SimonsVoss can look back on a highly successful year and, according to a study by a strategy consulting company, landed in the top ten of the leading German medium-sized companies with regard to earnings and turnover growth. Power of innovation and high customer focus formed the basis of this success. The company is currently investing 6 million Euro in a new production facility in Saxony-Anhalt. As from the middle of 2013, electronic locking cylinders and the newly introduced ‘Smart Handle' digital escutcheons will be manufactured there and delivered to customers worldwide from the integrated logistics center. And significant expansion is planned for the coming year too. Matthias Erler of GIT-SECURITY.com spoke about this with the CEO, Hans-Gernot Illig.
Mr. Illig, your company recently announced the construction of a new manufacturing and logistics center, and you also want to grow "significantly more than the market" in the coming year. What is this success and optimism for the future based on?
Hans-Gernot Illig: We have been manufacturing at our present location for some ten years now and have exhausted the available space there. We therefore didn't want to invest further in the existing facilities and decided instead for a new building. We were able to design this so that our manufacturing flow will be quicker and we have introduced new manufacturing methods that will increase capacity. If we had continued as before we would have by reached the limit by the end of 2013.
How does the schedule look?
Hans-Gernot Illig: Building will commence in 2012 and we want to have moved production to the new location in Osterfeld by the middle of 2013.
You mentioned manufacturing methods just now - what will change in this respect?
Hans-Gernot Illig: We are currently progressing away from purely manual production to semi-automated manufacture. Our production is very labor-intensive; difficult and tiny components have to be assembled. We have employed qualified watchmakers for some of this work. Full automation would not currently be beneficial, and the very qualified manual processes remain important.
Partial automation will however definitely be worthwhile.
You manufacture solely in Germany ...
Hans-Gernot Illig: Yes, and it will stay that way in the long term; we believe in "Made in Germany" quality. We have no products anyway that could quickly be made in China as our production is too closely tied with our development. We work very tightly in response to order intake and projects. We don't manufacture any mass products that simply roll off the assembly line, not least because the subject of doors is very broad. Their component parts enable thousands of possible combinations and it is simply not possible to have such a wide variety on stock.
And you continue to grow.
Hans-Gernot Illig: If you look at the last few years there were certainly upheavals in 2007 and 2008 in the industry, and 2009 was particularly hard. But our turnover with positive growth rates remained significantly above the general market trend. In 2010 we ended with a significant increase, and in 2011 we even had a very good double-digit turnover growth.
To what do you attribute these strengths?
Hans-Gernot Illig: We offer a very modern portfolio of products and have a very strong development department. We invest continuously more than 10 percent of our annual turnover in R&D for new products. On average, 50 % of our turnover is based on new products, that is, products that are less than three years old. We are strong on projects and this is important. It means that we must work very closely with our customers - both trade and end-users - to arrive at the optimum solution. Our entire organization is set up to be customer-oriented and a recent study has confirmed this (Top 100 medium-sized companies). According to the report, Simons Voss belonged in the top ten of the most innovative companies in Germany. In summary, the key factors to our success are a strong development team, innovation and customer orientation. This is also made evident by the fact that, although we are a manufacturing company, 50 percent of our employees are in sales and marketing, product management and technical customer support. In this way we also differ from most of our competitors.
What makes you so optimistic for the future?
Hans-Gernot Illig: Well, on the one hand, past experience has shown that we can keep on fighting even in turbulent times. My optimism is also fed by our very strong market position in our core central European markets. Additionally we extended our product range in the middle of last year with RFID components and electronic locks. This is particularly interesting for the British, Spanish and Italian markets. We have our own system, based on Mifare Classic and Desfire, that enhances our range of electronic locking cylinders and electronic escutcheons.
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