Smart Manufacturing: 5 Lessons from the Glock Pistol

I’m neither a gun expert nor enthusiast, quite the contrary. And so it feels odd writing about Glock. But earlier this week I found myself riveted by a radio show about the pistol and the company which manufactures it.

In his book Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun, Paul Barrett traces the history of the Glock and how it’s infiltrated American society. I highly recommend listening to the interview with Barrett in which he delves into the most compelling parts of his book.

No matter what your feelings about guns and gun control, the story of Gaston Glock and his Glock pistol has got to be one of the all-time greats in the library of manufacturing how-tos.

Here are five simple lessons Glock can offer manufacturers competing in today’s tough market:

1. Fill the gaps – Gaston Glock started in life as a curtain-rod maker. He had no experience with gun manufacturing, but he had deep knowledge of plastics, and saw a gap in the market. He asked gun experts what their ideal gun would be and then made a prototype based on feedback. The result: a durable and reliable gun—with a larger ammunition capacity—that could be easily learned and fired. Integrating all these new elements into the Glock, Gaston won a contract with the Austrian army.

2. Create a superior product – In today’s global economy, cheap mass-produced consumer goods from China and elsewhere flood the market. It’s tough to compete on price and quantity. Instead, American manufactures need to concentrate on quality.

This is exactly what Glock did with its pistol. Gaston Glock used his experience in plastics to create a revolutionary lightweight plastic firearm. Instead of trying to be price-competitive with other guns on the market, Glock deliberately set a high price tag for the pistol, recognizing that buyers would equate high cost with quality. They did.

3. Cast a wide net to find a niche customer – Glock got its first contract with the Austrian army, but soon saw a new opportunity overseas. In the 1980s the prevalence of gang-related violence on American streets led police to search for a new, more effective firearm. The lightweight nature of the Glock, the easy trigger pull and increased magazine capacity, made it a fast favorite of the police force. Today, two-thirds of all U.S. police departments use Glocks.

4. Choose a message your audience can relate to – The Glock pistol has infiltrated our homes via Hollywood – from Law and Order to Die Hard 2, it’s the choice of top TV cops everywhere. What real-life cop hasn’t imagined himself as John McClane at one time or another?

Last week Glock auctioned off a one-of-a-kind “Statue of Liberty” Glock 22 to celebrate its 25th anniversary in the United States, also coinciding with the 125th anniversary of Lady Liberty’s installation in New York Harbor. And to many Americans, and certainly Glock’s target audience, nothing says liberty like owning a gun.

5. Instill loyalty in your base – Early on, Glock gave police departments large discounts on its guns and now it offers great trade-up policies whereby police departments can trade their old Glocks for newer versions for hardly any extra money. An added advantage: now the gun has been accepted by the police it gives wider credibility among a much larger and lucrative civilian market, where Glock can charge full price.

Photo: Gebhard Solutions by Mojave Desert on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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