Wilfried Neuhaus-Galladé (on the left in the image), among the managing directors of the hoist manufacturer’s national subsidiaries
Mr Neuhaus-Galladé, 275 years of industrial history have shaped the development of your company. From a knowledge of history, what were the most important cornerstones of technological development from an entrepreneurial perspective?
Wilfried Neuhaus-Galladé: The decisive event took place on 9 September 1745, the date of our foundation. On this day, the smith Johann Diederich Conrad Neuhaus from Heven was on his way to the evaluation committee of the Sprockhövelsche Fabrick. In his pack, he had a wooden shank winch, his masterpiece, which he wanted to present to the committee. After a detailed evaluation of this winch, Neuhaus was found to be worthy to be included as a master craftsman in the Sprockhövelsche Fabrick, a type of trading cooperative. One of the most important buyers of the products at the time was the ambitious mining industry and the transport industry dependent on it. But the routes at the time were miserable. Axle and spoke breakages on the coal carts were a daily occurrence. In order to change the axles or wheels, Neuhaus winches were very useful – and were therefore in high demand. Another highlight can be found in 1952 when we came upon the idea of replacing the manual drive on hoists, which were common up to that point, with a pneumatic motor.
This was initially a most welcome relief of difficult work in underground mining. Then with our pneumatic hoists the miners were able to work significantly faster and above all safer. Air creates no sparks, as we always say. The use of pneumatic hoists therefore eliminated a potential source of risk for explosions. In the following years, we supplied the mining industry almost exclusively, until in 1966, we brought the first pneumatic hoists of the pro series onto the market for other branches of industry. This included, for example, the chemical industry as well as shipyards, for which in 1979 we built the world’s first pneumatic hoist with a carrying capacity of 100 tons. About two years ago, we launched the hoists from the mini serious on the market. These are the first hoists with NFC tag and service app.
What was the impact of changes in your customer structure on sales organisation?
Wilfried Neuhaus-Galladé: My first challenge when I joined our company was to adapt to the economic structural change. The once important branch of industry, German mining, was becoming less and less significant. Global markets became the focus in its place. The establishment of a worldwide distribution network with distributors and subsidiaries in the USA, France, United Kingdom and Singapore, has increased the export share of JDN products to more than 80 percent today. In a connected and global world, the challenge for us is to appear to our customers as a unified group of companies. The introduction of a central and group-wide customer relationship management system ensures that each JDN distribution employee knows our customers from around the world. In addition, we work together with distributors globally, which open doors in many markets and therefore ensure extensive coverage.
Since the company was founded by Johann Diederich Conrad Neuhaus in 1745, the company is now owned by the 7th generation of the family and is therefore among the oldest machine building companies in Germany still in the hands of the founders. What are the secrets of this success?
Wilfried Neuhaus-Galladé: I think the secret of our success lies in that in each generation we were never satisfied with what we have achieved, but rather constantly think one step further, always want to be better. We want to be progressive and innovative. The employees contributed and still contribute to this and take this path with us. The challenges were different for each generation, but the values of each generation are the same, and will continue to be the same in the future. Our employees bring these values into each hoist, and in the same way the family passes on the values to each generation.
On your company’s website, you defined “275 years of excellence” as the brand promise. A grand claim. How do you meet it?
Wilfried Neuhaus-Galladé: We understand this brand promise more as a constant striving for excellence. In doing so, our values play an essential role. Our three value pairs of Tradition & Innovation, Performance & Longevity, and Partnership & Passion are the cornerstone for our daily actions. The management and all employees strive to improve themselves every day. Clearly defined feedback loops and the most efficient communication structure possible help us to do this. Strategies like “just in time” or the “pull system” have an influence not only on our production, but also on sales or purchasing. We are convinced that methods like Kanban only reveal their full use if the values and the systems and clearly defined and communicated. This holistic view of striving for excellence has in past years made us into the company that we are today. For that reason, within the scope of our 275th anniversary, we parted with our brand promise “engineered for extremes” and included the striving for permanent excellence in our brand as described.
What features distinguish the culture at the JDN company?
Wilfried Neuhaus-Galladé: To answer your question I would like to refer to the “JDN Way” already sketched – and especially the subject of partnership. In our organisation, we meet everyone on an equal footing. It is only possible to achieve an excellent result through mutual respect. A few things have changed in our company culture in recent years. Let me formulate it as follows: Our company culture has become tangibly more modern. Led by the idea of creating the best quality, our employees now work better in cross-functional teams with a clear customer focus. A few years ago, each worked in their own bubble. With a large restructuring of, for instance, our office landscape, we accelerated the change to working in cross-functional teams, since work environments also play a decisive role here.
Wilfried Neuhaus-Galladé, managing partner of J.D. Neuhaus GmbH & Co. KG
Besides the employees, innovative products and their economic production also contribute to a successful company. Today it is also necessary to fulfil aspects of sustainable production. How do you manage to reconcile the related demands?
Wilfried Neuhaus-Galladé: When we talk about sustainability in the J.D. Neuhaus Group, then we are speaking about avoiding waste. Waste is not only pointless, it is also expensive, harmful to the environment and has no use for the customer. Our approach to avoiding waste can be best illustrated with a few examples. As already described, we implement the “just in time” and “pull principle” strategies. For us, this means that we only begin to produce a hoist if the customer actually orders a hoist. And this of course has corresponding consequences for our internal processes: Information and parts must always be at the prescribed location at the right time, with the correct quality and volume.
This makes it possible to reduce stocks, reduce unnecessary transport of parts and to avoid over-production. At the same time, we want to use resources like power and water with as little waste as possible. As a result, three out of five production halls on our factory premises are already equipped with LED lighting technology.
Using the most modern wastewater technology, we want to keep our company’s impact on the environment as low as possible. In addition, from early on it has been a concern for us to register each tree on our company lands in a land register. Should it be necessary to remove a tree from the premises, we undertake to plant a new tree. In the context of sustainability, in the age of digitisation video conferences are definitely also an issue. Using the appropriate technology allows us to significantly reduce our carbon footprint. It is however also undisputed that we still have a lot of room for improvement in this area. But the principle of continuous improvement mentioned at the start also applies here.
What significance do you give to digitisation?
Wilfried Neuhaus-Galladé: I think that we must make a clear differentiation here. In my opinion, digitisation will take companies up on their promises in three different fields. Field 1: Business models. If we look at the automobile industry, the manufacturers are no longer only automobile manufacturers, but also mobility providers. Totally new business models like car sharing are revolutionising movement in the big cities. Field 2: Processes. One of the buzzwords of the 21st century is Industry 4.0. Machines, components and people should work with one another in an increasingly integrated way. In doing so, it must however be observed that it is indispensable to structure and to understand processes in the analogue world before digitisation because: Once digitised, it is difficult to correct mistakes. Field 3: Products. Here the music industry provides a great example. I grew up with the analogue vinyl record, my children are growing up with music providers like Spotify. The cycles of innovation are not only becoming faster with each step, but rather they are increasing exponentially. For society and business, this means that they are faced with an extreme task of keeping step with digitisation. And just as a fun little aside: Gravity will still exist for as long as humanity lives on Earth. So loads will always have to be lifted. How? – Each company must find that out for themselves.