First opened in 2018, Mike Richardson returns to Mirka UK’s Milton Keynes training centre to catch up on the latest news about the company’s abrasives, surface preparation and dust extraction products.
Specialists in abrasives for surface preparation, Mirka has been creating the right kind of buzz for more than three decades with the clear objective of working with customers to develop the correct configuration of abrasive and machine operating parameters that optimise processes and provide cost savings.
Celebrating its 40th anniversary in business, the company specialises in coated, non-woven and dust-free sanding products for surface finishing with a product range that caters for both individual operations and complete sanding systems. Its expertise in flexible abrasives and products has seen the development of its Abralon, Abranet and Autonet product lines, among others.
Mirka’s product range covers abrasives for the widest range of applications within the composites manufacturing sector, from the grinding of glass fibre-reinforced polyester and the sanding of contoured surfaces and moulds to polishing composite surfaces. The company’s dust-free sanding solutions and new sanding and polishing concepts are said to guarantee a high-quality surface finish on virtually all composite materials.
More than just a sell
Mirka UK’s headquarters comprises classrooms and practical demonstration area with an array of equipment and test pieces, such as car bonnets and plastered walls. In 2019, over 80 customers visited the centre – and according to the company’s national sales manager, industrial Peter Sartain, the feedback has been very positive.
“Many of our customers have seen a massive transformation in the region of +300% in their sales after attending a training course at our training centre,” he begins. “However, we depend on how our partners and distributors can help us achieve even more customer satisfaction. It’s important they know everything about our products and why customers need to invest in the kind of technology over and above the traditional sanding products.”
Mirka UK also uses the centre for internal training because in the past, its nearest academy is located in Finland, which means it can be impractical to send an entire sales team. Instead, for long-term training solutions, Mirka’s sales team can now experience hands-on demonstrations locally in the UK centre.
“I think everyone would agree that you learn much quicker when you actually touch and feel a sanding product and physically experience how they are capable of performing much better than a particular competitors’ brand.”
According to Sartain, Mirka’s vision is to be the market leader and where it differentiates from the competition is that the competitor will often produce abrasives for every single market, so it becomes more of a ‘commercial’ sell.
“Most of our competitors employ commercial salespeople that are only comfortable selling their products to an automotive repair body shop. Mirka has made the decision to employ people that already have experience of working in a car repair body shop - they have a technical knowledge, not just of the products, but how to actually perform the car body repair process. We’ve duplicated this throughout the different industry sectors we work in. My sales team has specialist people that work in the field and advise – people who are very knowledgeable about each sector.”
Digital surface finishing solutions
Harnessing the potential of digital technology is currently at the forefront of Mirka’s thrust, and at the dawn of the fourth industrial revolution, the company’s myMirka App represents its first foray into Industry 4.0 in terms of digital surface finishing solutions. Downloadable free of charge through both the Apple Store and Google Play, the myMirka App indicates vibration levels on a colour-graded scale and advises on how to lower the vibration if needed. Additionally, the speed can be visualised in a separate graph.
An in-app purchase enables users to track the daily vibration in relation to European standards. Customers can register their tools and will be offered Mirka’s 2+1 Year Warranty through the app. myMirka also provides customers with all the latest product news, plus a feed of all the accessories they might need for the tool being used. It’s a simple way of looking after your hands when using a sander. By adding an integrated vibration sensor and Bluetooth technology to its most popular electric sanders, the myMirka Dashboard offers a whole raft of useful data at the users’ fingertips.
“Hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) has become a serious issue with many companies hit by fines because an employee has suffered from ‘white finger syndrome’, a condition where extended use of an orbital sander can lead to a tingling sensation in the hands. The myMirka App can place the emphasis more on the actual operator using of the tool, especially in cases where an employer might prefer that it’s the operator’s responsibility to monitor the vibration of their own hand tool.”
Seeing is believing
Currently trialling with pilot customers and due for launch Q1 2020, Mirka’s Dashboard takes the next step where an employer may want to ensure they are looking after their employees’ wellbeing. The Dashboard can connect multiple tools within a 10m range, and is not just about assessing hand and arm vibration – it’s more about creating a digital repository where companies can log all their tool information, such as hand tool type, serial numbers, date when purchased, and maintenance intervals, etc. Users get a live feed from any Mirka product that is Bluetooth-enabled and obtain a report regarding how long the tool has been in use.
“Our Dashboard system has been designed to create a healthier workshop environment and not to monitor how much work the operator is actually doing. We are saying to customers that there is a preventative measure to stop them experiencing HAVS. The Dashboard will cost approximately £2,000 and accepts multiple Mirka hand tool and dust extraction unit connections within a 10m range. Users can click on each individual connected tool and get a ‘live’ reading of the vibration being generated. They can also see the amount of time the tool has been in use - it’s a complete package.”
With my day at Mirka’s training centre drawing to a close, I realise that whatever you want to know from Mirka - whether it be health & safety information relating to HAVS or learning more about air tools - it can tick all the boxes and gear its training accordingly. With such positive customer feedback, is there anything else that they would like to see more of from the Mirka training courses?
“We’ve found that some of our customers actually want to compare our products with our competitors and try them out side by side in our training centre,” Sartain concludes. “We’ve taken this onboard, but we have to be very careful, because we’re not here to run down our competitors’ products – instead we’re here to promote our own. If we make a claim that our products are quicker, faster or last longer, we must be able to prove it!”