Peter Köhler: “Think globally and network to coordinate projects worldwide”

The networking of industrial production – this was the task the Weidmüller Group set itself long before Industry 4.0 became the global keyword for it. The CEO Dr. Ing. Peter Köhler explained in 2016 how the company from Detmold is positioning itself on the world market.

Connected Industries – how did the competence field of the Weidmüller Group become the dominant topic of the HANNOVER MESSE?

We are pleased that Industrie 4.0 is now the fourth trade fair theme for the fourth time. That simply describes the situation in which we are in automation today. Here, new topics have emerged at the interface between production and data. And that’s exactly where Weidmüller has been at home for many years, and we want to keep growing there.

The USA is the partner country of the fair. What is your Industry 4.0 strategy for North America?

We have been active in the States since 1975, and since the 2000s we have been operating in close cooperation with Rockwell Automation. In the Smart Factory, as Industry 4.0 is often called in the US, the entire NAFTA region is one of the most important markets in the world. We are pleased that the innovative Internet nation USA is now the partner country of HANNOVER MESSE. Companies from both countries are working on the topic of standardization for intelligent production in their respective initiatives, for example the platform Industrie 4.0 or the Industrial Internet Consortium. It is gratifying that both initiatives have now announced that they will collaborate on this issue. Here we expect impulses from the encounters in Hanover.

When you think back to the 2009 crisis, what role do international markets generally play in Weidmüller’s growth?

In Germany, we only generate just under a quarter of our total sales. In recent years, we have grown extremely fast on an international scale – this is especially true for our business in Asia, especially in China and Japan. Over the next two to three years, China is likely to become our largest single market, overtaking Germany in terms of sales. Even if somewhat less growth is forecasted in China, 6.5 percent on the already achieved large base is an enormous potential for us. In Japan, we have grown a lot in photovoltaics, where after Fukushima renewable energies are the focus. For us, one of the most important growth markets besides China remains Southeast Asia, where we pay particular attention to the enormous potential of Indonesia.

How do you feel about regional economic trends at Weidmüller?

We have seen some markets more dynamic and, on the other hand, have been pleasantly surprised at how important markets have developed after crises. In Brazil, where we acquired a joint venture partner, we – like many others – clearly had higher expectations. But current economic and political developments do not prevent us from watching the whole South American market and developing from Brazil. Of course, Weidmüller also met the development in Russia and the Ukraine. We are seeing the global decline in the oil and gas business in several regional markets, including the Gulf. On the positive side, for example, we are benefiting from reindustrialisation in the US and see strong growth rates in India, albeit from a low level.

How do you see the current development in Europe?

Southern Europe has recovered in the last two years, especially Spain and Italy, which have come out of a very deep crisis and where we are going to grow very well again after 2012. In addition, Eastern Europe has developed very positively. Here we feel sustainably that important customers, for example in the automotive industry, have strategically decided in favor of this region as a production location.

So has the diversification in different markets for Weidmüller so proven?

I would not call this diversification, but high market penetration in the markets relevant to us. We still see a lot of potential for us worldwide, as there are markets that we can continue to develop for ourselves. With our broad portfolio, we are well positioned both in the highly developed industrial markets of the world and in developing industrialized countries. This is not really a diversification. Our aim is to be able to provide combinations of individual components in the connection technology right up to Industry 4.0 applications with exactly the solutions that are in demand in the markets.

What does this global concept for organization of the company mean?

We are regionally organized in sales. In the regions, there are very different approaches, depending on the market share we have there or in a specific country. It is quite certain that we offer our entire portfolio worldwide, including all solutions for Industry 4.0. However, depending on the degree of technological maturity of the industrial markets, there are of course different emphases. That’s where we set up, both in terms of sales teams and development. We have significantly increased development in China. With the takeover in Brazil, we have also expanded the development there. In Singapore, we have opened our own electronics development. The strategy for us is to develop and manufacture “Local for local”. Of course we have to think in a globally networked way and change ourselves, to develop the markets accurately. This also results in significant changes in the headquarters in Detmold: so it is important to coordinate projects and processes even more aligned to international markets from here.

Recruitment worldwide – how do you do it?

In fact, as a medium-sized company, we are competing for the best talent worldwide. But we make this an advantage: who is hired by us, can work in a company that gives him a lot of responsibility very quickly, and the flat Hierachien knows. The Weidmüller Academy plays a decisive role in the international communication of our corporate culture as well as in the loyalty of talent to our company. It represents a comprehensive offer for the personal advancement of our employees also from the national companies. This is a strategic approach with which we can transfer our values ​​and culture sustainably into the enterprise organization.

Hans Gäng
14.11.2019
von Hans Gäng