The Weidmüller Group has reported record sales for the fifth year in a row. Notching up sales of EUR 673 million, the electrical engineering specialist was able to improve on its previous year’s result by a good 5%. At the annual press conference held as part of this year’s Hannover Messe, Chief Executive Officer Dr. Peter Köhler appeared to be very satisfied: "2014 was a good year for Weidmüller. We have continued on our course for growth and have – yet again – achieved a result higher than the sector average." Sales increased in all regions. Japan (+116%), Hungary (+24%) and Spain (+17%) enjoyed particularly strong growth at country level. Germany, meanwhile, experienced stable growth at a rate of more than 2%: "We are working closely with our customers as we make the transition from components manufacturer to solution provider," states Dr. Köhler. "This is reflected in our positive figures too."
The Weidmüller Executive Board: Chief Financial Officer Harald Vogelsang, Chief Marketing & Sales Officer Volpert Briel, Chief Operating Officer Elke Eckstein and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Peter Köhler (from left to right)
Asia is still the strongest growth region
Growing at a rate of more than 10%, Asia once again generated the strongest momentum: "In addition to posting traditionally strong growth rates of more than 10% in China, we more than doubled our sales in Japan over the last 12 months," Dr. Köhler explains. Indeed, Weidmüller increased its sales in Japan by 50% and just under 120% in 2013 and 2014 respectively. "Our business in Japan is primarily driven by a prospering photovoltaics sector, where Weidmüller products are now listed as standard," adds Dr. Köhler. "Our proximity to our customers and the high level of demand for application-specific components and solutions are facilitating strong growth."
Weidmüller has clearly felt the economic impact of the political situation in Russia. "The political situation and the extremely weak rouble have caused our sales in Russia to slump by 10%," Dr. Köhler clarifies. Indeed, Weidmüller generated just under 2% of its total sales in Russia.
Following on from the negative sales trend of the last few years, Southern Europe was also poised for a sales increase in 2014: "While the 6% rise doesn’t buck the trend entirely, it shows that we have made the right decisions in a challenging market environment," affirms Dr. Köhler with cautious optimism. Spain in particular enjoyed strong growth within the Weidmüller Group, recording a sales growth of just under 17%: "This is largely due to the fact that we further expanded our Group-wide centre of excellence for renewable energies here."
Expanding the global production network
Last May, Weidmüller inaugurated another production site in Logatec, Slovenia. Since 2011, this location has served as the base for a joint venture between Weidmüller and Iskra Zaščite, Slovenia’s expert in lightning and surge protection, for the production and marketing of components to protect against lightning and voltage surges. "The joint venture enables us to meet our customers’ growing needs and requirements through continuous further development and innovation in the field of lightning and surge protection," explains Elke Eckstein, Weidmüller’s Chief Operating Officer. The new development comprises administrative buildings and manufacturing plants on an area measuring around 1,400 m2. Weidmüller also has plans to further expand its global production network this year: "Our new production hall in Romania will be opened in the autumn," adds Ms Eckstein. "This development will allow us to expand our existing plant in Baia Mare, where a wide range of components are already manufactured for the global markets."
Workforce further expanded
The Weidmüller Group once again expanded its global workforce, too. The Detmold-based company employs 4,800 men and women all around the world. 200 additional employees were hired in the last year: "Just under half of our colleagues work in Germany," the Chief Executive Officer explains. The workforce was primarily expanded in the company’s production network – with around 150 new jobs being created in Romania and just under 40 new recruits hired in Germany. Weidmüller also employs more than 150 trainees worldwide: "As Weidmüller is a family-owned company, it is very important to both ourselves and the owning family that the company offers young people high-quality training and gives them the best possible start to their working life," affirms Dr. Köhler.
Customer requirements provide the basis for innovations
Fully in line with its corporate strategy, everything that Weidmüller does revolves around its customers: "Since we really have been close to our customers for a number of years now, we repeatedly create innovative components and solutions in dialogue with them," explains Volpert Briel, Weidmüller’s Chief Marketing and Sales Officer. "After all, the only way to generate sales from innovations is to be familiar with customers’ requirements." At Hannover Messe, one of the solutions that Weidmüller was showcasing was a contactless energy transmission system, which can now be used in the wide industrial environment for the first time ever: "Up until now, the transmission performance of systems such as this was insufficient for industrial use or the design was simply too bulky," explains Mr Briel. "This solution from Weidmüller is also based on our customers’ requirements and was developed together with them." Weidmüller generated just under 15% of its sales with so-called innovative products, i.e. products less than five years old. With the innovation sales it notched up in 2014, Weidmüller is on target; according to its strategy, the company aims to increase this figure to 20% by the year 2020.
Weidmüller is also developing the topic of Industry 4.0: "In this regard, German companies have to keep pace if they are to maintain their leading position," Dr. Köhler points out. Weidmüller is using the sector-related topic in two ways: "On the one hand, we are using Industry 4.0’s ideas in our own production facilities. On the other, in providing our customers with components and solutions, we are offering them the basis for implementing this development in their own companies." Staying true to the trade fair’s motto, "Join the Network", Dr. Köhler calls for greater consideration of cooperation and networks: "We need to focus more on networking production processes and ensuring collaboration between companies, research facilities and politics – at European level, too."
Experiences with energy management result in a business model
Weidmüller uses the technology of the "fourth industrial revolution" in its own production facilities, with a view to sustainably cutting energy consumption in its production process: "Our energy management system gives us complete transparency with regard to our machines’ energy consumption," explains Harald Vogelsang, Weidmüller’s Chief Financial Officer. Machine parameters can be adapted and consumption cut using the data determined: "Data is recorded as far down as machine level, which translates into targeted optimization." Indeed, Weidmüller’s positive experiences with energy management have now been turned into an in-house business model: "We are offering customers an integrated system consisting of hardware, software and service, which is indispensable as a basis for professional energy management."
Sustainable solutions should continue to drive growth
Following on from its successful 2014, Weidmüller had a very good start to 2015: "We are more than satisfied with the figures achieved in the first few months," smiles Dr. Köhler. "To ensure that this situation stays the same, in future we will also rely on ecologically and economically sustainable solutions for our customers in defined focus industries." In addition to the sector-specific topic of Industry 4.0, this approach will primarily apply to the Energy segment: "Generating energy from renewable sources, especially wind and photovoltaics, and the topic of energy efficiency, particularly in industry, play a major role in this regard, since there is still a great deal of potential to be tapped in these areas," states Dr. Köhler. The company also has plans to continue driving forwards the further increase in innovation sales, the associated expansion of production capacity and the expansion of its workforce. "We want to continue growing in 2015 too," affirms Dr. Köhler.
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