Interview with Bernhard Sommer, CEO of SimonsVoss
03.11.2014 - Bernhard Sommer, a keen sportsman, completed the Hamburg Triathlon in two hours and fifty-eight minutes on 13 July 2014, the day of the German World Cup victory in Brazil. Twelve d...
Bernhard Sommer, a keen sportsman, completed the Hamburg Triathlon in two hours and fifty-eight minutes on 13 July 2014, the day of the German World Cup victory in Brazil. Twelve days later he was sitting together with GIT SECURITY to review his first year as CEO of SimonsVoss - and to cast a look to the future of the pioneers in digital lock technology, access control and lock organization.
A spirit of competition and enthusiasm are decisive factors for success: for Bernhard Sommer that applies to the triathlon disciplines of swimming, cycling and running just as much as to the SimonsVoss disciplines of access control, classic lock systems and integrated systems.
GIT SECURITY: Mr Sommer, since 1 September 2013, a good year in retrospect, you have been shouldering the responsibility at the head of SimonsVoss. What would be your own summary?
Bernhard Sommer: Exceptionally positive! As a stranger to the industry first of all it was made very easy for me. Luckily I was welcomed with open arms - by the employees as well as by the many customers and partner companies that I was able to visit. That made it very easy for me - and also motivated me to really roll up my sleeves for this company and our common aim.
What was your plan for the first few months?
Bernhard Sommer: Firstly it was important to listen! I don't believe in the method of the new guy coming through the door and then immediately changing everything from top to bottom. Rather we held lots of meetings - and I have been able so far to visit around forty of our trade partners and customers. Our aim was to find out together how we could show the target groups within the market what are the advantages of a digital lock system. That is, by the way, the core question within the industry, at least from my point of view, because digital systems still have a market share of just three percent. With all the advantages that this technology offers, we truly have a long road ahead of us - and also great potential.
What are the target user groups, where are the opportunities?
Bernhard Sommer: The opportunities will open up to us once we manage to communicate the many advantages of digital lock systems: simple management of lock authorizations, no cumbersome bunch of old-fashioned keys, efficient organization and management of access rights and rules. With regard to our target groups that will reap the benefits, they include firstly private individuals and commercial end-users as well as small to medium-sized companies. Secondly there are the traditional users of SimonsVoss systems to date, such as those with really large lock systems with anything from 500 to 2,000 doors - property managers, large companies, universities, healthcare establishments. And then finally there are the integrated projects where a large partner, an integrator, is planning not only a lock system, usually for large operator or user, but also to integrate the lock technology into a complete property management system - including fire protection and video surveillance, access control and property security.
Instead of just one there are, in fact, three worlds and three disciplines at SimonsVoss?
Bernhard Sommer: Right. And exactly that is a result of listening: what does the customer want, what does he need? We were pioneers with our classic Digital Locking and Access Control System 3060 - and we are still considered to be market and quality leaders. Correctly, for sure. For a short while now we have also been active at the entry level of the market with an excellent product - the ‚Starter System'. The possibility to be planned into larger, integrated projects with our SmartIntego range is sort of the third discipline, if you like.
And just this third discipline is often comparable to a long-distance run - one has to build up cooperations; to date perhaps not the best discipline at SimonsVoss...
Bernhard Sommer: That's true - but sometimes you first have to learn about something before you can prove yourself at it.
Like in 2011 as you first had to learn how to swim before you could take part in a triathlon for the first time?
Bernhard Sommer: (laughs) Yes, that's right. Back then, a good customer entered me for the Hamburg Triathlon, just like that, and said: „So, you have just three months. Learn to swim, and we'll do it together". And so that's just what we did. But getting back to opening up for cooperations: this wish was expressed during many discussions with our partners, namely, that SimonsVoss technology should also be able to be integrated into large projects. And for that we naturally had to open up a fair bit. And we're doing exactly that with SmartIntego.
And in your opinion why will the ‚Starter System' have the chance to win the long race to the customer?
Bernhard Sommer: I'll return the question: what makes a specific digital lock system interesting at all to a private individual or to small business operators? We have also listened carefully there: the end customer wants to be in charge of his system. And you wouldn't believe how well informed end customers are these days with regard to what modern technology can actually do - and how simply and intuitively at least simple and easily understood systems can be operated. And we answer exactly that with our ‚Starter System'. After all, you don't want to read a 100-page instruction manual for your smartphone before you use it for the first time.
You talk about end users - what will change here in your sales structure?
Bernhard Sommer: Absolutely nothing. SimonsVoss value added distributors are and will be the most important and primary partner. For this reason we are continuing our program to boost the competence and cooperation of these partners - in the future even more. We help with qualification, with project design, we place tutorials online to occasionally refresh previously acquired knowledge - and we are currently in the process of setting up a totally new partner program with even more benefits for close and good partners, and for those that want to become one.
In times of high cost awareness you decided to build a new production facility in Osterfeld near Leipzig. Why did you take this step?
Bernhard Sommer: Because we are now able to guarantee that the products always leave us with the consistent quality that we promise and that is expected from SimonsVoss systems. We are dealing with micro-technology here. Clean rooms, short transit routes and high reliability - we want to ensure these conditions exist at all times. Just to have to send a batch back to the Far East and let the customer wait four more weeks before delivery - we wanted to avoid this risk at all costs. And, by the by, our delivery fulfillment has improved enormously with the new logistics center in Osterfeld. We had room for improvement there are on the right road towards it.
But SimonsVoss has been active internationally for many years.
Bernhard Sommer: That's true. We founded our newest company in Russia. Many of our reference projects have been completed abroad - vacation resorts, universities, student housing, libraries - right up to luxurious homes. During my most recent visit to SimonsVoss and some customers in Singapore I was very warmly welcomed as World Cup winner. It's amazing how much enthusiasm our national team have generated around the world - and what a positive effect it appears to have had on the image of Germany and - at least according to the result of this conversation - also on business generally.
What trends do you foresee in the coming years in the world of lock technology?
Bernhard Sommer: I would prefer to say to you and your readers what trends we should develop. What was that with Henry Ford and the question about what the people needed back then? Faster horses was what he was told. But he put something entirely new onto the streets - and was the co-founder of a new era. The trend that we want to develop and promote is the one towards digital lock technology as standard! The simplicity, the obvious applications, the ease of use, the organization and the security of these systems, our systems, should be available to everyone. And they should be used by as many people as possible.
What do you see ahead, what do you wish for your ‚three disciplines' for next year?
Bernhard Sommer: I hope that in one year we will have completed interesting integration projects - national and international; that our trade partners have taken on our strong products and that we have been even more mutually successful with them; that we will have reinforced the cooperation with our trade partners again - with those with whom we are already working, and with those whom we will hopefully gain. Starter System or the classic 3060, Smart Handle, Door Monitoring or SmartIntego: SimonsVoss should stay interesting and, for those who don't know us yet, be interesting in future - yes, if I may say so, for people around the world.
Mr Sommer, many thanks for the conversation and we wish you well in the future - for SimonsVoss and of course for your next triathlon.
Flashback to 13 July, World Cup Final: Germany against Argentina. Bernhard Sommer managed on the same day not only to complete the triathlon in under three hours. In spite of a tailback on the A7, the boss of SimonsVoss also managed to be back home again just in time for the Germany vs. Argentina game. Listening was highly beneficial here too - a local resident gave him a very practical diversion around the motorway blockage. And listening carefully was important - it was an unusual route that led him safely home, right on time. Super.
Less Integration Work
Connections to existing complex access control systems are now easier than before with the SmartIntego system integration solution. System component auto-configuration ensures that there is far less work in component integration compared to other systems. The product consists of electronic locking cylinders, SmartHandle door fittings and the GatewayNode and supports the transmission standards of all conventional card formats such as MIFARE Classic, MIFARE Plus, MIFARE DESFire/EV1, Legic Advant UID, HID iClass UID and MIFARE UID. The radio-based hub with a RS485 and TCP/IP interfaces becomes a powerful access manager. Installation is done without any cables and drilling. With a battery life of up to 80,000 locking operations in online mode, the components do not require any maintenance for several years.
Convenient Door Monitoring and Emergency Protection
Is the door open or closed? Has it been locked just once or is it double-locked? Is someone trying to break in through the door? The 3061 Digital Locking Cylinder can detect all these situations using SimonsVoss door monitoring and report them to a main control center, where individual status messages for each door are displayed on the Event Agent. This door monitoring cylinder is installed within three minutes with no need to drill a single hole and without affecting door certification. Just fifteen more minutes and the complete system is ready for operation. A fastening screw equipped with an intelligent system which can detect whether the door is open or closed or if an authorised person is trying to open the door at any time, the cam sensor and the monitoring logic detect the position of the dead bolt and if it has been double-locked or locked just once. The cylinder door monitor constantly notifies the main control centre of door status by radio using SimonsVoss WaveNet radio technology and intelligent G2 protocol functions. The Event Agent software displays status messages and also allows messages to be filtered or re-set where required.