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European Manufacturers See Benefits Of Customer Service

Following the lead of General Electric Co., IBM Corp., Boeing Co., and other increasingly service-focused U.S. companies, European manufacturers are at last putting service center stage. Indeed, several companies have completely restructured to become primarily service firms. For example, at Germany's Duerr, the world's leading paint-systems maker for auto plants, only one worker in 10 is in a production job. Germany's Grenzebach, the world leader in computerized handling equipment for glassworks, flies technicians to customers on a problem-solving tour every month. Gran Lindahl, CEO of ABB, the Zurich-based engineering and equipment group, says service work has grown from less than 10% to 25% of sales, which last year totaled $32 billion. "But service culture is harder to introduce into our mainly European workforce than in North America," he says. "In Europe everybody wants to be in manufacturing and engineering. More U.S. entrepreneurs are keen to go into services."

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