Interview with KLINGER CEOs Christoph Klinger-Lohr and Daniel Schibli: Looking back at 2021 and previewing 2022 at the KLINGER Group
More service! More sustainability! More automation! And a stronger social media presence! When KLINGER CEOs Daniel Schibli and Christoph Klinger-Lohr review the past year and venture a look into the future, they spread a spirit of optimism.
We have used the past months and years of corona-related lockdowns and restrictions to position ourselves even more solidly. In our current blog post and in-depth interview with our CEOs, we want to give you an overview of what’s new.
Contacts mentioned in the article:
Let’s go digital!
Let’s start at our headquarters in Gumpoldskirchen, Lower Austria. Even behind our historic walls, we have long embraced the modern times. When we at KLINGER Dichtungstechnik took giant steps towards Industry 4.0 in 2021, product quality was always our top priority. In order to digitize the quality assurance processes at KLINGER Dichtungstechnik by the end of the year, we first had to upgrade all of our machines to the latest state of the art.
“In a second step, we then created our own, future-proof industrial network, which is designed to handle very large amounts of data,” says Ernst Schäfer, Technical Managing Director of KLINGER Dichtungstechnik Gumpoldskirchen. “Already in the planning phase, we made sure that sufficient bandwidth would always be available in the future as the volume of data increases. In an emergency, the network will also work completely independently and disconnected from the service provider, and even in the event of a network failure, we can still access all of our data.”
- A solid production process ensures reliable deliveries. A big plus for the customer is that customized requests can now be implemented even faster thanks to digitization and automation.
You can find out more about digitization and the visit of the Austrian Digitization Minister Margarete Schramböck to the KLINGER factory in Gumpoldskirchen:
We are only highlighting three points here as you will find further details in the following interview with our CEOs.
- In 2020, KLINGER Dichtungstechnik built a regenerative post-combustion plant for the production of PTFE seals. Current measurements show very pleasing values: with every ton of PTFE material produced, we save one ton of CO2. Under full system utilization, this results in a CO2 reduction of 150 tons per year.
- In 2021, all CMR substances were banned from our gasket sheet production. CMR substances? The abbreviation stands for carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic. They are substances that are harmful to health and the environment. Luckily, there are usually alternatives. It is high time we make the switch because we at KLINGER are convinced safety must come first!
- Always enjoy a clear conscience when you buy from KLINGER. A big plus for our customers is that we think ahead and often fulfill tomorrow’s legal frameworks today.
Of course, so much commitment did not go unnoticed. You can find out which awards and environmental seals of approval KLINGER received in 2021:
KLINGER Group CEOs Christoph Klinger-Lohr (left) and Daniel Schibli (right)
The KLINGER company motto is: trusted.worldwide. What does that mean right now, in the third year of the pandemic?
Daniel Schibli: trusted.worldwide. has paid off for our customers now. Throughout the entire pandemic, we have always been able to deliver. That is due to our business model. We invest in good storage capacities. We acted flexibly and spontaneously where necessary. Above all, we took a solution-oriented approach, and if something was needed, we also contacted new suppliers. That is not so easy for smaller competitors. Maybe that is why we won over so many new customers in 2021.
Christoph Klinger-Lohr: The trust in the KLINGER brand is related to the fact that it is known around the world. The pandemic has accelerated certain developments. One of them was our rebranding process. Now, all the companies that have joined the KLINGER Group have adopted our brand identity. Our logo. Our motto. The KLINGER blue. Consistency is even more important now, because many of our buyers are working from home and spending more time on our social media channels and websites.
Speaking of working from home: what has changed in how you work with customers?
Daniel Schibli: We noticed that not every customer working from home had access to past data. We looked it up and made it available.. This meant considerably more effort for our employees, but our goal was to relieve our customers of some of their extra work.
Did the range of services change during the pandemic? Was there a bigger or lesser demand for certain KLINGER products?
Christoph Klinger-Lohr: During the first wave of the pandemic in 2020, we noticed that many projects, construction projects, major inspection work and planned shutdowns were being put on the back burner. Accordingly, we reconsidered our range of services and expanded as well as standardized our service portfolio. We are well on the way to being able to offer a very well-rounded KLINGER service package in the coming months. This development has been accelerated by the pandemic…
Daniel Schibli: … And also accelerated in that we ourselves spent a lot of time working from home and developing new ideas. Our strategic agenda had three S’s: Safety, Solutions and Service. In concrete terms, this of course also means more products. However, KLINGER no longer sees itself as simply a component supplier, but increasingly as a solution provider. This is important to us.
The pandemic has also accelerated digitization and automation in the company. Why was that important now?
Christoph Klinger-Lohr: Especially in the second quarter of 2020, we suddenly felt like someone had pulled the plug. Many of our customer’s projects came to a standstill. That was the moment we launched a wide variety of automation projects. In general, we try to automate our production sites meaningfully and to digitize quality assurance and planning processes…
Daniel Schibli: … And that makes us pioneers, because our industry is rather conservative when it comes to digitization. KLINGER is well on the way to playing a leading role in the areas of digitization and automation. We used the time during Corona to position ourselves even better and to prepare as best as possible for everything that might come next.
KLINGER also intensified its presence on social media and in online marketing.
Daniel Schibli: Christoph (Klinger-Lohr, note) and Christina (Raimann, note), who, as Head of Group Corporate Services, has been responsible for the entire area of marketing, communication and digitization since the previous year, have been very active in this. At my age, I only surf the social media wave … but with all my heart (laughs).
You mentioned Christina Raimann, who now has more responsibility in the company. At the end of 2021, Barbara Köfinger also became the first female managing director at KLINGER. In general, the industry tends to be male-dominated. Is KLINGER making a trendsetting statement here?
Christoph Klinger-Lohr: A very important topic! If we look at KLINGER’s history, everything was male, from the managing director to the supervisory board. This is no longer in keeping with the times. So, if there is a suitable candidate for a position, we look forward to meeting them!
Daniel Schibli: That’s how I see it too. We are not quota hunters, but we stand for more diversity.
Change of topic: Sustainability. This issue specifically focuses on sustainability. What does the term mean to you personally?
Daniel Schibli: Many companies only pay sustainability mouth service. Not us. For us, sustainability was already a corporate principle before the term even existed. Our product range has always consisted of particularly durable products. Durable ultimately means sustainable, in contrast to today’s throwaway mentality. At the same time, we constantly examine future developments. We are not system drivers who can push developments, but we always look at where we can make our contribution to environmentally friendly and sustainable overall systems.
„Many companies only pay sustainability mouth service. Not us. For us, sustainability was already a corporate principle before the term even existed.“
KLINGER Group CEO Daniel Schibli
What would be a specific example?
Daniel Schibli: Two keywords: “hydrogen” and “biogas” (LNG). Be it in shipbuilding or for industrial companies in the construction of small power plants. We already have solutions ready that we expect to be used on a large scale in the coming years. Hydrogen is considered the energy carrier of the future. Our internal experts even believe that we will only be able to master the necessary energy transition with hydrogen. Our products are already approved for such uses. And to be even more specific: A tanker powered by fossil fuels simply does not have a good carbon footprint. LNG (Liquid Natural Gas), i.e. liquid gas, engines have much lower-emissions making them more environmentally friendly. We manufacture super special valves for LNG engines. It may still be a niche product on the world market, but if you ask us, not for much longer!
Christoph Klinger-Lohr: Of course, we also take sustainable measures in the company to reduce energy consumption during production, feed waste heat back into the system and ensure that material waste is recycled and returned to production. Recently we also banned all problematic substances from gasket production.
Are new products also being planned for 2022 and would you like to already give customers a sneak preview?
Daniel Schibli: I really do not want to reveal too much just yet, but we actually have other valve products in the pipeline that we plan to launch this year. These products will perform just like previous models but use less material.
In order to be able to develop new products, you have to invest in production technology. What investments would you highlight for the past year?
Daniel Schibli: We made a number of investments in 2021. We purchased new machines and modernized existing ones. We also digitized the production process at various sites. This enabled us to increase efficiency and output.
In our experience, investments in process optimization usually pay off. And the customers quickly notice that sales, production and handling processes run a little smoother.
You say KLINGER is investing, should a company actually continue to grow in these unpredictable times?
Christoph Klinger-Lohr: Of course. The desire to grow is greater than ever! The question is, where do we want to grow? Especially in times like these, it is a good feeling to know that in recent years we have always been right with our market development forecasts. For example, our assessment that once the development away from fossil fuels got started, it would take giant strides.
Daniel Schibli: For us, growth means growing qualitatively. We want to get good companies on board that will expand our product variety.
Last year, KLINGER bought the Italian gasket manufacturer Spiralit.
Christoph Klinger-Lohr: Exactly. That was a big win! As an original equipment manufacturer and total supplier of gaskets, the Italian company Spiralit will benefit our end customers in a variety of industries.
„As an original equipment manufacturer and total supplier of gaskets, the Italian company Spiralit will benefit our end customers in a variety of industries.“
KLINGER Group CEO Christoph Klinger-Lohr
A final question: What wishes and visions do you have for the rest of 2022?
Christoph Klinger-Lohr:In addition to the end of the pandemic, I also wish for an end to the fatigue it has caused. The constant back and forth, working at home, at the office, online, offline. You can feel the exhaustion among our employees and our customers. I wish for peace and quiet to return. To have more routine and predictability again. For this year to be better than the last for both us and our customers.
Daniel Schibli: I can only agree with that. Until then, however, we will continue to go the last mile for our customers. trusted.worldwide. with or without a pandemic, we are there for you!