"Always One Step Ahead"
Markus Schöck (39) has been with HELUKABEL for 18 years. As sales manager for Southern Germany, he serves customers across different sectors with his team of 35; a main focus being the automotive industry. We met up with him for a chat about this.
Mr. Schöck, do customers today demand different solutions than they did 15 years ago?
Markus Schöck: Oh yes, they certainly do. For example, as automation becomes increasingly common in industrial production, more and more data cables are needed to transmit data at higher and higher speeds. At the same time, the installation space in machinery is shrinking and the demand for lighter and more space-saving cables is on the rise. Our customers are increasingly more likely to request ready-to-connect systems. The entire industry is under enormous pressure to function more quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively. This is best achieved by using plug-and-play solutions to optimise order completion times in production halls. As a system provider, we’re able to score well here because we work with partners who only manufacture cables and wires, and who stand for very high quality. This frequently goes hand in hand with customer consultations.
You and your team primarily serve customers in the automotive industry. What is distinctive about this?
Our customers are mainly subcontractors to automotive conglomerates. For example, we deliver our entire product assortment to manufacturers of paint finishing systems, pressing plants, and machine tools. It’s certainly true to say that the automotive industry is the driving force behind plant and system engineering. Processes are highly automated here and, as a consequence, the industry often stimulates technical innovations which are taken up by other industries. The increasingly specific requirements of automotive conglomerates are always passed on to their machine builders. Great emphasis is placed on quality because production stoppages have serious implications. Hence the automotive conglomerates set precise guidelines about which products from which suppliers can be used in the machinery and equipment built by their subcontractors.
HELUKABEL has made a name for itself among the very large car makers. What does this mean precisely?
It means we’re now on the preferred supplier lists of the leading automotive conglomerates. Our products are certified for use in the subcontractors’ machinery and equipment. Initially, this only applied to a couple of products, but now our complete product range is being used. If you look at a typical piece of machinery, you’ll see that it’s full of cables and glands. We’ve positioned ourselves very well here. No company other than HELUKABEL has such a diversity of products on offer. And people trust us, which is something we’re very proud of.
How did you achieve this?
With persistence, passion and a great team. It wasn’t and still isn’t easy, but I have a fantastic team who have pursued this vision with me. There’s enormous potential in the automotive industry and we wanted to be active in it and not just react to it. So we founded a team especially for this purpose, first and foremost with Günter Ehrentreich and Wolfgang Sadlers, regional sales managers for Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg respectively. We’ve been intensively exchanging ideas with the automotive conglomerates and have gradually gained their confidence. We are prepared to listen to their concerns and be involved in projects right from the start. Our own R&D team is always there to help out with problems if and when they arise. All of this is valued and it keeps us one step ahead. Not least, they were convinced by the quality of our products and the know-how of our team.
The automotive industry has long been an international one. Foreign car makers also largely rely on German suppliers. Why’s that?
Certainly because of quality. “Made in Germany” machinery and equipment are still in great demand worldwide and enjoy an excellent reputation. It might sound simple enough to stamp a wing but in reality it requires very specific knowledge that only few people have. And if a German automotive conglomerate relocates its production abroad, its suppliers are forced to operate there as well. For HELUKABEL, this sends a signal to the world; our products are available worldwide which distinguishes us. We are represented in more than 30 countries through our own subsidiaries and warehouses.
Let’s take a look into the future. What other challenges are there?
I’m not the kind of guy who likes to look far into the future. I’d rather look back and learn from experience before deciding what the trends are going to be for the next three to five years. If we stay aligned with the automotive industry, I see enormous potential. Although the market for electromobility, alternative drives, and autonomous driving is growing rapidly, we are primarily suppliers to the hardware sector. I also believe that the classic combustion engine will be around for some time to come. Nevertheless, we have to accept that new requirements demand new products, and that we in sales at HELUKABEL need to network more internationally. We are involved in numerous international projects, but it’s important we carry on improving our market share in countries like Brazil, Mexico, China, India and Russia. The on-the-spot availability of our products must be guaranteed in order to remain competitive.
What do you think about self-driving cars?
We live in very intense times. New technologies such as the smartphone can also be the source of more stress. So it’s great that a technology has come along that reduces stress. Of course, there’s still a lot of research and development to be done before autonomous driving is really safe. But because I’m a fan of any technology that makes life easier, I think it’s basically a great idea.