges". On the subject of the future: His son Mathias (25) is a fundamental figure. He is the fourth generation in the family business and has already made a significant contribution in the transition towards new technology.
For a number of years, Hermann Merz has focused on his trustworthy partnership with SCM, investing in the most up-to-date technology.
The heart of the new production is the morbidelli n100 CNC machining centre with aluminium surface and 4.3 x 2.1 m work field; milling, sheet cutting and drilling work is all done on a single machine.
This machine is integrated with an automatic magazine which deals with unmanned preparation of incoming pieces, including labelling. Once the work is complete, the components of the piece of furniture are unloaded from the machine and are ready for the edge machining.
Merz also invested in this field: the new SCM stefani kd edge bander has an automatic return of panels and is fitted with AirFusion+ gluing technology to melt the laser edges with hot air.
The new morbidelli m200 CNC 5-axis machining centre also offers the joinery workshop complete freedom and flexibility for any solid wood and panel processing.
Continuity is also the key word for the SCM digital solutions which, as in the case of Merz, with the aid of MSL (Maestro Scripting Language) language, allow for a complete compatibility with all the third party CAD/CAM design software.
Credits text and photos: Christian Närdemann, BM 5/2019