Röchling Group
Interview 

“OUR CUSTOMER PROXIMITY GROWS WITH THE DIVERSITY OF OUR TEAMS”

INTERVIEW
with Prof. Hanns-Peter Knaebel, President & CEO of the Röchling Group

Generating benefits, for the customer and all partners – this is one of the most important goals of the Röchling Group. To achieve this, a company must understand the types of challenges the customer is facing in its industry. Only then can solutions be developed that are smart, effective, unique, improve the process and are cost-effective at the same time. All of this requires a close partnership and proximity. Prof. Hanns-Peter Knaebel, President & CEO of the Röchling Group, explains in the interview what customer proximity means for Röchling.

How has Röchling positioned itself as a plastics specialist with close contacts to its customers in recent years?
There are various aspects to be mentioned in this regard. When one hears the term “closeness,” one of course tends to think of physical proximity, and if one wants to be close to customers everywhere, one quickly arrives at the issue of internationalization. Röchling has a long tradition of international business. Our roots are in the Saarland region, on the border between Germany and France, where Röchling was founded almost 200 years ago. As far back as the 19th century, there were branches and subsidiaries in France, England, Scotland, and Italy. As a plastics specialist, Röchling has increasingly seized the opportunities presented by globalization and systematically driven its internationalization forward. In the meantime, we generate 60.6 percent of our sales outside of Germany and 29.6 percent outside of Europe.

Apart from internationalization – what other aspects does a customer-oriented outlook include?
For all relevant sectors, Röchling has experts from within its own ranks who can discuss technical matters with customers on an equal footing. Our employees know almost everything there is to know about plastic as a material and its various potential applications. They also have their fingers on the pulse, due to their close ties to universities and other research institutions, for example, and they maintain direct and intensive contact with clients. This results in closeness to customers. Our employees listen carefully, they lend a sympathetic ear to our customers and have a feel for what they need. The diversity within our teams is also important in this respect. Different nationalities, cultures and mentalities are one of Röchling’s strengths. They enhance the creativity of our approach to finding solutions and bring us closer to our international customers.

What guides Röchling in the process of internationalization, which are the most important principles?
As part of our corporate activities, we are always focused on being present in all key global markets. The experts in our three divisions – Industrial, Automotive and Medical – follow developments in global markets closely and know where new potential can be found. Before we bolster our global orientation by investing in a new location, a plant expansion or a company acquisition, we examine all the framework conditions in detail. In recent years, we have operated very successfully in this way, from Brazil to China. And this does not only involve production. It is also very important to establish international development capacities. But regardless of which country we are present in: we always use our know-how and wealth of expertise to maintain the loyalty of our existing customers while continuously attracting new ones.

How important are acquisitions in this context?
We grow organically, but also through company acquisitions that can advance us in terms of technology or open up new market segments. However, there are certain hard factors that must be right. The takeover candidate, for instance, must provide a useful addition to the range of services and products that the Röchling Group offers, fit in with our focus and strategy and be economically sound. Buildings and machinery should be state of the art, and the location must also be right. Added to this are soft factors, which are every bit as important. Ultimately, the question is: How will cultural integration succeed? How does one bring the employees on board? We have had excellent experiences here with owner-managed companies that operate in niche markets and have a lean structure. In most cases, they have a very similar mentality and culture to us. If a company has this type of fit, it makes the integration process so much easier. This is an important factor for the success of our Group.