igus produces over 120,000 articles so if it moves they can provide the plastic piece needed to make that happen, writes Floyd Cowan.
“Our claim ‘Plastic for longer life’ means that igus products reduce costs and/or improve lifetime. An igus product is only an igus product if it fulfils this claim, is configurable online and promptly available for our customers around the globe,” explains Carsten Haecker, Head of igus Asia Pacific (International Group Development) of the German ‘hidden champion’ igus. Making Movement Happen Founded in Germany in 1964 by Guenter Blase, the goal of igus is to provide customers with the best product for their individual moving application, to reduce costs and improve the performance with tribopolymer solutions. “If something needs to move,” Mr Haecker states, “we make it happen.”
He points to a picture of the interior of a cab that highlights where the moving parts are. “High performance plastics are the core of our activities, our developments and our strategy, and we are clearly focused on this material. We believe in the great advantages of these high-performance plastics for many different industries, including the trucking industry. With the right product selection tribo-polymers reduce maintenance requirements, increase lifetime of the application and can be used as an enhanced alternative to metal solutions in many environments.” Despite the ability of igus products to make movement happen, no oil or lubricants are needed for them. “That is a great advantage for many products as there is literally no maintenance needed and the oily mess associated with it can be avoided.”
Meeting Industry Needs igus has solutions for all kinds of moving applications in the automotive industry, be it trucks, passenger cars, agricultural machinery or construction machinery. Seat adjustment, back rest adjustment, monitor adjustment, steering column support are just a few of those applications. Where equipment is exposed to high degrees of stress and are constantly exposed to the external environment (water, dirt, oil etc) igus products prove to be highly reliable. igus supplies plastic solutions for cable protection and cable guidance, cables for highly dynamic continuous movement and bearing technology. All components are designed for maximum availability so that it not only operates reliably, but it can easily be maintained or replaced with a minimum of downtime.
Haecker notes, “Because they are lubrication- and corrosion-free, polymer bearings or energy chains are often used in underwater conditions in the offshore industry or other wet environments. These and many more advantages, like lightweight and wear-resistance, convince more and more companies to take up our products.” igus makes around 120 000 different products and adds about 150 new ones every year.
Extensive Testing “In order to create ‘plastic for longer life’ igus operates the largest test laboratory in our industry at our headquarters in Cologne. At the test lab more than two billion test cycles in more than 100 test set-ups are completed every year,” Haecker explains. “This test facility is unique – and gives customers the safety they want. Because of the many tests we do, we offer a 36-months guarantee for all our chainflex cables. This is unique, too. We guarantee that if one of our products fails before this time we will replace it free of charge. We have never had to do this because, due to all our testing, we know how long it will last.”
One igus goal the 45-year old, who joined igus four years ago, has is to grow and enhance the position of igus in SEA and AP. The company will supply one single part with no minimum order quantity, if that is what the customer needs. “Of course we like the large orders too, but our philosophy is ‘cost down, life up’ combined with a high degree of flexibility to meet the needs of the customer. We also believe in providing the cheapest solution that works for the customer. We are not trying to up-sell them to increase our profits, but to give them the best, and cheapest product, that meets client requirements.”
Quick to Market Being quick to the market is very important to igus. “We want to be the Amazon of the engineering industry. If a customer needs a product our goal is to get it to him within 24 hours. We have achieved this today in many markets and we are working towards a global approach, making it happen all over. Customers can make payment on-line, though some countries are not yet ready to do that.”
Working in Asia Pacific means working with different cultures, different beliefs and different behaviours. Having lived in Asia since 1999, Haecker knows the many differences that exist and he also knows his learning will never stop. “I see my responsibility as being a bridge between Europe and Asia, a fantastic opportunity igus has entrusted me with. We will continue to expand in Asia Pacific, be it in revenue, people, product development or factories. We are constantly assessing and improving all kinds of movements in commercial vehicle, be it inside the cabin or the trailer, the axels or wherever it is needed.”
Massive Opportunities In the markets of Malaysia and SE Asia Haecker sees ‘massive opportunities’. “igus started with its first own entity in Asia in Japan. In Singapore, where its ASEAN headquarter is located, we have been present since 1997. We started, from my prospective, rather late in Malaysia and the rest of ASEAN. It has only been in the past three years that we have established new set-ups in Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. With 600 million people in ASEAN and a huge industry, we see substantial opportunities.”
However, there are also some pretty serious challenges. “ASEAN as a unique business region does not exist. Every country has its own set of rules. Doing business in Thailand is different than in Indonesia or Vietnam or Singapore. Our approach in each place remains the same – offer product solutions in an easy and quick way which allows our clients to save money – cost down, life up. If we can’t manage this, we move on.”
Localising Business “The biggest challenge is not the market or the products, but to find the right people with the right attitude towards our business. We are demanding on ourselves, we are eager to be successful and we live and work in a fast-paced industry and environment. We need the right people with the right attitude. We need people with self-drive who are eager for success and want to build their career with igus. I would dare to say we have been managing this quite well. With 25% of our workforce in Asia Pacific, we have a totally localized organization in which we trust.
“Today, we have sales and service centres, warehouse and assembly facilities in all developed countries in ASEAN and of course in Asia Pacific with the biggest set-up in China. We will continue to assess our customer needs and will continue to expand our network. With partners, we have already started to penetrate secondary, but potential future markets, such as Myanmar. The growth opportunities are tremendous and we will continue to focus our efforts in Asia Pacific to bring superior solutions to existing customers and new potentials.” Growing Business “Every market has potential to grow,” Haecker states. It depends on your products, your strategy and of course your ambition and determination. We believe we have a unique combination of all and a diversified team behind them. It is not an individual who determines success, but a team with different expertise, striving for customer satisfaction and superior solutions. “Existing clients and future potential will determine our path forward. Thus, the key ambition and philosophy is to be open minded, listen carefully what the market is telling you and determine your build up and development process accordingly. Our people are our biggest asset and we believe in participation, controversial thinking, commitment, trust and honesty – you can’t manage a secret anyway.”