Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Glock Factory Tour - Glock Perfection or Glock Paranoia

Glock Factory Tour - Glock Perfection or Glock Paranoia

Glock has never been particularly "open" with the media. In fact, for the most part the media engagement has been downright cold. Glock reclusivity feels more like a conversation with a strict emotionally distant parent who gives you what you need versus what you want. For example we asked for a single stack 9mm and we end up with the G42 .380 ACP power pistol which is not what we asked for but what the market clearly needed.  Of course the G43 finally and expectedly followed but only after everyone said they would never buy one...but then did.  We ask for a Glock carbine and we get new competition guns precut for reflex sights. So I was rather surprised when Glock invited me to a rather exclusive first ever tour of the Glock facilities and US production factory in Smyrna Georgia to "get to know Glock". To tell the story of the tour, readers have to understand the more colorful background of the event and what felt like a very weird almost socially uncomfortable amazingly wonderful Willy Wonka tour experience.

There were only eleven total writers invited this factory tour event. I did not really understand how small and exclusive a writer group Glock had pulled together until Mike Robinson, head of Glock marketing (2015), and I bumped into each other at the hotel before the kickoff dinner. Without Mr Robinson maintaining levity, some humor, and ensuring we had a very interesting and comfortable visit, I fear this first tour would have felt more like a tour through a supermax prison.

Mike - "Good to see you, everyone is pretty much here. I just bumped into Massod.  
Me - "Massod?"
Mike - "Yeah Massod Ayoob."
Me - "Are you kidding me? You have that class of legendary writer talent and you invited MajorPandemic.com... what in the hell is wrong with you?"
Mike - "Glock likes your “unique” editorial and perspective. Glock is a bit unique so it is a good fit."
Me - “How many people were invited?”
Mike - “A dozen but only eleven could make it.”
Me - "I really think you made a mistake, but whatever let's get some drinks."

Massod was not the only top tier writer, we also had all the other cool kids represented as well. Ya know, and then there was me. It was a small group, but the event was at least a starting point for Glock which has previously held secrecy similar to the Wizard of Oz.

We were informed we didn't need to concern ourselves with taking pictures, because Glock already had pre-approved factory images. Also we would have to sign an NDA and commit to not sneaking any pictures during the tour. Cough [control freaks].

You could tell this editorial tour was something everyone at Glock wanted to do but felt uncomfortable taking the first step. Kinda like after a first date when one person goes in for a kiss and the other person (Glock) just delivers a luke warm hug instead but insists they want another date. At least Glock is proverbially dating and the tour was a step in the right direction.

An air of guarded editorial paranoia has always been prevalent when working with Glock. As is historical, most conversations with Glock start with paperwork and this factory tour started there at the security station where general privacy NDAs were completed and then we went inside and signed another tour specific NDA, a proposed new product NDA for the yet to be release G43, and a liability waiver if we wanted to shoot any of the factory test guns. Twenty minutes of reading and four yards of ink later the tour began.

To be up front and possibly disappoint other writers, this was actually my second time behind the closed doors of Glock, however all I saw last time was the inside of Mike's rather un-impressive office. Two years ago, Mike discussed with me about Glock's plans for US manufacturing expansion, build out of their ten owned acres, and well... nothing else. I did handle the first ever US Made roll stamped and manufactured Glocks at that time, but the more noticeable observation was that Glock was bursting at its seams from a space perspective and needed more building space.

Fast forward two years and Glock has made enormous strides toward that goal with an entire building expansion and makeover. They are still struggling with business growth outpacing their ability to build out space. Many divisions are working out of mobile office trailers due to the space limitations. The inside of Glock had been transformed from a rather dumpy depressing office building two years ago to a floor to ceiling beautifully remodeled building which anyone would be proud to work in. It had become a nice office building facility and the tour of the office could have been a tour of any office build with the exception of all the Glock banners and the occasional Glock Knife stuck into a pen holder. On to the factory tour.
Entering the US Manufacturing factory floor you are greeted with a hygienically clean spacious floor plan. I honestly felt like I should remove my shoes because I might get the floor dirty. The sanitized facility achieved what I previous thought to be an unattainable level of clean for a manufacturing facility with impeccable organization and excessively labeling.

To set the context of this tour you have to understand that Glock is a paranoid level of "control freak" I had yet to meet and thus the root of why they had not trusted any writers to tour the facility. For example, they have their own electron microscope and metallurgy department on site to retest and recertify the previously Glock Austria approved and certified steels which are shipped over… just to make sure Glock Austria did not miss something when running the same tests on the materials before being shipped. Glock makes their own tools, bits, tooling, mills, dies,...etc out of their own certified steel, because depending on someone else increases the probability of quality problems. 

They even track each and every serialized tool for wear, so if that custom end-mill wears slightly fast, they can track the source material used to create that end-mill to assure any problems are rectified and accounted for on the steels and tools that made those tools. Yep, Glock quality controls and certifies its own steel in house which is used to make the tools in house, which make the tools in house, which create the pistols in house. Its an unimaginable level of control all in an attempt to attain Glock Perfection. 

To take the example of paranoid control even further, I noticed that the toolhead holders were actually a Glock injection molded parts with a Glock logo. Wow, they don't even trust someone else's tool holder for the tools that they manufacturer. Final range testing is also heavily measured to assure the four function tested rounds per Glock meet the accuracy requirement of Glock which appeared to be under 1" at 25-yards. The Glock manufacturing goal is to address anything which could create a problem so that there are no problems and everything is GLOCK PERECTION. I loved seeing a company care that much about their product that they would take all these extreme measures to assure quality.

When Glock created the US manufacturing facility, they wanted to totally replicate the Austrian operations in Smyrna, so they did... not kind of, but exactly. Everything is the same from the rather common looking German made parts bins to the CNC, forging, and injection molding machines to all the machines and even shipping boxes. When their lead manufacturing managers are sent to training in Austria, they can walk back into the US facility and run any of the machines or processes with the same equipment, floor plan, and programs used in Austria. They share every possible measurable statistic between the facilities, from tool wear, to manufacturing volumes. When one facility or another updates a process or program, both are updated, then checked, monitored, and measured. Glock US is clearly tethered extremely tightly to the "mothership" in Austria. There is no measurable difference between and Austrian or US Glock - all use exactly the same materials, process and tooling.
Although I have seen plenty of manufacturing robots, Glock’s machine which was molding G42 frames was mesmerizing to watch. Where possible, Glock has machine automated as many processes as possible. The barrels, slides, frames, and cases can all be made in the US and finishing and coating is completed in special in-house operations. 

Although the remaining internal parts and magazines are still made in Austria, the US has all the molding and equipment to makes these parts is available in the US should the need arise. A large percentage of Glocks sold in the US are still made in Austria. All models can technically be made in the US facility, however currently only a small percentage of the legacy Glock models are made in the US. At the time of the tour, Glock was cranking out G42 models in the Smyrna facility at a blistering rate. Glock explained that Austria manufactures the bulk of the overall production and can absorb the sales peaks and fulfill unexpected demand. The US facility does supply 100% of the manufacturing of some models such as the G42 and G43.


Glock does not follow an 80% tool-wear replacement plan like most manufacturers. Generally a tool is replaced at its 80% service life point, however Glock notes that they test each tool after every single machining cycle, digitally record and track that wear and then replace it only once a statically increasing wear pattern emerges which may be 62% or 99%. Glock's strive for perfection may seem extreme however they have assured total internal control for every aspect of the Glock pistol manufacturing process is as perfect as possible.





If Glock was a girlfriend she would have already statistically calculated and predictively modeled everything including dinners for the next forty five years, the exact proposal and marriage dates, and number of children all before you would have even met for the first time at Church.  You life would be Glock Perfection with a gal who may not be the prettiest but she would rock your world with everything you never imaged you needed in a woman.


The tour concluded with the pre-release and hands on testing of the “super secret” G43 9mm single stack pistol. The development and release of the G43 was so predictable that even writer in the room was saddened a bit when it was the only reveal. “I asked are you sure you are not coming out with a .22LR G42-LR or something, because the G43 is not really a surprise.”  Regardless of the less than shocked editors around the room we were all happy that Glock finally unveiling the G43, but we were more happy that Glock had finally broken their silence to, let us into their wonderfully strange world which masterfully designed to do just one thing - deliver GLOCK PERFECTION. That weird quirky first date that Glock delivered in the first ever factory tour made me love Glocks even more, after all they have clearly put their minds, heart and souls into assuring I have the best possible product.

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