Stephan Neuburger, managing director of Krohne AG, had some very interesting things to say. So, let me get my kvetches out of the way first. I have been either part of the Krohne business family or an observer of the Krohne company since I became the first Krohne America representative in the mid 1970s. I was actually representing Rise Inc, which became K-Tek, so you can see how far back with Krohne I go. It bothers me to see a fantastic company with really innovative products saying things that are at best questionable and at worst, really not true. This is something that has been a part of Krohne culture since before Herr Neuburger came into the business, so this isn’t personal…
But frankly, his claims of “firsts” for Krohne were problematic for me, and for others at the breakfast. For example, Krohne was not the first manufacturer of an industrial magnetic flowmeter. Vince Cushing was. The company that Krohne acquired, Tobi-Altometer, was second, or tied with Foxboro, depending on who you talk to. The claim that Krohne developed the first industrial process radar level gauge is problematic, too, as Thermo Electron and Saab Rosemount veterans can attest, among others.
There were others. The point of this is simply that Krohne is a superior vendor with superior and innovative products and service, and doesn’t need to puff out its chest and make questionable claims.
The other kvetch I have is that Neuburger proclaimed that Krohne’s recent firing of 50% of their US sales force was amicable and negotiated in advance with the representatives. My discussions with a number of his present and former representatives indicate otherwise. Krohne has always had incredible difficulty in figuring out how to market in the United States and Canada effectively, and the reason is that they continue to attempt to impress the German paradigm on the North American market. It hasn’t worked for nearly 30 years, and it is unlikely to work now. Having spent many hours over the years trying to convince Krohne executives of this, I can only say it again, and watch what happens.
Now, on to the great stuff Stephan said:
“Globalization is both a risk and a chance. Krohne has decided to to take the risk and win the chance.”
“Global growth means staying close to the customer.”
“We build facilities in the markets we serve.”
“Independency gives us the ability to do what we need to do to serve our customers.”
“The only thing that will protect you from Chinese piracy is a strong brand awareness in China, and continuously introducing innovative products.”
“We have strong partnerships with universities and technical centers because they give us both technology and employees.”
“For us, innovation is not an obligation, it is a matter of course.”
He confirmed, as all of the vendors CONTROL editors have spoken to, and all the end users, as well, for that matter, that the trends of reduction in engineering staffs, budgets, and increased need for vendors to supply technical solutions are real and important.
It will be interesting to see how much Krohne can walk the walk that Stephan talked. If they can, and the more congruent they are with his branding and positioning message, the higher the success they will achieve.