From a single copy to an international hit: The Woodcracker Story
Machines with the extra something are the profession of Werner Steininger, whose success story started with a single machine for personal use: The young engineer designed and built wood splitting tongs for his parent’s farm. This unprecedented machine delighted with efficiency and easy handling even demanding commercial user. After growing demand, he founded the company Westtech Maschinenbau and named his “baby” Woodcracker®. Today the very resilient machines are sold from Upper Austria, over New Zealand, South America to the Siberian Taiga.
Successful entrepreneurs enjoy talking about how their whole life was always oriented purposefully towards the goal. It was different for you, right?
Werner Steininger: Yes, originally, I wanted to set up my own business with trainings for 3D constructions. In 2003 this was a hot topic, which got more and more interesting for small and middle sized companies. But then my father’s request got in my way. He wanted a machine for the wood chip production for splitting thick trunks fast and reliable. The market had nothing suitable to offer – the value for money didn’t match our application. The existing options were too expensive and too complex. Eventually, we built big hydraulic splitting tongs, which worked properly and cracked hard wood easily. My father was happy and for me this matter was closed, for now.
“Splitting wood” was nothing I could have imagined to do with my life. Meanwhile my father used his new machine a lot and got more and more attention of the wood chipper contractors. The wood splitting tongs got very quickly a decent level of awareness. Eventually, a German dealer noticed the machine, presented it at the Interforst exhibition and aroused a lot of demand. Effectively, I was forced to stop my ambitions as a trainer for 3D construction and focus on the production of the wood splitter, which got already named “Woodcracker®” in 2005. Today almost all of the machines are called Woodcracker® – not only the splitter, but also the versatile treeshears, grapplesaws, grub shears and clearing rakes. The brand name in combination with the bright orange colour reached a high brand awareness and brand recognition.
„Build me a machine, which turns thick trunks quickly into firewood “, wished Westtech founder Werner Steininger’s father. Which resulted in today’s Woodcracker W series, with an opening width from 620 mm to 1.830 mm.
Westtech is growing very fast. What is the key to this success?
Werner Steininger: The first machine was the Woodcracker® W820 for carrier vehicles up to 10 tons. Today the Woodcracker W series is for carrier vehicles from 2,5 tons up to 60 tons. The variety of Woodcracker® models grew and is still growing – always powered by the customer’s wishes and input.
Up until now we offer two Woodcracker® series for splitting wood. Additionally, there are nine especially designed Woodcracker® series for felling and cutting trees and bushes. Three specialized Woodcracker® series got developed for cleaning cleared land and for extraction wood trunks. Thereby our Woodcracker® product lineup covers the whole biomass production chain and ranges from innovative felling heads, over established wood splitter, to sturdy clearing rakes and aggregates for rootstock processing.
With all those machines to offer, we are very well positioned in our business area. Thanks to a well-staffed construction department and an own production, we can react very quickly and flexible to new requests. Innovational power is one of our most important vital component when it comes to our success. By the deep vertical range of manufacturing, we have a hold on the complete production process – this is very important for constantly being able to provide prime quality. Made in Austria stands worldwide for top-class engineering. On one hand this helps us get into new markets, on the other hand this means we are having quite big of a responsibility. Quality is our top priority. The Woodcracker® machines are used under hardest conditions relentlessly. In remote locations our Woodcracker® have to work – day by day, even without regular maintenance.
A very powerful Marketing is also part of our growth and worldwide publicity. We take care of all channels consistently, in print media as well as online and social media. We even produced some “Blockbuster” on Youtube. Whoever sees our Woodcracker® in action for some seconds, is thrilled. The pure strength and still the simplicity, how the machines are working, impress professionals and non-professionals equally.
A Woodcracker® felling head transforms a construction machine into a forestry machine. Can this combination compete with a specialized harvesting machine?
Werner Steininger: The possibility to use an excavator in the forest, is for sure one of the reasons the interest in our machines is as big as it is. The excavator transforms into a really powerful forestry machine in combination with a Woodcracker® which comes with a lot of advantages compared to the carrier vehicles, only designed for forestry. A suitable excavator exists already in most companies, anyway. Companies for landscape construction businesses and town councils can widen their application areas with a comparatively small investment, if they attach a Woodcracker® to their excavator.
It should be noted that a Woodcracker® is not suitable for usage when harvesting industrial wood, in contrast with a Harvester. That was never our goal. We focus on processing harvested tree trunks, eg for wood chipping. Another speciality of the Woodcracker® family is the safe harvest of problematic trees, in our area mostly of broad-leafed trees. For this application area our solution is matchless regarding cost-benefit-ratio and scores additionally with sturdiness and easy operability. An excavator driver is used to operating a Woodcracker® in no-time, to the contrary of a complicated Harvester. The maintenance along streets is also a large application area, in which our machines are used quite commonly.
Customers rely on the promises a Woodcracker® makes. What values do stand on top of Westtech’s list?
Werner Steininger: In engineering it comes down to two possibilities: Either you manufacture cheap, in the Far East, or you produce locally with the highest quality possible and with exclusive advantages for customers. In my opinion, there is absolutely no way around uncompromised quality. This starts with the choice of the material, includes the methods of manufacturing and ends with the smallest detail, because no part of a Woodcracker® is allowed to malfunction in action. Thoughts like “good enough” are not effective and are therefore out of question. This would not satisfy either me as business owner, or our customer and also our staff member. Westtech positions itself very clearly as quality manufacturer. Our machines are made for the hardest conditions. Even extremely hard woods with a density over 1,1 kg/dm³, as you find it in Namibia, can be cut with a Woodcracker® treeshear – and not once, but continuously. The challenge entails combining perfection and profitability, which we master with construction knowledge and a mix of handiwork and automation.
„Made in Austria stands for high-quality engineering. This helps us on one hand when entering new markets, on the other hand it implies a big obligation. Quality is the number one priority. “
Werner Steininger, Westtech Founder and CEO
Next door gets a production hall constructed with 3.000 m2 – an investment for future. What are the plans?
Werner Steininger: We focus on the application areas the Woodcracker® machines open up. For example, in the USA our share in the market is not that big yet, but it is growing steadily. I see indeed a lot of chances and possibilities there for us. The same applies to Russia. Our share in the market in Russia are very impressive already, but Siberia’s forests are huge. Especially in extremely isolated areas, user favour Woodcracker® machines. Our machines are indeed elaborated, but still tough and straightforward. Therefore, a maintenance interruption doesn’t outbrake them. New distributors are gained in all regions, what boosts the sales and reinforces the service.
Anyway, we don’t stay still, we develop new machines continuously: For example, our latest innovations are the telescopic stage Woodcracker® T, the Woodcracker® CL320 and the Woodcracker® CS510 crane. We are consequently completing our product range and widen our machine’s application areas. Nevertheless, always with the customer’s input in mind. Those predetermine Westtech’s development and the Woodcracker® machines.
[Story written by Peter Hebbeker and Dieter Arl | Treffpunkt Bau, magazine, issue November 2021; translated by Elisabeth Stelzer, Westtech]