After the success of CADTOOL in the vocational education system, I had to take a decision regarding the next step. Although we were making good money, I knew that I could not stay only in the educational market – it was too limiting with small potential for growth. I decided that we have to go to the industrial market.
The target for visiting the EMO was to locate potential resellers for CADTOOL/NCTOOL in Germany. The most likely potential resellers were CNC machine tool resellers, who could sell our software together with their CNC machines. The exhibition was 10 days long and we moved from one booth to next, trying to convince machine tool resellers to represent us in Germany. We had good results: 3 fairly sized resellers were interested to become CADTOOL/NCTOOL resellers – it seems that the machine tool resellers were starting to realize that customers need CAD/CAM software to program their CNC machines, rather than programming the hard way, using machine code, on the machine controller. In the last day of the exhibition, we met another interested small machine tool reseller from South Germany, called “CNC Team”. After the 3 bigger potential resellers that we had met earlier, CNC Team was really not so interesting – anyway when we left their booth, one of the owners, Mr. Mantel, gave me a map of their location in South Germany. Actually, thinking about the potential of the other three bigger resellers that I had already met, I was not so keen to continue the contact with CNC Team.
After the EMO exhibition, I decided to take a few days holiday in order to visit the picturesque town of Baden-Baden, located in the area of Black Forest (Schwarzwald) in South Germany, and famous for its scenery, casino and spas – it was the playhouse of rich European people. I wanted to enjoy their famous spa – the Roman-Irish baths – and to do some gambling at their beautiful casino. It was a long trip, crossing nearly all of Germany from North to South.swr
As I arrived to the Schwarzwald, remembering about the map that Mr. Mantel from CNC Team has given me at the EMO, I looked it up and saw that actually CNC team was located at Monchweiler, a small town in the heart of the Black Forest. I thought if they are anyway on my way, I might as well pay them a visit. It was a Saturday and I did not know whether they would be open or not. I decided to give it a try and I called them through a public phone. Mr. Mantel told me they were open and I could visit them to demonstrate CADTOOL/NCTOOL.
I went to the offices of CNC Team and met there Mr. Mantel. Then I started a demonstration of our CADTOOL/NCTOOL system to Mr. Mantel and one of his employees, Gerhard Laegeler. I made a 2D drawing with CADTOOL and then defined the machining operations with NCTOOL. I then generated the Gcode program to be transmitted to the controller of their CNC machine. CNC Team was the distributor in Germany of the Japanese Kitamura CNC machine. After the Gcode program was uploaded to the Fanuc controller of the Kitamura machine, the operator made a dry run of the program in the air to see the resulting tool path movements. Mr. Mantel and Gerhard Laegeler were satisfied with the result and Mr. Mantel said to me in his broken English – I take it!! It was a successful visit and demonstration and I continued from CNC Team offices to Baden-Baden to spend a few nice days there in their SPA and Casino. So CNC Team became our first international reseller. Germany was an important industrial country with a lot of CNC machining customers. CNC Team planned to sell CADTOOL/NCTOOL to their existing Kitamura machine customers and also to new customers who would buy our CAD/CAM system either with a new Kitamura machine or for their existing machine.
Regarding the other three potential resellers that I have met also at the EMO, it did not work out with any of them! So CNC Team was the net result of our first International adventure. Many years later I would discover that the employee of CNC Team, who was watching the demonstration together with Mr. Mantel and who whispered in his ear to take our system, was Gerhard Laegeler, who would eventually play a major role in our eventual dominance in The German market.
So if I had not decided to go to Baden-Baden for fun, I would not have visited CNC Team, recruiting them as our Reseller and eventually getting their employee, Gerhard Laegeler, as our main manager in Germany, that built together with me the powerful company SolidCAM GmbH, that is one of the main CAM leaders in Germany today. So if you mix business with pleasure, you can get both in big amounts!
SolidCAM GmbH has 70 staff today and 7 offices all over Germany, with headquarters in Schramberg. We also have a main technology center in Schramberg and 2 additional technology centers in the other offices. Germany is today is the biggest CAM market for SolidCAM, with 4,500 customers.