The trend in modern manufacturing has been toward more, not less, automation. The highly trained craftsman who takes great pride in his work has largely been replaced by a machine operator who monitors a computer screen while robotic arms sway to and fro, assembling, sorting and packaging products from a fast-moving stream of components.
But there are places where the old ways not only survive, but thrive. On a recent trip to the Kahles Optik factory in Austria, I saw how Kahles mixes the old and the new to produce high-quality optics for hunters and shooters.
Resting on a commercial street in metropolitan Vienna, the nearly block-long Kahles building is unpretentious. Inside, the factory is structured more like a research facility than an industrial manufacturing plant. I expected to see massive machines spewing aluminum and behemoth presses slamming parts into submission. What I found instead was a spacious, meticulously clean facility filled with craftsmen who completed nearly every step of optical construction by hand. It was obvious they took immense pride in their work.
With the exception of the computer-operated CNC machines (each personally monitored by a single operator), there were no sprawling rooms overflowing with parts. There were tidy personal workstations, where just a few parts were finished at a time.
| Even the reticles are handmade, and an individual, not a machine, glues each piece of glass into place. “We complete our construction process with care and take the time to make sure every part of our optical construction is perfect. Certainly we keep a schedule; however, quality control is our first priority,” said StephÃƒÂ¤n Schafer, the company’s managing director.
Though Kahles is often overshadowed by Swarovski, its parent company, American retailers and their customers might be surprised to learn that Kahles is a fully independent company and is in fact older than Swarovski. “We are the oldest existing riflescope manufacturing company in the world. We’ve been making product since 1889,” Schafer said.
Hermann Theisinger, the company’s international sales and marketing manager for the United States, added, “Our goal is to create a near addiction for the American shooter to own quality optical products. As many retailers discover, once you experience a high-grade scope or binocular, it’s very difficult to go back.”
Theisinger is confident in Kahles’s commitment to the U.S. market. He says that last year’s inventory of the new Multizero riflescope sold out, a clear sign of a growing retailer base and of consumer desire for the finest in optical products. Retailers agree. Once a shooter is hooked on high-grade optics, it’s difficult to revert to a lower performance standard. Of course, the advantage in hooking a shooter to better glass is a ringing cash register and a higher profit margin.
New for 2006
Kahles will be introducing two new Multizeros, the CS 2 (5-10×50) and the CS 3 (3-12×56), during the 2006 SHOT Show. Both sport 30mm tubes for the shooter that wants the widest field of view available. Both scopes will be available with two reticles, the Plex and the 4A. SRP: $1,852 for the CS 2, $1,919 for the CS 3. Booth #4629. (866-606-8779; kahles optik.com)
Demonstrating Clearer Vision
Reading the Fine Print
A quick way to indoctrinate a customer to the performance of a Kahles scope is to set up a vision range in your store, so he can see the difference for himself. Many retailers will mount newspapers or even empty aerosol cans with the fine-print instructions facing outward. The items can be set over shelves or hung from the ceiling line at different distances and under less-than-ideal lighting.
Even in a small shop, a customer can quickly compare sharpness, light penetration and field of view from brand to brand and model to model. It’s a great way to help you sell better-performing optics.