We had the opportunity to talk to Hilary Ohlwein from Electroswitch, the manufacturer of, among other things, pickup selector switches for Fender guitars. As electrical engineers who are interested in electronics, we know that the right switch for your project makes a big difference. It was fascinating to hear the efforts that the Electroswitch team puts into making sure their buyers are happy. Here's a transcript of our conversation with Hilary.
Hilary Ohlwein: Vendors are using our pickup selector switches - Gibson using the JT toggles in their custom shop, Boeing using my indicators all over the plane, under the plane. You're going to see our toggles used on night vision goggles. We're in the air, we're in cars, we're in your speakers. What makes Electroswitch so cool is that we're a large company but we're intimate and personal enough with our customers to develop custom parts for pretty much everyone.
We are here for our blade switches for the guitar players. This is how you're going to combine your neck and bridge. It all depends on how you wire it. So the guitar builders, they can wire these things, split coils, do whatever they want, and get really unique sounds all using our same switch. Two years ago, we released the JT1601. We took feedback from the market because we don't want to just come to market with something that's already there. Feedback from Switchcraft's switch was that it was very long. So for shallower guitar bodies, it wouldn't work. So we made a more compact style. It's pre-jumpered with a ground lug so it has no noise, whereas Switchcraft is loud, we got it to be as quiet as possible.
A lot of guys are doing those big toggle switches there. So this is new, black and gold finishes, people like the cosmetics. This is how we're able to compete. We're molding the component parts. We're forming the fabricated metal parts at our Philadelphia plant, dumping them in hoppers, about nine different hoppers and out pops hundreds of finished products. Hands off. It's a really impressive facility and design up there.
We have a catalog with 150,000 catalog part numbers. But what we do on a weekly basis is people call in saying, "I like this. But... you know..." and so we start making adjustments, maybe we change the grease, maybe they want a smoother feel, maybe they want to hear the feedback of a tactical switch, maybe they don't want any clicking. So we'll take that standard product and customize it as best we can, working together to get what they need. Dependability and reliability are really important to us. So we'll sample it three times, you know, however many stages of prototyping your company has to do. Once customers try the product, I encourage them to give feedback. I don't want there to be any doubt that they are totally happy with the product, you know, because that leaves room for my competitors to come in. So we look for feedback on tactical field stuff. But if I go into the project knowing what they're looking for in the first place, we can pretty much hit the nail on the head really early on, and feedback is always positive. I don't know that I've ever sampled a switch that they don't end up buying.