And so the age old debate over who in fact makes the best welding machines rages on in perpetuity.
It’s like the Coke verses Pepsi or Miller (no relation) verses Budweiser of the welding equipment world. And just as with those “classic marketing battles,” everyone has an opinion on who’s the best, and why.
Read the forums and message boards, and you’ll find passionate support for both sides, citing everything from the highly technical specifics of how one manufacturer's particular machine out-performs the others for certain applications, to extremely subjective reasoning along the lines of: “I just like color of the machine, and the way the logo looks…”
One of the more common threads, however, and perhaps a telling sentiment in this long running debate can be summed up as: it’s a welder, as long as it works, it’s good enough for me. But can it really be that simple? Can all the dramatic pledges of allegiance to one manufacturer or the other really be boiled down to whatever works, works? It’s certainly worth a closer look, so join me for a quick investigation into these two titans of the welding equipment trade.
Recently, a welding professional I’m well acquainted with, a 16 year veteran of the welding trade, described Lincoln as the Harley Davidson of welding, because so many welders express such passion for the brand. But, if we’re sticking with the marketing scenario posed in the introduction, Lincoln would be the Coke or Budweiser of welding equipment.
Founded in 1895 by John Lincoln (joined five years later by his younger brother James Lincoln), Lincoln initially began manufacturing electric motors, but in 1911 produced the first ever variable voltage, single operator, portable welding machine.
Today, Lincoln manufactures not only a multitude of welding machines, but also hundreds of welding related products, and is recognized as one of America’s more successful mid-sized manufacturing companies.
If Lincoln is the Coke of welding machines, then Miller is definitely Pepsi. Just as Pepsi challenged Coke’s hegemony in the soft drink market with their “choice of a new generation” campaign, Miller has positioned themselves as an innovation leader, often favored by a “new generation” of welders. Interestingly enough, Miller is by no means a new company, having been in business for more than 80 years.
Launched in 1929 by Appleton Wisconsin native Neils Miller, the company was conceived to meet a growing demand from affordable arc welding equipment in rural Wisconsin. Renowned as an innovator in the industry, Miller developed the first welding machine to feature a built-in wire feeder, the Millermatic 35. With a heavy focus on research and development, Miller has released hundreds of products and carries on their tradition of creating cutting-edge welding equipment.
What the People say
OK, we’ve got the boring bio and introduction jazz out of the way, but what do people really say about these companies, and why do they inspire such passion?
The consensus, based on my research, indicates the following:
Miller gets the nod for making better Mig and Tig welding machines, which makes sense given their pioneering role in developing these processes. While Lincoln is known for their excellence with stick welding machines, the process they developed a century ago.
Some welders swear by specific models of welding machines made by both companies, which is kind of a draw, as both companies seem to have an equal number of boosters.
Fabrication shops (of varying sizes and applications) seem to own more Miller welding equipment.
Welding equipment rental operations also tend to favor Miller welding equipment.
Miller customer service is almost universally touted as superior to Lincoln’s customer services, which some go so far as to describe as non-existent.
The report card issued by “the people” would seem to tip the scales in Miller’s favor, but this characterization may be a bit skewed by the manner in which Miller has positioned itself in the marketplace.
The Cadillac of Welding Machines
Consider for a moment the General Motors Cadillac car model. A Chevrolet or Buick, of comparable size and similar features (also made by General Motors) costs less than a Cadillac. Part of this is because certain standard items included in a Cadillac are additional options in a Buick or Chevrolet. The other major contributing factor is the value assigned to the Cadillac Name Brand. How often have you heard a product referred to as the “Cadillac Model,” as in the “Cadillac of Boats,” or a “Cadillac Margarita?”
When you purchase a Lincoln welding machine, you’re purchasing the Cadillac of welders, a brand name long associated with the pinnacle of excellence in the welding equipment industry. Lincoln is certainly concerned with delivering quality service, and if you’re purchasing a large order, or a very high-end item, you will find customer service to be very attentive to your needs, the same as when you walk into a Cadillac dealership.
With more competitive pricing and an aggressive marketing approach, Miller has made many large volume sales to clients heavily concerned with their bottom line, i.e. fabrication shops and equipment rental businesses. Additionally, individuals purchasing personal equipment are also usually operating on a limited budget, making Miller’s lower equipment cost a more attractive option.
Is the perception of Lincoln’s superior quality warranted? Are Miller’s products in any way inferior to Lincoln’s products? The answers to these questions return us to very subjective territory, as quality, similar to beauty, is often in the eye of the beholder. It’s very likely that it all depends on your personal feelings toward one brand or the other.
Any issue of a challenge between two products that garners an argument such as: “I just like their colors, and the way their logo looks,” is a competition in which deciding upon a clear winner is going to be pretty tough.
In the end, maybe all those with the attitude of “if it works, it works for me,” have it right.