One company in Virginia Beach, Va. provides the means to help trim the great outdoors. Lorie Russo reports.
Saws helped to make the logging industry boom, but it wasn’t until the invention of the first portable chain saw that loggers realized great profits in their tree cutting ventures. Today the chain saw, along with a variety of portable outdoor power tools, are vital components for landscapers and homeowners in their quest for the perfect yard.
One company leads the way in the industry and that company is STIHL. Its history began 75 years ago when the German engineer, Andreas Stihl, began looking for an easier way to fell and buck trees. Mr. Stihl saw the difficulty in the forest industry for felling trees and that’s ostensibly how the company started, says Peter Burton, vice president of sales and marketing. In1937, Mr. Stihl visited North America with five saws. Loggers in Canada and the United States were as quick to recognize the quality and innovations of STIHL chain saws as did their counterparts in Europe. The STIHL brand became synonymous with professional chain saws and was soon the number one selling brand worldwide. The company’s vast array of products now includes gasoline and electric chain saws, and outdoor power equipment, including gasoline and electric grass and weed trimmers, hedge trimmers, edgers, extended length hedge trimmers, pole pruners, brushcutters, cut-off machines earth augers, and clearing saws for professional, commercial, farm and consumer markets.
STIHL Incorporated began its U.S. operations in 1974 and now employs 925 people in its 460,000-square- foot plant on 60 acres in Oceana West Industrial Park, Virginia Beach,Va.
In addition, STIHL maintains state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities in Germany, Switzerland and Brazil. STIHL has invented many product features and enhancements that have contributed to the success of the overall power tool industry. These include the development of automatic chain oiling, chain braking system, anti-vibration system, triple activated chain brake, side-access chain adjustment, and the world’s quietest gasoline powered chain saw, the 0#3L.
STIHL Incorporated sells its products through 8,000 servicing retail dealers nationwide. “We don’t go to the mass merchant,” says Burton. “We believe these products need to be sold with consumer applications in mind. STIHL dealers across the United States must have a service facility and employ people who are knowledgeable about the product.”
Same Function, Different Design
The function of a chain saw always has been to cutthrough tough elements. But through the years, says Burton, the saw’s design and technology has changed. Modern materials have made the chain saw lighter, safer and more durable. Before the chain saw was invented, cutting down a tree was akin to watching one grow, long and arduous. “They built platforms roughly six feet from the ground and with axes cut a ‘V’ shape into the tree,” Burton explains. “Then, men on either side of the platform sawed back and forth with large hand saws. A logger’s job is basically the same now, but the gas powered chain saw reduced the job to a fraction of the time.” As the century closes and the pace in the logging industry begins to ebb, STIHL has seen a rise in chain saw use among non-loggers.The use is on the upswing with less than 10 percent of the 2.2 million saws sold annually by all manufacturers in the U.S. being used for logging.
New Markets Advance New Products
STIHL is now going through its largest product launch in the company’s history, as a U.S. venture, with a new HomeScaper™ power tool series. “We’ve made considerable investments in lawn and landscape power tools,” says Burton.
The planning behind the launch goes back to STIHL’s overall business philosophy: To stay ahead of trends. For example, STIHL continually analyzes the landscape industry, which has grown in leaps and bounds over the logging industry. Burton adds, “The line trimmer market is now two times as big as the chain saw market with more than 4.5 million units sold annually, worldwide.STIHL’s new product launch is aimed at these markets.”
The Future Looks Green
As for its future, Burton believes STIHL will continue its rapid growth. “One third of our U.S. production is exported to STIHL distributors and subsidiaries in more than 70 countries.” he says “In addition, product diversity and innovative engineering have always been the hallmark of STIHL. Our future looks green for years to come.”