Over the past 35 years Graph Tech Guitar Labs has expanded into the world’s largest manufacturer of nuts and saddles.
Over the past 35 years Graph Tech Guitar Labs has expanded into the world’s largest manufacturer of nuts and saddles. Dave Dunwoodie, Owner and Head Honcho at Graph Tech Guitar Labs, manufactured his first guitar nut using a sheet of graphite. After months of studying engineering books at the local library (there was no web page then), he stumbled on new materials just emerging and one that could be injection molded, that contained graphite and PTFE (tradename Teflon by Dupont).
Early 1983, he borrowed $5,000 from his mother to make a simple three cavity injection mold, (a blank Gibson and Fender style nut and one string tree), plus buy 50 lbs of the new material and purchase an ad in Guitar Player Magazine. Back then, artwork for ads had to be mailed in two months prior to publication (no FedEx back then either). Since there wasn’t a product yet, the ad didn’t have a photo of the actual product. The ad had to be mailed that day to make sure it would make the publication deadline.
Out of the kitchen and into the first expansive 200 sq. ft. work shop.
So, working with a small print shop and electroset, they came up with a company name (Graph Tech), a product name (The Graphyte Nut), laid out the artwork for a small ad and mailed it out that afternoon. Time was of the essence now, as the clock was ticking to get the material, make a mold and find somebody that could produce it.
Fast forward 60 days later, Dave received his first order from his first customer, by mail, and that was also the day he received his first “Graphyte” nut. $9.95 in the bank on March 31st, 1983.
From a kitchen table, to a 200 square foot workshop, and now, a fully fueled design and manufacturing facility in Delta, B.C., Graph Tech’s team of 24 create products with the sole purpose of improving the playing experience. Graph Tech is now the largest manufacturer of nuts and saddles in the world, producing over 1,200 different nuts, saddles and bridge pin designs and materials, which include TUSQ, Black TUSQ XL, NuBone, Nubone XB, with more models being added every month.
Every day, all the staff meet for a quick 15 minute stand up meeting at 9:15. These morning meetings keep staff informed, bring up issues and solutions and keep everyone in sync. Every morning
meeting ends in a company cheer, anything from “Team Work” or a pretty good rendition of the intro to Hooked on A Feeling “Ooga-chaka Ooga-Ooga Ooga-chaka” led by business development team leader, Shaun Verreault. Not a day goes by without a laugh being shared or a problem being solved.
TUSQ from one side of the wall to the other.
At Graph Tech, we’re not a me-too company. We stretch our imagination and strive to innovate products to improve the playing experience. The marketing and design team work together to come up with initial product concepts and ideas. Again, if it doesn’t pass the Improve the Playing Experience mantra, it’s quickly thrown to the issues list. Concepts and ideas are then visualized on 3-D CAD drawings for manufacturing and design feasibility. When it passes that hurdle, numerous 3-D printed versions are tested and perfected.
Another 3-D printed part coming to fruition.
This allows the team to perfect their designs, structural integrity, feel and aesthetics before small production runs for beta testing. Then it’s go/no go/ or back through the design cycle again. Some products make it through and some go through the process a few times and may or may not see the light of day.
I think one of the key ingredients of business success is persistence, having a vision of where you will be in 10 or 20 years and always thinking long term with your customers and suppliers. On persistence, a lot of time I feel like a moth, flying around the light bulb, trying to get inside and always bumping your head.
Graph Tech's Customer Service Specialist Justin Stadig playing a couple tunes at lunch.
But if you have a vision, and you don’t give up, you’ll find a way inside. It may not be the exact way you envisioned at the start, but with the knowledge you’ve gained trying, you will find your vision and start to have more and more small successes, which lead into bigger and bigger successes. Hey, we’re usually a little bit smarter than a moth. My thoughts on long term thinking: you can’t think of a customer as one sale and they are gone.
You don’t have to make a profit every time, you do have to think about how many sales that person is worth over 10 years, 20 years, and a lifetime. Jim Dunlop didn’t get rich selling one pick, one time to one customer. I don’t know the numbers on this, but I would have to think, judging by my pick consumption, when I played professionally, maybe a dollar a week. Over 10 years, that little .33 pick generated $520.00.
Business Development Team Leader Shaun Verreault sliding his way into new markets
I think we are one of the few companies in the music business that gives a 45 day ‘Love it or Return It Guarantee’, even after you have used it or installed it. I rather have the customer be blown away by how we respond to correct the issue. Maybe he bought the wrong product, installed it incorrectly, had an accident, or maybe that product just wasn’t for him. They will immediately tell by our passion, we don’t want them ecstatically happy, we need them ecstatically happy, whatever the issue is. We will earn their confidence and trust with Graph Tech and our products. If we achieve that, we have a $520.00 pick, and a lifelong believer in Graph Tech, our ethics and our products. Products with Purpose, and products that actually do what they say they will do.”