Robert Bauer: “Double-digit growth in Asia”
Dr. Robert Bauer, CEO of SICK AG, on the perspectives of Industry 4.0 in the ASEAN region.
Everyone is talking about the worldwide problems caused by trade policies. Have you been affected by them yet?
The trade conflicts are definitely having an impact on the international climate. This uncertainty makes business, in particular, difficult. We have certainly been affected indirectly: We can already feel the concerns on the market. We are not, however, affected directly because we do not deliver from China to the USA. We have concentrated our production for Asia in Singapore and Malaysia.
What advantages do these sites offer, and what role do they play in corporate development?
We deliberately chose Singapore in 2009 because of the highly dependable patent protection there. The SICK Regional Product Center Asia combines product development at the Singapore site with very stable production in Malaysia. The connection between Singapore and Malaysia has proved to be a positive factor. We consistently achieve double-digit growth in Singapore and the other Asian markets. The stimuli for this come from the electronics industry, as well as the region’s automotive industry. Singapore really has become an independent and important site for SICK. Production decisions are made there autonomously. There are some products that are only developed in Singapore – we therefore do not simply speak of an extended workbench for the sites in Germany.
What investments is SICK making in personnel in order to maintain long-term success in this growth market?
When we decide on localized operation we invest, above all, in the competence of our local employees. We integrate them in many decisions – not merely local ones but also international and global. Employees who feel good here will stay here. We thus gain a high level of attractiveness and have a low fluctuation rate. And we need this if we want to remain successful in Asia’s competitive environment. One advantage of Singapore is that half the population also speaks Chinese. We can therefore directly support the Chinese market directly from Singapore, as well as from Vietnam and Malaysia. In our globally networked sales organization, our specialists from Singapore work directly on complex solutions with experts from Germany.
We operate on a partnership concept: each retains and protects their know – how, while each profits from shared knowledge
Industry 4.0 means collaborating with several solution partners. How does this concept of exchanging knowledge function in Asia?
When collaborating with customers, the requirements and objectives must be clear right from the start and contractually agreed. Some companies want to keep all the knowledge for themselves while others want to, and can, share it. We operate on the basis of a partnership concept in solution business: Each retains and protects their know-how, while each profits from shared knowledge. Good patents and contracts ensure security and trust. Even in China, the protection of intellectual property is changing in response to the interests of its technology companies. But we have been able to build up durable collaborations in Singapore because this protection has already been strictly regulated there for a long time.