Until few years ago, the business model for a mid-size machine manufacturing company had a simple structure with the focus on solving technical problems. ‘Made in Germany’ was interpreted as ‘providing optimal technology’. According to Petrenee , nowadays, the expectations of the market have undergone a transformation.
Classic German machine manufacturers have had to learn to stop viewing a product as an engineering development whose business relationship ends with delivery to the customer. The customers today demand more than just a good technical solution. Operational availability is the buzzword and maximum operational availability can only be attained by quick provision of services and mature logistical concepts for replacement parts.
Given this environment customers with international organisations must be handled in a special way. For these customers, machine manufacturers always re-evaluate and focus on the individual customer’s needs. They must offer the most relevant technology and customised services as a sort of dual package. And they must be globally active themselves.
The challenge of setting up a practical, real-world focus on infrastructure is not exactly trivial for mid-size companies due to their limited human and financial resources. This is demonstrated by LEWA with headquarters in Leonberg. LEWA experience worldwide demand for their products and services, wherever fluid media need to be pumped under process and safety-critical conditions, such as in the oil and gas industry and the chemical and petrochemical industries.
The operators of such facilities can hardly imagine alternatives to the hermetically sealed process, diaphragm pumps and metering systems from LEWA. The reason for LEWA’s good market position is that LEWA does not just focus on pump technology. In their system solutions, the company also integrates developments from technologically related specialties such as electronics, mechatronics, IT and communication technology as well as knowledge on ease of machine operation and user training. This is done to fulfil growing customer requirements.
According to Bernd Stütz, CEO, LEWA, their first goal is to solve the customer’s problems, to help the customer improve their ROI. Despite all of their technical merits, even this manufacturer must see how it can retain their customers, while offering more added value than the competition.
Compared to large corporations, mid-size companies have organisational structures that are more flexible, and they can make decisions more quickly. That is said to enable greater speed in taking actions, and related to this, quicker reactions to new market situations or individual customer expectations.
In the transition from product provider to solution provider, the growing significance of services was recognised early in the company. While other machine manufacturers are only just ‘discovering’ services as a business area, LEWA have been earning strong in this area for a long time now. The After Sales Service area which in earlier times assumed a subordinate role as a simple spare part provider now makes a large contribution to overall customer satisfaction and to overall sales and profits.
Meanwhile, the service team is also marketing its services. For example, if remote diagnostics of a machine indicates that a component has a high probability of failure within a short period of time, the team contacts the customer and sends out the replacement part even before the failure occurs.
Special services such as servicing systems and packages on oil platforms (special certifications are required to perform work on these platforms) are part of the company’s service programme, and they offer added value to the customer. Another alternative offered is to handle operation of the relevant system on the oil platform for a fixed annual fee a pump solution is provided, and a predefined availability is guaranteed.
LEWA come together several times a year for an inter-group team-building programme, a catalyst for innovative ideas. They also promote effective project management of global projects and better understanding of different cultures.
To build up such a base of expert knowledge and continue to maintain its relevancy, LEWA work with universities. For example, at the expert symposium ‘Green Technologies Day’ held at the end of the year, presentations are given by representatives from research as well as practitioners and end customers. Topics of discussion include ‘Bio-fuel production utilising algaes’.