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We are always on the lookout for added value for our customers
Martin Knötgen has been CEO of Putzmeister since August 2017. In this interview, the Managing Director tells us what moves the company today and in future.
Mr Knötgen, what sort of company did you find when you assumed responsibility?
Putzmeister is a well-known and reputable brand that enjoys high regard in the industry. And I felt something quite special here right from the beginning: The employees‘ pride in their company and how much they identify with Putzmeister.
What do you think makes Putzmeister special?
Over the past six decades, Putzmeister has grown into a globally active company. We have production and sales sites in many countries on all continents. We control our global activities and support our subsidiaries from Aichtal.
It can‘t be easy to find a balance between a regional foothold and global competition …
You‘re right. We need the right balance, even between the different markets. Management structures which allow us to respond to global trends guarantee long-term success.
Even to make the company crisis-proof? Many employees still have the slump during the financial crisis of 2008 in the back of their minds.
It doesn‘t necessarily have to be a global crisis – even minor fluctuations can create problems. We want to make Putzmeister even more financially stable, so that we become more indepedent from fluctuations on the market. It‘s always better to be able to act than to have to react.
How can you achieve that?
We have bundled our efforts in one programme – “Become One”. We want to be number one in everything we do. We have the highest market shares in many markets for concrete pumps. But this also involves higher cost efficiency and technology leadership. We want and need to stay in front here in future, too. And of course we want to expand our market shares. In short: The process affects products, services and internal processes.
In the past, Putzmeister was known for innovations and improvements to existing products.
Where are new developments possible today?
The issue of digitalisation is exciting for us. In my opinion, there is a certain degree of stagnation in the construction industry overall – but this also means there are big opportunities, in particular for Putzmeister.
Can you give an example?
It begins with our machines. With the cockpit, users receive data about their machine in real time. Where is it, how exactly is it working? This makes everything much easier to monitor:
Maintenance, wear of certain parts, even theft protection. The data also provides important information for our service team, so that we can make targeted suggestions to our customers. But that‘s not all …
What are the next steps?
We aren‘t only looking at our machines, but also at the entire chain of concrete processing, from the mixing apparatus to the construction site. By doing this, we can avoid waiting times or reduce delivery quantities in good time. We can help to reduce material, energy and ultimately the costs of our end customers. Such developments can also increase safety at work and protect resources on construction sites with a high potential for danger. These are very important issues for our customers.
Can networking be extended to the entire construction site?
Not at the moment, but we are stepping up our efforts in this regard. The aim is to create integrated concepts for the entire construction site and link all trades with each other.
What are the difficulties involved?
We have to collaborate with other companies – partners, but also competitors. And so there is the question of how we can drive development forward while at the same time protecting our own expertise. This is a concern for us, but it affects other companies just as much. I think we are on the right track, Putzmeister should definitely be an integrator on the construction site.
Since 2012, Putzmeister has been part of the SANY Group, a group with a wide portfolio. What are the resulting synergies?
SANY made a deliberate decision to protect the globally recognised Putzmeister brand and to leave the company with the greatest possible independence. In my opinion, there are more opportunities than risks in the acquisition by SANY – even if it is often perceived differently. There is a big opportunity in operating basic developments together, such as with hydraulic systems or electronics, and then transferring these to different products and customer-specific applications It comes down to using the possibilities without questioning existing structures too much.
Let‘s take another look at the past. What values from the past still play a role today?
First and foremost we have to mention Karl Schlecht, who established the company and made it successful. His life‘s work deserves huge respect and even today he is still actively working on the premises with his foundation. Trust in the brand and closeness to the customer are certainly values that we have been able to retain seamlessly to the present day. But the models for success in global competition are definitely different today than they were 30 or 40 years ago. I also get a sense of this awareness from the employees. Time and again, they have demonstrated that they can accept new challenges and handle them with success.
And if we look at construction in the future: Is it really all about repeatedly setting new records, to
go “higher, faster, further”, as we have seen in the Arabian region?
I think the peak still hasn‘t been reached. With projects of this kind, Putzmeister is primarily demonstrating what we can do. But we are more concerned with the issue of how our customers benefit from our range of machines. How can we make our customers‘ daily work easier? That‘s what it is all about.
So what do customers expect from Putzmeister products? There are cheaper alternatives,
after all …
That‘s true, and that‘s a challenge for us. After all, our customers also look at the costs. We are always on the lookout for added value for our customers. Next to the products themselves, this primarily means our service, too. Many customers are aware that if they have a problem, Putzmeister can solve it for them. We are confident that this is still true today. In future, we want to keep this competitive edge, or even extend it. Brand loyalty, such as it still exists today, makes us happy and reflects the reputation of Putzmeister in the industry. But we mustn‘t rest on our laurels. That is why innovation is not an end in itself for us, but must offer our customers an actual, verifiable advantage
If you had to put it in a nutshell: What does Putzmeister stand for today?
For the best product on the market technologically, for a diverse, experienced team in all areas: In sales, in service, in customer contact or more in the background. And I think our employees communicate their genuine pride in the company to our customers in their daily dealings with them.
In your opinion, how does the future look for Putzmeister?
Our aim is clear: To maintain and expand our market leadership in the coming years. This includes extending our range of services, which means broadening our horizons from our expertise in our core business in a healthy way. For me, the future Putzmeister is not only a machine manufacturer, but also a provider of solutions, who networks all processes on the construction site in collaboration with its partners – and in doing so does not lose sight of its core business.