Thursday, September 03, 2009

Let's Talk Mechanical Pencils with Lamy

Recently I’ve been wanting to know a little bit more about some of my favourite mechanical pencil companies, and the mechanical pencil market in general. I own more than my fair share of Lamy’s, so I thought I’d approach them and see if they would participate in a brief Q&A type interview about themselves and their pencils. Luckily they readily agreed to an “interview”, and below are a few questions I put to Andrea Schuch of Lamy’s International Sales Department in Heidelburg, Germany and her replies.

Dave - Well firstly I would like to thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. Perhaps to start with you could give me a brief introductory run down on Lamy.

Andrea - Lamy was established in 1930 in Heidelburg, Germany. We have approximately 370 employees, of which 2/3rds work in production, making approximately 7 million writing instruments annually. Our sales turnover is approx. €50 million/year, through 6,500 specialist dealers in Germany, and distribution partners in 62 other countries. Currently our range comprises 27 different series of writing instruments.

Every Lamy product embodies our brand values: Design – Innovation – Quality. Lamy not only develops modern, sophisticated designs, but also conducts ongoing research into technical innovations which raise the functionality of writing instruments. Lamy is 100 per cent “Made in Germany” and we have more than 100 international design awards.

Lamy head office & factory

Factory and roof garden sculpture
Dave - A lot of high-end brands don’t offer many mechanical pencils, but Lamy is a little different, offering a pencil option with most styles. So, thanks very much for that! How well do pencils sell in comparison to the various pen options? Are there some styles where the mechanical pencil option is a particularly good seller in relation to the pen options of that style?

Andrea - Lamy likes to offer complete ranges of the various product families, thus our customers have a variety of writing systems to choose from but also the opportunity to combine sets of their likings.
But to be honest, pencils are not our best selling systems. They do very well as a set with ballpens, but we are mostly selling ballpens, closely followed by fountain pens.
We do however offer two ranges where the pencils are selling very well and the ballpens are more or less an "addition". These are LAMY spirit, an extremely slim pencil, designed to fit into agendas (for those people who still write with a pen and do not use blackberrys) and LAMY scribble, a very handsome pencil available with two lead sizes (0,7 mm and 3,15 mm), designed for artists, architects, designers, etc. who are doing sketches or just like "scribbling"
But I should also mention our pencil LAMY abc which has especially been designed for school children who start learning to write. This pencil has an ergonomic grip section for small hands and a soft (B) 1,4 mm lead which forgives high pressure but also allows a great variety of writing positions.

Dave - Hopefully you see Lamy continuing to offer a pencil option as you introduce new styles?

Andrea - Of course, we will go on offering product families as complete as possible.

Dave - Lamy seems to have a world-wide presence. Are there any markets where sales of your mechanical pencils are much stronger or weaker than average?

Andrea - We are currently exporting our pens to more that 60 countries worldwide.
Should there be any preferences for pencils they are certainly in the Asian markets who like to write either with a fountain pen with a fine or extra fine nib, or with a pencil.

Dave - Counterfeit or fake products seem to be an issue for many well known brands and products. Is counterfeiting of Lamy writing instruments a problem?

Andrea - So far we do not have any problems with counterfeit products. We have however come across one or the other pen that has been faked, but mostly the copies are rather poor and you can easily see the difference. We are however closely watching the market and are taking legal steps when we come across such products.
Dave - To finish with, a question about your manufacturing operation. Lamy writing instruments are made from a very diverse range of materials, and many specialised manufacturing techniques would presumably be needed for this. What parts of the manufacturing process are carried out by Lamy itself? Is Lamy’s part essentially the final assembly of finished components sourced from external suppliers, or are you actually doing most things in-house - making mechanisms, moulding bodies, machining out pocket clips, etc?

Andrea - 97% of the whole production process is done in Heidelberg. There are certain parts we are buying from other suppliers, but for example all our nibs are being completely made in Heidelberg, we are injection moulding all plastic components, producing metal barrels, clips, etc....

Dave - Once again, thanks very much for your time, and I look forward to seeing many new innovative and unique products from Lamy.

Lamy TeamSome of the team at Lamy. The gentlemen in centre-front with the light suit and the sun glasses is Dr. Manfred Lamy, owner of the company and to the right in the dark suit with tie is Mr. Bernhard Roesner the CEO of Lamy.


B2-kun said...

Congratulations on scoring this informative interview! Nice to know a bit more about the company and the nature of their production. I really like my 3.15 mm Scribble pencil though I do not use it too often since it never leaves my studio pencil cup.

Akis said...

Nice one Dave. This was very informative. Lamy 2000 is my favorite pencil too.
I hope to see something like this again if possible.

Germ said...

cool beans.
wish we could get more info out of Pentel japan......

LP said...

You can see simularities between the Lamy office and factory designs and the products that are produced there. Modern, minimalist etc. I love my CP1 twinpen.

Penmaniacs said...

great article, lamy is a hell of a pencil company

Max said...

Excellent!! What a sterling idea to make an interview with Lamy!

Anonymous said...

I love my Lamy 2000 pencil and use it nearly every day. Still looks like new after 500+ days of use. I've had several people ask me about the 2000 and one person tried to "borrow" it for an "indefinite period".

Thanks for the interesting interview. I'm not surprised that pencils are not a popular item. Seems most people consider mechanical pencils as disposable and think spending more than a few dollars on a pencil as extravagant.


Der Bingle said...

Thank you for the interview.

Lamy is a fantastic company and good on them for making all their product in Germany.

The few issues I have with Lamy are limited to their pen refills. It would be nice to have a gel or liquid ink option for their ballpoints, and they really should offer their rollerball refills in more then one point size. If, like me, you want a fine or very fine point in a rb refill, you aren't going to get it with Lamy.

Time Waster said...

Eveything good pencil wise comes out of Germany Stadtler Eberhard Faber Lamy =)

Too Bad the pencil factory in Lewisburg
TN is closing up though.

Der Bingle said...

@Time Waster - Oh, I think we need to give the Japanese (specifically the Mitsubishi Pencil Co., a/k/a uni-ball) some credit, too ;-)