Our guests in the studio: Martin Stillger, CEO of Materials Services, and Volkmar Dinstuhl, CEO of Multi Tracks. Take a look, it's worth it!
Stefan Ettwig: Welcome to a new edition of we.talk, thyssenkrupp's video podcast. The transformation to a Group of Companies is in full swing. The Annual General Meeting showed that, and that's reason enough for us to take a look at the performance of our now significantly more decentralized Group of Companies. Of course, we are not doing this alone. Our guests in the studio today include two CEOs, Martin Stillger from Material Services and Volkmar Dinstuhl from Multi Tracks.
A warm welcome to you both! It's good to have you here.
Martin. You said last year in a major logistics newspaper, and I quote "Innovation only matures in a company that creates space for trial, error and continuous learning." So to what extent does the new decentralized organizational structure help Material Services? In business? And how is it perceived from the customer's point of view?
Martin Stillger: For a very decentralized business like Materials Services, the decentralized organizational structure is of course a very good way of embedding this business. With more than 80 national companies and 380 branches worldwide, we are of course a very decentralized company and this is embedded in a decentralized strategy, which is of course a great "fit" and suits us very well. On the other hand, within the framework of the Group of Companies, there is of course also an obligation associated with this. That should always be made clear. It's about performance, and it's about each unit being viable on its own and also being able to keep up with the main competitors in the respective field in a benchmark comparison. A good performance is always one that compares well with the competition and not on the basis of any artificial indicators.
Of course, this is also very good for the development of the business. We have many topics that revolve around innovation in the area of digitalization. Perhaps a very good example of this is that we have our own startups that we found and with which we go through an innovation process that is controlled quite hard. So it's not about everyone being able to join in, it's about who can deliver what, by when? Once the preliminary phases are done, we move into the incubation phase, and we already spend a lot of money in this phase. We invest millions per activity, and of course these have to be justified and they also have to be successful one day. Here we get a very big vote of confidence from thyssenkrupp because we simply control it and simply do it. I think that's a very good example.
Stefan Ettwig: Thank you very much. Volkmar, to play the ball into the most diverse segment of thyssenkrupp... Multi Tracks has been instrumental in sharpening thyssenkrupp's portfolio in the recent past. There was a lot of activity to follow up. Something like this doesn't happen overnight. How does something like this work in the Group of Companies?
Volkmar Dinstuhl: We work with each of our businesses on their own individual path to further development. We are something like the Group of Companies within the Group of Companies. Unlike the other segments, we do not have a common market or a common business model and can therefore respond to the companies individually. We focus on the topics of portfolio and performance and only do everything that serves these two topics in our segment. We do not do other things. In the context of portfolio measures, you naturally have the opportunity to question many things. Contact with external parties also gives you completely new perspectives on business. And that's how we try to achieve something like capital market readiness, business by business. In the case of thyssenkrupp nucera this means a possible IPO, for the other businesses it means being attractive to investors. That can be thyssenkrupp, but also an external partner.
Stefan Ettwig: Last time you were a guest here, Martin, you praised the thyssenkrupp brand very highly. Another quote from you: "Competitors are licking their fingers". Does that statement still stand from your point of view? And how is it in the new decentralized structures? How does the brand function there?
Martin Stillger: Well, the statement stands above everything. It stands very firmly. I am absolutely convinced of that. This brand stands for traditional values such as reliability, quality and engineering expertise, but also for completely new topics. In the last two or three years in particular, it has become very heavily charged. On the subject of sustainability and green, the example of thyssenkrupp nucera was brought up. The steel transformation is also a good example. And of course innovations, digitalization topics that play a role and achieve a certain external effect. The brand radiates into our businesses, it is a door opener – especially abroad. That's a very important position for us. What does that mean for our business? What does it mean for how we deal with it? I just said that we are a very decentralized organization and that the thyssenkrupp umbrella brand is important for our decentralized, perhaps smaller units, e.g. a national company with 100 or 150 employees. How can they open doors to anything? If they say we come from thyssenkrupp, then the door is open and that has a very great value. We also get that back from customers again and again.
Stefan Ettwig: The thyssenkrupp brand and the diversity of Multi Tracks, how does that fit together for you?
Volkmar Dinstuhl: It's a wonderful fit. As Martin has just said, the thyssenkrupp brand is very, very popular abroad. But part of the Group of Companies is that we have very strong brands in the companies, and we want to return Uhde and Polysius to their product brands as corporate brands. This has triggered an incredible surge in motivation, has been very well received and is also very important as a signal for the companies. And of course the highlight is the launch of thyssenkrupp nucera, a great new brand that I believe makes a significant contribution to thyssenkrupp's image as part of the green transformation.
Stefan Ettwig: Thank you for mentioning the Green Transformation. The future topic for thyssenkrupp and also for Materials Services. What does that mean for you? Where do you stand and where are you headed?
Martin Stillger: We have a dedicated sustainability strategy consisting of three elements: One is beyond clean, which is our commitment to be climate neutral by 2030, and the other is beyond green. This is about green products and providing green products for our customers. Here we want to be the leading contact partner, the leading authority in dialog with our customers. And it's also about beyond good. We want to be an ordinary member of society and get involved and do something for it.
Let's come back very clearly to green. We have done various things in the area of green products. And how do we deal with green? One example here is that we have our own carbon footprint calculator, which we use today and will continue to use in the future to give our customers a clear CO2 value - with one piece of material - right up to the point of delivery to their door. At this point, we see a very good demand for this information. Another example is that we are becoming active in the circular economy. We want to use our capabilities to offer solutions to our business partners. For example, we are currently working with an aluminum manufacturer. He approached us. We didn't approach them at all, they approached us and said, you do this and that for your business, can't we also work together on this topic. We accepted with thanks, and of course we're happy to do so.
One last example: we have now opened a new trading desk, i.e. a department within the trading organization that deals with the marketing of voluntary carbon credits. This is not about the classic area of CO2 certificates, which are somehow regulated by the state and are mandatory, but rather about the voluntary area. Where can I actually do something? And we also have great inquiries.
So we have very specific examples of products and activities that we are launching in order to sharpen our profile in this area.
Stefan Ettwig: Volkmar, you have already been quite specific: The green transformation is also a big topic at Multi Tracks, with Uhde and nucera. Here, two corners of the so-called hydrogen triangle are being played with, i.e. supply and infrastructure. The demand is for steel, for example, which we have already discussed here. How do you see the interaction in the Group of Companies in this regard? Does that help the green transformation and thyssenkrupp's goals?
Volkmar Dinstuhl: With nucera and Uhde we have two companies that benefit from the Green Transformation but also contribute quite significantly to the necessary solutions. And we are coordinating our activities with other areas, in particular steel, in the so-called H2 Council, so that we can present a coordinated approach to our contacts in politics.
And, what is very, very important and an incredible competitive advantage, which you notice in discussions with partners in the context of the green transformation, is that we can offer a holistic approach. Only a few of our competitors can do that. And thyssenkrupp is way ahead in that respect.
Stefan Ettwig: Thank you very much for the nice closing words. Thank you also for the shared insights and classifications. I think we can say that thyssenkrupp is on the right track with the Group of Companies and that you as businesses can play an active role in shaping it. We look forward to seeing what happens next. Thank you again! Thank you also to the guests in front of the screen. Stay tuned for more, stay healthy. We will be back with exciting guests. See you soon, bye from Essen.