Success stories to be proud of
The Balluff management invites you to a frank conversation about growth plans, customer successes and progress in digitalization in chal-lenging times. A report by the Balluff Newsroom.
You have managed Balluff throughout the past years. A time of change—not step by step, but at high speed. How are you, your employees and your customers dealing with this?
Katrin Stegmaier-Hermle: In times of major changes, agility is necessary. Whether it is the transformation process in the automotive industry, the impact on global supply chains, the COVID-19 pandemic or the war in Ukraine and its consequences for our economy and our society—for us as a management team, a wide variety of topics have been and continue to be on the agenda. We are talking about a situation characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. Personally, I prefer to put it in positive terms as a challenge: We have all developed very quickly and learned a lot. For all of us to actively meet these challenges and come out of them more successful in the end—that is and was our goal.
Did your definition of success change in these uncertain times?
Florian Hermle: To us, success has always had two components: We are successful when we meet our company goals. All employees contribute. Today, knowing and being able to actively impact this contribution is more important than ever. Our customers set the pace. That's why we focus clearly on making a contribution of real value. After all, our customers’ success is always our success, too. We achieve this with persistence, passion, and the commitment of each of our employees, but also with a good corporate culture. Because our employees are Balluff. We owe our leading role in industrial automation to them. We see it as our duty to empower and support them. They should feel comfortable, be able to reconcile family and career, and accordingly be able to perform at a high level.
Katrin Stegmaier-Hermle: In this context, our successes from 2021 make us especially proud. The Balluff team, by working together globally and across business units, has achieved a lot under really difficult conditions. This was a test of endurance that clearly demonstrated the capabilities of our organization.
In concrete terms, what are the goals you have set yourself for the coming years and how do you intend to achieve them?
Florian Hermle: The „what“ is clear. We want to build on previous successes and continue to grow. And concerning the "how": In order to achieve this sustainably and continuously, we are focusing on our core competence—industrial automation technology. Two topics are crucial to our success: globalization and digitalization. We think in terms of three world regions and align our sales accordingly. This is precisely what our Business Development business unit specializes in: systematically establishing new global business areas. We are also driving digitalization throughout the company. These two focal points run through all locations and areas, from the teams to the finished product. We see it as our clear duty to empower all our divisions accordingly. Numerous initiatives are already underway—and initial results show that we are on the right track.
The management agrees: The challenging last years have shown how strong the global Balluff team is.
Can you please name a few examples for successful initiatives?
Florian Hermle: Of course – both our new Strategic Incubation Programs (SIPs) and the advanced Product Introduction Process (PIP) in particular help us to gain speed and start testing business ideas with our customers sooner. Here, too, digitalization plays an important role: our „Digital Backbone“ initiative, for example, helps us to digitally map the entire product life cycle, from the bill of materials all the way to the digital twin. This considerably shortens development time and ultimately time to market. Because we are growing, we are already expanding our production capacities now. The aim is to align the logistics network even more closely with the regional needs of our customers. After all, thanks to the Balluff web shop, they are only "one click" away from us.
One of Balluff’s strengths is reliability and high delivery availability. How do you handle the lack of components and continue to meet the requirements?
Frank Nonnenmann: We set up a special "task force" in 2021 to carry out important work in these uncertain times. Three measures are central: First, we involve experts from all business units to allocate our production volumes to the customers' priorities. This creates structure. Secondly, we have tapped a large number of additional supply sources in purchasing, and thirdly, we are working in parallel on alternative technologies to circumvent bottlenecks. The combination enables us to remain as reliable and capable of delivering as possible.
Direct customer contact is typical for Balluff. How do you manage to stay in touch with your customers during the pandemic and digitalization?
Frank Nonnenmann: The web shop is a big help: we are available 24/7 for our customers. Orders are automatically forwarded to our global distribution center in Neuhausen and shipped as soon as possible. Our numbers show that the customers appreciate this. An increasing number of orders and delivery call-offs take place here.
How does digital customer communication work?
Frank Nonnenmann: In that regard, digitalization is always a balancing act: Face-to-face meetings are still important to us, especially when building customer relationships or finding solutions together. But we have become more efficient in regular communication. Fast, uncomplicated coordination channels, whether by video or other digital tools, save our experts a lot of time and allow them to do more of what they do best: develop innovative products and solutions for the industry.
From major customer successes to digitalization progress and sustainable growth targets, there is much to talk about.
One of the new products is the Balluff Engineering Tool (BET), a software for the configuration of the IO-Link components. What is the plan for the future of this software?
Florian Hermle: BET supports parameter setting for IO-Link devices— manufacturer-independent, with a simple user interface, and throughout all steps in the process. But in one regard, software is different from classic product development: It is never actually finished but continuously developed further. We consider this a chance because it enables us to flexibly meet our customers‘ requirements. The important aspect here is that BET adds to and enhances our products. This is also our ambition for future software: We think ahead and thus offer our customers services that make operating hardware easier.
Sustainability is another important topic that pertains the future. The sustainability of the business model is increasingly determining the future viability of the company. What are Balluff’s sustainability goals?
Florian Hermle: We have the same respect for our employees as we do for our environment. Making sure we save resources at work is a matter of course for us, which is why we are constantly reducing our carbon footprint. We base all important decisions on environmental, social and corporate governance criteria. Sustainability encompasses many dimensions—we are currently evaluating the various aspects and prioritizing the order in which we work on them.
Katrin Stegmaier-Hermle: Social responsibility is also an important topic for us. We support local organizations like Kinderkrebshilfe Tübingen, which helps children that have cancer, as well as daycares and schools. With increasing globalization, we also expand these initiatives internationally: we support the American Alzheimer Foundation, the Mexican organization „Niños y niñas de la sierra“ and the Steinford Toy Association which helps children in need. Solidarity and foresight are our foundation, and we want to keep it that way.
Before we close, let us take a brief look into the future. 3,600 employees in 61 countries work for Balluff. How will the company evolve?
Florian Hermle: We consider ourselves well-positioned despite all global challenges. The past years have shown how strong the Balluff team is. We have talented colleagues from all over the world who want to and are able to take responsibility. And this is exactly the way we will continue to work: solution-oriented, appreciative, eye to eye. At the end of the day, our employees are Balluff. They’re a team we can be really proud of. That is why we are looking to the future with confidence.