Americans call them countertops. In Europe they are known as worktops. Australians, on the other hand, dub them benchtops. At Lechner they call them something else entirely.
"We sell solutions," says Andreas Schmutzler, one of four managing directors of D. Lechner GmbH, located in Rothenburg, Germany. "Whether the customer needs a solid surface top with a decorative acrylic edge, quartz sink and aluminum wallsplash, or just a custom-fabricated postform laminate top, we can provide that solution delivered to his door anywhere in Germany in as little as 60 hours, and no later than one week."
Now that's saying something, especially when you consider Lechner produces, on average, 20,000 worktops per week for an active customer base of 6,000 companies. But that, says Schmutzler, is only part of the overall solution.
"Let's say a dealer buys a worktop from us and then finds out he ordered the wrong size due to his own mistake in measuring. No problem. We verify the new measurements, put the top into production and have it delivered to his door according to his time frame. The cost? No charge. We do that with every customer."
Have we gotten your attention yet? Wait. It gets even better.
Lechner operates its own trucking company, called Lerotrans, which exists solely to provide its uniquely exceptional brand of service to customers in all four corners of the German republic. To help offset costs, the company also accepts common carrier freight on return trips to the plant.
Lerotrans drivers are well schooled on how to present themselves to their customers, and are required to act accordingly. They also carry enormous key rings with hundreds of keys attached, each fitting a particular customer's door. In the event the delivery truck arrives after hours, the driver simply opens the door to the warehouse, offloads the order, turns off the lights and locks the door. The next morning Lechner's customer arrives to find his worktops stacked in the warehouse, ready for delivery.
Good Old-Fashioned German Engineering
The ever-expanding Lechner product line includes postformed laminate tops, solid wood, Caesarstone quartz surfacing, solid surface, solid acrylic edging, glass inserts, glass and metal wall splashes and a bevy of accessories for the kitchen. With the exception of Caesarstone, metal and tempered glass, all of these products are manufactured by Lechner, and all are made to order. "We don't stock any finished worktops," Schmutzler insists.
A major reason why Lechner is able to manufacture 20,000 custom worktops per week becomes evident once you step foot into the 550,000 sq.-ft. production facility. Everywhere you look there are roller tables conveying tops in all phases of manufacture through a maze of gluing machines, presses, CNC machining centers, edgebanders, and other various and assorted machinery. What you don't see a lot of is people -- at least not in this part of the plant.
"We believe in providing highly custom finish work on every worktop that leaves our factory," Schmutler explains, "and for that you need a lot of very good people. We also believe in using technology to perform repetitive and mundane tasks in order to improve quality and speed up the process. For that you need a lot of very good machinery."