Starrett and their South African representative First Cut have enjoyed a remarkable 40-year-long partnership. The former, a world-renowned and leading manufacturer of industrial blades and metrology equipment and the latter, South Africa’s foremost distributor of cutting consumables and capital equipment.
The longevity and success of this relationship
The first and most obvious similarity is that both companies have a supreme dedication to quality. To give an example, both companies market and manufacture saw blades, among other products. These blades range from very large bandsaw blades down to conventional DIY hacksaw blades. In the world of saw blades, there are certainly cheaper options.
“However, cheap blades are a false economy as their lifetime is limited. While our mutual blade brands target the premium end of the market, their durable quality and consequent longer life ultimately makes them a more cost-effective choice,” says General Sales Manager of Starrett in the UK, Donald Miller.
A further similarity lies in the level of service which both companies offer. Since founder Laroy S. Starrett created the Starrett company in 1880, the combination of excellent products and a strong service ethic has seen the company grow into a global organisation.
First Cut, for its part, bases its business model on an equilateral triangle, with cutting consumables – the historical foundation of the business – and capital equipment forming two of its three sides. Importantly service – crucially important to this business – provides the vital support base for this triangular business structure paradigm.
Starrett and First Cut have followed similar growth trajectories too, with each looking to innovation and diversification of their product offerings to expand their operations. Throughout its existence, Starrett has both developed new products in-house and also acquired companies with products which would expand the company’s offering. First Cut has adopted a similar policy; the most notable decision taking place in the early 2000s when it expanded from being a supplier of cutting consumables only, to being a distributor of world-leading cutting capital equipment.
Starrett UK, based in Jedburgh, Scotland, was founded in 1958 – some two years after the company that was to become First Cut was founded in South Africa. During the course of the relationship, the Scottish company has been the epicentre of Starett’s UK and European operations; and also has been – and remains – pivotal to First Cut’s relationship with Starrett.
“I was very pleased with what I saw during my visit to South Africa in October this year,” explains Miller. He points out that he was very encouraged by the positive attitudes to business that he encountered when he visited a number of First Cut’s local customers.
“It is really good to see that South Africa’s economic outlook has improved; and that there is an energetic and positive manufacturing mindset prevailing,” he says.
Miller furthermore remarks that continued customer loyalty has been gratifying. “Today, in 2018, South African support for Starrett is stronger than ever, which is a tremendous accolade and endorsement of our quality and First Cut’s service and customer relationships,” he asserts.
Miller comments that, alongside Brazil, Starrett sees South Africa as one of its largest global growth opportunities. This growth would be both in the blade business and in measuring equipment, with the Jedburgh facility providing the springboard for this impetus.
For its part, the Jedburgh facility has made major investment in new manufacturing capability, to augment and strengthen its suite of conventional cutting and measuring equipment. The Scottish plant’s manufacturing strength is also supported by a very sophisticated logistics system, which provides a highly effective conduit of product to the company’s global partners and representatives, including to First Cut in South Africa.
This network is essential, as Starrett now has facilities in Spain, Portugal and France – as well as three partners in Russia – two in industrial sawing and one in metrology.
Further to Starrett’s global growth, the company has established bases in the Far East – in China, Japan, Taiwan, Korea and Singapore. “The manufacturing in China is closely monitored to ensure that its quality matches Starrett’s global standards,” he explains.
With the world apparently shaking off the effects of an extended global recession, the question for Miller is how to build resilience into a company so it can weather any future economic downturns.
“Extending the synergy model and parallels drawn previously, if one looks at Starrett and First Cut, both companies have followed a judicious yet robust growth policy: firstly by adding products related to our respective existing portfolios; and secondly, through acquisition where the synergies and benefits are obvious.
Importantly, our mutual dedication to quality has seen both our companies weathering previous economic cycles successfully,” he adds.
Regarding First Cut, Miller comments: “We need to know that that our local partners buy into the Starrett operational ethos; and will mirror what we do internationally in their own operation. Worldwide, First Cut really stands out as one of those in‑country partners with real synergy and buy‑in,” he continues.
“We appreciate the vision, insight and effort which First Cut’s management has put into sustaining the Starrett brand through good and through challenging times. They have given us excellent local support and feedback; and have never taken the easy route – but rather, have always opted for quality and the proper way of doing things.”
“In the light of this, we look forward to a continued successful relationship with First Cut, and the prospect of growing our footprint in sub-Saharan Africa while employing the synergy between our two companies for our mutual prosperity in future,” Miller concludes.