Success Due To Customer Focus And Niches

CHEMNITZ, Germany — May 29, 2012 — Future materials in the shape of technical textiles/composites
for the mobility sector and lightweight engineering were the major focus in Chemnitz on 8 – 10 May
2012. More than 1,300 trade visitors attended this year’s dual mtex / LiMA trade fair and
symposium, a visionary combination of trade fairs directed at achieving synergy effects. Chemnitz
Trade Fair Centre invited people to another premiere, the 1st “mtex” informal discussions at the
historic Wasserschloss Klaffenbach on the evening of the second day of the fair. More than 50
interested people enjoyed an entertaining discussion session on the subject of “The future in sight
– success strategies under scrutiny”; the evening was chaired by Kirsten Schönharting.

During the discussions, Dr. Stefan Topp, Dr. Peter Hartwig, Marc W. Lorch, Dr. Stefan
Engelhardt and Karlheinz Siegert unanimously supported the idea that success at a company is always
based on a clear corporate strategy, which needs to be seasoned with innovations and supplier and
customer relations that are characterised by trust. Even if the growth markets are clearly not in
Germany and Europe at the moment, there are some interesting niches in the domestic market. One
major problem for Dr. Hartwig is the fact “that no more innovations are taking place in the fibre
field in Europe any more and very many developments are now taking place in Asia”. But Karlheinz
Siegert said he believed there was enough room for interesting niches in Europe in the yarn sector.
“The need for more individuality and the issue of sustainability make room for this.” Dr. Engelhard
introduced another interesting aspect into the discussions. In his view, innovation does not just
relate to new ideas for products, but also processes. He quoted the specific example of the launch
of the Columbus strategy concept at Hugo Boss in 2004 and this is very successful today; it
involves harmonising and adapting corporate processes to the changing general conditions. “We no
longer think of sectors either, but of clusters, i.e. networks consisting of manufacturers,
suppliers, research institutes and other institutions near each other in geographical terms and
along the value added chain.” According to Dr. Hartwig, a “presence in the world market is the top
priority” for the non-woven fabrics sector. The main markets for Ziegler’s non-woven fabrics are
Asia, Turkey and Hungary, he added. But many medium-sized family companies lack the necessary
capital to be able to assert themselves in the face of global competition. Marc W. Lorch took a
bold step almost ten years ago in order to make room for this. He sold the family business and
provided support as it was merged with two other firms to become what is now Gruschwitz AG. He
still believes that he made the right decision, for “it is almost impossible to face up to global
competition as a small medium-sized enterprise without any financial support. Relying on the banks
is very dangerous, because loans are only granted if they can be serviced.”

Anyone who thinks that the production of technical textiles is a panacea for every ill is
ill-advised in the view of Dr. Topp. “In the end, proximity to a customer, the niche and the
business model are the crucial factors for any corporate success story”. It also makes sense for a
company to set up a second mainstay alongside its core business. Marc W. Lorch believes that there
is plenty of potential to be tapped, particularly in the Swabian Alb region in south-west Germany.
“There are still many textile companies there, which have modern machinery, a high degree of
expertise and well-trained specialists.” As technical textiles continue to be a growth market
against all the odds, it makes sense to orient companies towards them, he added. But it is
necessary to have the relevant raw materials and suppliers nearby in order to be able to provide
the relevant quality for functions and the availability demanded by the market. “Made in Germany
still has great significance for me, but this needs to be both challenged and developed,” said Marc
Lorch. “Like Dr. Engelhardt, I am just as convinced that networks involving several companies can
play a role in preparing and successfully introducing strategies in the field of technical
textiles. But this requires long-term thinking and acting and integrating the customers and
partners along the value-added chain.”

An internationalisation strategy will continue to be an important element and contribute to a
company’s success – this particularly applies to the automobile industry, where the growth markets
are now in Asia and no longer in Europe. Because the OEMs and systems integrators in this field are
moving their operations abroad, companies operating in the technical textiles sector will
increasingly have to internationalise too. So it is important for German manufacturers that
politicians improve the general conditions for successful operations abroad. Innovative answers
also need to be found to the growing problem of a shortage of specialist workers. The evening could
be summed up as follows: the textile industry needs to reposition itself in a better way in
people’s minds and be better portrayed at the textile job colleges and the textile sector. We all
have a responsibility to act as ambassadors for the textile industry.

Posted on May 29, 2012

Source: Messe Chemnitz