A Better Signaling Solution

WERMA
Written by Claire Suttles

WERMA delivers intelligent signal technology to keep operations running safely and efficiently. Founded in 1950, the German-based business boasts subsidiaries throughout Europe as well as in China and the United States. Manufacturing in Focus sat down with Udo Skarke, General Manager of WERMA USA, located in Norcross, Georgia, to learn more about the company’s latest technology and strategies for success.

What sets WERMA apart from the competition? “The biggest differentiation between our products and our competitors’ is that we are usually always a step ahead as far as innovation in the product,” Skarke says. “These are features you may not see immediately, but when you look behind the product at the testing specifications, other features, things that the product can do, they always have some unique selling points, unique character, that our competitors did not think of.”

To create these unique products, the team takes on the customer’s perspective. “We keep in mind, what is the client really looking for?” he says. “What can the client benefit from? What’s needed in the market? And [we] execute accordingly.”

Balancing creativity with simplicity is another point of difference. The company’s solutions are “very simple, but clever at the same time,” Skarke says. “‘Clever solutions that simply work’—that’s a slogan we have.” As a result, WERMA products are both user-friendly and effective. It is imperative not to “make it unnecessarily complicated.”

eSIGN, a new signal tower product, is raising the bar for the entire industry. “That was a perfect example where we really set the new standard,” says Skarke. “We came out in the mid-90s with what we call a modular stack light, allowing customers to actually buy individual modules and put the stack lights together themselves based on the color configurations they wanted to have. With the eSIGN, we took that [in a] completely different direction.”

The product configures colors electronically, so customers can buy one product and program it to meet their unique needs, rather than making the change manually. What if, for example, a customer is dealing with six applications? They can simply program the one product six ways to fulfill each one of those applications. Because of this electronic modulation, the consumer does not have to worry about buying the correct color combinations. “You can’t go wrong,” Skarke points out.

That is not all. “There are a lot of features hidden in the software where you would not see them initially,” he says. Unlike a conventional stack light, “We have different modes—how you can program the light—so that it is literally not just a stack light signaling the status of a machine. Now, with these modes, you’re able to also utilize it for things like leveling mode where you can indicate, let’s say, a level in a vat.”

This forward-thinking product can also be used as a timer, where the light changes to indicate each number in the countdown. “It’s really a signal tower,” explains Skarke. “That’s what we call it, because it can signal so many different things besides just the status of a machine. So that’s what’s revolutionary; it’s not a normal stack light anymore.”

WERMA will be unveiling several exciting new products at this year’s International Manufacturing Technology Show, IMTS 2024. One of these products is RST 56, a new series of stack lights that has been launched worldwide this year.

“It fits a nice niche,” Skarke says. Before RST 56, WERMA stack lights ranged in size from 37mm in diameter all the way up to 70mm, but the company did not offer any recent designs in the 50mm or 60mm size range, “which seems like an industry preference in a lot of applications. So that was really the main reason we needed to fill that gap.”

As with all WERMA products, the team focused on “simple solutions,” when it came to designing the RST 56 series. “It’s a 24-volt solution with an M12 connect. It’s a pre-assembled light, and it has a total of 18 SKUs or so, so it’s very simple for a consumer to purchase these products. It’s basically a one-click shop for these products, and it covers literally the majority of what the market is looking for today in regular stack lights.”

The company works hard to stay abreast of the latest technology and trends to deliver exactly what the market needs. “Definitely the electronic modularity of our products is key,” says Skarke. The company is also keeping a close eye on interfaces. “Industrial interfaces are very crucial—how you link sensors of any kind to an automation line these days [is crucial].”

WERMA is also focused on getting the word out about the company’s products. “WERMA can look back at a 75-year history but we are fairly new to the U.S. market; we started in 2012. So I think that the biggest challenge WERMA has in the United States is really brand and name recognition. This is obviously the goal.” The team wants to gain its fair share of the market, “because we do believe that we have a superior product.”

Even though the brand is relatively new to the United States, WERMA products have been catching on remarkably fast. “I would say it resonates with our clients,” Skarke says. “They see the value in our response, our fantastic service, our availability of the product—which was key over the last few years—and also the superior quality product. I mean, it just works.”

Word-of-mouth has certainly helped build WERMA’s reputation in the United States as a company that delivers a hassle-free solution, which wins over more and more customers. “That reputation in the market, you can’t put a dollar value on that,” says Skarke.

Products that are “out of sight, out of mind,” and “pain-free,” are always in demand. “I think that’s really our concept for success,” he says. “It has been in Europe and has been here for years. We have very healthy growth, which is a nice thing to see. [We are] finding new partners on a regular basis.”

Looking ahead, the company plans to continue its efforts to increase awareness of the WERMA brand. The company is “working on our network to get the proper exposure that allows us to continue to grow. Since we already captured the title of being the largest signaling device manufacturer in Europe, the goal obviously is to do this worldwide.”

Specifically, WERMA is the largest signaling device manufacturer “as far as product diversification,” Skarke says. “We have, right now, over 2,500 different products in our product portfolio, and everything is just focusing on signaling.”

As WERMA continues its expansion within the United States to deliver this diverse product range to more customers, the company will maintain its tried-and-true strategy and will “stick to our roots with our core products,” he says. With nearly 75 years of growth already accomplished, this seems a sure-fire path to future success.

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