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Permanent exchange with customers

Nikolas Baumann, Managing Director - Head of Region CEE/China, on a changing company in intralogistics.

Ferag is appearing more and more young and innovative on the market. What is changing in the company right now?

Ferag comes from the graphics sector, i.e., from the classic publishing industry. Intralogistics ticks somewhat differently: what was once simply called logistics is now called supply chain management. What was once the internal flow of goods is now intralogistics. Hardly any other industry has undergone such a major transformation in recent decades as the transport of goods and information and the associated services. E-commerce is only reinforcing and accelerating this. There are, if you will, two different philosophies behind this, both of which have their justification. In each case, it is important to us to be authentic, personal and yet professional.

A professional appearance also includes the range of products and services offered by each company.

Right. It is important to present solutions to the customer. In addition, it is not just about seeing the customer's current situation and presenting a solution, but also about thinking about where they want to go and developing the perfect solution together with them. In our view, this is becoming increasingly important. We are open and honest with our customers. We say if something does not work or does not make sense for the customer. The interesting thing is that we usually already have the right solution. Most of the time, there is still a patent hiding in some drawer. A patent that may have been ahead of its time 20 years ago, but now perfectly fits to the customers needs.

The magic word is: Talk to the customer.

It is the permanent exchange with the customer that counts: What are their needs, what issues are they dealing with, how do we solve supply chain issues? Ultimately, it is important (and I'm happy to emphasize this again) to offer the customer what he actually needs. In our discussions or in tenders, we do not look at the individual module, but always consider the entire process. We also look at what information comes from the customer, what moves him, what worries him, what needs to be mapped: These are additional challenges that we always take into consideration. Of course, our products, like the "ferag.skyfall", often fit very well into the desired process. But we are open and "neutral" as a sub-contractor, as a general contractor. This is a huge advantage for Ferag that others do not have in this way. First and foremost, we look for what is best for the customer from the different worlds and combine it.

What about innovation at Ferag?

We have a lot to offer here. A current customer project is a good example. The technology was not the innovation. We asked the customer what he needed, where the shoe pinched. But we did not try to sell the high-end solution. We asked ourselves: What do we have and what can we make of it for the customer? In this case, it was a simple extension of a standard solution that brought the decisive, efficient, and sustainable added value. And that is what I find so incredibly interesting. That is what we live, that is what is innovative about it. We develop the perfect solution for the customer from the existing, which can grow with his success, based on what he already has. Sustainable developments and process solutions - always in the interest of our customers. Innovation is not just about technology; it goes far beyond that. The way we deal with our customers, what solutions we offer, how we approach projects; that too is innovative. 

That certainly requires a corresponding corporate culture.

By all means, I always say: We are a family business with a start-up mentality. And that is how we live it. Ferag has extremely flat hierarchies, and you can easily reach your boss - right up to the CEO - via WhatsApp.

But let us return to the topic of innovations: How do you make them visible to customers?

On the one hand, we go out to the customers, listen. On the other hand, we also bring the customers to our premises, but not just to hold meetings. At Hinwil - and hopefully soon at our German headquarters in Sulzbach too - we set up customer zones that really reflect the customer's look and feel. We ask ourselves the question: What does the customers brand look like? What does he identify with? How does he feel comfortable and safe? What do the products and packaging look like? And that is what we depict in the customer zones. We want our employees to live for this as well. We want to feel the customer, and we want the customer to feel that we identify with him. No effort is too great for us. 

Let us move on to the topic of sustainability: What is there to report here at Ferag?

The topic of sustainability, which - let us say – did not play a very big role five or six years ago, is now of course red hot. It is a common thread running through all our systems and naturally also applies to our technology. But we are also gradually implementing it in the infrastructure. Whether it is photovoltaics or e-cars. We are on the road to sustainability here, also as a whole Group. For me, however, the really wonderful thing is that our products have been living sustainability since 1957. In short, everything, from the product to the infrastructure to our buildings, speaks the language of sustainability. We are certainly not there yet, we never will be. But sustainability is encouraged and pushed at Ferag.

Last topic: LogiMAT 2023

Trade fairs, in general, are particularly important for us. There were no trade shows during the pandemic. Nevertheless, we were able to provide fantastic service to our customers, even at a distance. But presence is indispensable! LogiMAT is a must for us, a networking event and an important anchor. So are the in-house trade fairs and additional other regional fairs. We have noticed: Certain things work digitally. But it does not replace personal, direct contact and exchange. 

What is Ferag showing at its booth?

Its complete innovative power! We show the "ferag.skyfall" with automatic loading and unloading of the pouches. Here, too, we are authentic. We also show the combination of the "ferag.skyfall" with other modules and systems. Another proof of our philosophy to always act in the interest of our customers: We think in terms of total solutions that are composed of different modules. The "intelligence", i.e., the programming and control of the system, is also shown. And of course, who and how Ferag is.

Thank you very much for the interview!

SOURCE: LogiMAT 2023 -