»Customers for life – clear goal is to become a service-oriented company«
Interview with Lutz Leonhardt, new Head of Logistics, Assembly and Service for the brand Niles-Simmons
NILES-SIMMONS: Hello Lutz, thank you very much for taking the time to talk briefly about yourself and your position in our company. Let’s start in a very classical way about yourself: What was your career before NILES-SIMMONS?
Leonhardt: Thank you. I started by studying mechanical engineering at Chemnitz Technical University, which I completed in 1992. My carrier started as a service engineer at MAN Plamag in Plauen, a printing machine manufacturer. After 5 years I changed to the order processing department and with that the range of duties expanded of course – via logistics and purchasing. Unfortunately, I also had to experience an insolvency, which I helped to handle. This also involved making a lot of people redundant, which really takes its toll. Especially when you have to fire your closest confidants.
Unfortunately, after that there was no attractive offer in the immediate vicinity, so I accepted one from Augsburg at the company Manroland.
NILES-SIMMONS: But that also meant further away from your family and a completely new area of responsibility for you.
Leonhardt: Yes, that’s both true. My family lives in Saxony and my area of responsibility was now in eCommerce. This section was to be fundamentally rebuilt and I then took on the position as head of the online shop for spare and wear parts. Since I hadn’t had much to do with online shops until then, I thought about it for a long time – but then accepted because of the very exciting position.
NILES-SIMMONS: An online shop for replacement and closure parts also depends on the products and their availability. This closes the circle to your previous career.
Leonhardt: Absolutely – and these are exactly the topics I also addressed. It quickly became apparent that, in addition to improving marketing and shop functions, the availability of parts also had to be increased by means of stockpiling. Of course, this also included further development of the usage properties of spare and wear parts in order to stand out from the competition, which was also visible in the form of product piracy.
NILES-SIMMONS: Were you able to bring back service business?
Leonhardt: The turnover in the online area of the service was increased from 5 to 15 million EUR per year. And that was just the beginning and the discernible potential was huge. The customers told us what they needed and we experimented a lot. Little by little, I built up my own microcosm in the field of eCommerce. This included our own purchasing department, because it could react faster, our own logistics and our own dispo.
NILES-SIMMONS: So how did you go from the online world back into the global supply chain?
Leonhardt: (laughs) It’s very simple: A new managing director arrived and he said, if it works for the online shop, why can’t I do it for the whole company? I thought about it again for a long time, but in the end I decided to do it because it was once again a nice challenge.
NILES-SIMMONS: You have been with NILES-SIMMONS for over a year now. How did the change to Chemnitz come about?
Leonhardt: I got an offer from you. The nice thing about this offer was that I am close to my family again. The work in Augsburg was great, but the family life suffered a lot. That’s why I decided to go to Chemnitz and work for NILES-SIMMONS.
NILES-SIMMONS: We hope you have been able to settle in well in your three areas of service, assembly and logistics. The logistics area was not originally intended for you. How did you come to be in charge of all 3 areas?
Lutz Leonhardt: Based on my previous experience, it was clear to me that for good service and good assembly, you also need good logistics – you can no longer separate it. And for the logistics area, NILES-SIMMONS was also looking for a new opportunity to build up the area at that time. This fitted in quite well with the views of the management and with mine that I should take over the logistics area too.
By the way, I have already settled in very well. I have met and I am still meeting many great people who are open to what I want to change. Colleagues who are also willing and open to new goals and it’s great to see how colleagues are pulling along. We can only achieve change together and everyone can contribute with their ideas and experience.
I like the »we« feeling and the heart and soul that is evident everywhere. You can feel the team spirit very well and I absolutely feel like a team player.
NILES-SIMMONS: What has already changed since you took over the areas of service, assembly and logistics?
Leonhardt: It was particularly important to me that my colleagues notice that something is changing for the better. That is always important for motivation when you address new things, that something happens as soon as possible. In addition to regular meetings and adapted processes, I think we have also managed to adapt the mindset I mentioned. Away from »it’s always been like this« to »how can we help the customer quickly, efficiently and on a long term basis«.
We have already implemented various measures regarding order and cleanliness in the assembly and logistics areas. We are also investing in premises and equipment to improve processes and working conditions. For example, the the section for the assembly of turning-milling units was completely refurbished in order to further ensure very high component quality and to provide employees with a pleasant working environment.
And this is to continue. Among other things, we will improve the office situation for our Service Solutions team in the near future too.
Of course, we still have to adapt our processes to the needs of our customers and that will certainly take some time, but we are on a really good way.
NILES-SIMMONS: Since you have already mentioned the outlook, what is your goal for the future at NILES-SIMMONS? What would you like to achieve or make happen?
Leonhardt: I think the biggest challenge will be to maintain the current focus and commitment over the coming months and years and to continue to develop. The clear goal is to become a service-oriented company – »Customers for life« – and to strengthen and shape this idea among the employees in my team and in all other teams of the company.
As machines become more and more interchangeable, service becomes more and more important to stand out, to differentiate and of course to strengthen customer loyalty.
Through regular customer visits, we recognize the great potential. Our customers are asking more intensively for various services and we are recording a constant increase in our service revenues. I am very grateful that the management shares these ideas and supports the necessary changes.
We also want to drive forward digital business models in service and develop new ones, whether predictive maintenance or condition monitoring.
We would also like to further improve service availability and responsiveness according to 24/7.
The topic of employee training is also particularly close to my heart. We will distribute the know-how of our employees among several heads through continuous training in order to move away from single sources and to offer our employees the opportunity for further development. Of course, this is a lengthy and difficult process, but there is no alternative.
Overall, however, we have already been able to achieve a lot, which is also confirmed by our customers. The changes have been very positively received and that is the best and most important feedback. »Customers for life”.
NILES-SIMMONS: Thank you very much Lutz for the short insight into your career and your new function at NILES-SMMONS. We wish you continued success and fun with the upcoming tasks and changes and look forward to an exciting collaboration. Thank you very much.