1. Mr. Ziesemer, as ZVEI president you will now be representing the interests of the electrical and electronics industry at the highest levels of business and politics. What's driving you to take on this responsibility?
When you think about the productive and innovative nature of this industry, taking over the top honorary office at ZVEI is certainly a wonderful task. The ZVEI has 1,600 member companies who employ 1.5 million people around the world and it represents 10 percent of the German manufacturing industry. This plays a significant role in job creation in Germany and, due to cross-border interdependence, in Europe as well. The association’s activities are extremely important. This industry is involved in fundamental issues that affect society such as innovation and progress, prosperity and security. Being able to drive such future issues is a tremendous opportunity for me personally.
2. Why is the ZVEI needed?
There is a whole range of issues that companies can better address together. They include not only economic and societal developments, but also future occupational profiles, market designs for specific industries or legal issues. The ZVEI observes the market and creates technology roadmaps. Just think about issues like recycling and the development of a recycling economy, advances in biotechnology or new technical requirements arising from the growth of mega cities. The key task, however, is maintaining a dialogue with the government and the public.
3. You carry out traditional industry lobbying?
When we meet with top government officials, the discussions go far beyond industry lobbying. Ultimately it’s about job creation and the capacity to compete in Europe. We can’t assume that the level of prosperity we have worked so hard to achieve will still be available in 20 years. Europe’s share of the global electrical and electronics market has plummeted nearly 10 points to around 17 percent over the last 20 years. China, India and Brazil have grabbed this share of the market. Technologies change. Europe is a leader in many areas, such as intelligent systems, but this leadership position has to be constantly recaptured. This is where I will focus my efforts as president of the ZVEI.
4. Many companies develop in Europe and produce in low-wage countries.
I’m convinced this is not a blueprint for success. We must be able to manufacture here in Europe as well. We need a close relationship between production and development and we need that feedback from the production process. Even more important is acquiring customer feedback in order to drive new developments forward.
5. The ZVEI is actually made up of direct competitors. Is cooperation even possible?
We have experienced a fundamental change in this area. Itused to be competition or cooperation. Now it’s competition and cooperation. The enormous radical changes that are occurring – justthink about digitalization – canno longer be managed alone. Fate has driven companies to closer cooperation in order to be successful. Modern technology is driven and characterized by cooperation. Progress happens where various disciplines converge; the point where electronic and mechanical engineering or electronic and software engineering meet. That’s not to say that working with the competition is riskfree. Competition regulations obviously have to be adhered to. The ZVEI also plays a role in making sure this happens.
6. Don’t the big players simply set the tone within the association?
Large companies like Bosch, Siemens and ABB are in fact influential members, but the ZVEI has also been the consistent voice of the small-to-medium enterprise. The association, including the board of directors, consists primarily of representatives from SMEs and most of them are globally active. Every industry in Europe has outstanding SMEs, many of whom are among the global leaders in their segments. SMEs and large companies work together within the ZVEI. That’s what makes it strong.
7. What do the SMEs within ZVEI have in common?
Primarily a decades-long, stable ownership structure, a focus on a specific market segment, regional roots and a strong social contract between the employees and the company. It’s a question of culture, not size. That’s why I characterize Endress+Hauser as an SME despite the fact that we already have more than 12,000 employees.
8. What are your responsibilities as president?
The president serves as the face of the association in dealing with the public and politics. Internally, he ensures cooperation between the members and makes sure their interests are represented. Different interests always exist within a large association.We nevertheless have to be sure that we all pull together when it comes to matters of importance. The ZVEI unites multiple sub-industries that in turn are organized into umbrella associations. Although they pursue their own activities, there are issues that affect and challenge everyone. One of the key responsibilities of the management board is identifying and pursuing these centralized, common goals.
9. What are the key issues currently?
One of the issues is providing energy to business and private consumers. Although transformation of the energy network is essential, many hurdles remain. We face a generational task that involves many facets ranging from energy efficiency to replacing fossil fuels with renewable sources such as solar, wind and biomass power. This calls for an infrastructure that allows energy to be stored and distributed. Technology has made huge advances in the energy industry over the last few years. Renewable energy costs are meanwhile on par with conventional sources. The ZVEI is advocating a larger renewable energy market, but we also need a market design that will continue to promote it.
10. What is the second important area?
The digitalization of society. The internet has found its way into every aspect of our lives. It’s long become more than an information source or communications platform. A good example is the automobile industry, where 30 percent of the value chain stems from the electrical and electronics industry. Assistance systems for lane keeping or parking assistants are merely the beginning. It won’t be long before automobiles will be able to autonomously judge traffic situations and react to danger or even know where the next available parking spot is located. These automobiles are processing gigabytes of data each minute. The so-called ‘smart home’, where the user can check and modify the heating settings via smartphone, or the ‘smart grid’, the intelligent electricity network of the future, are similar environments. This trend has found its way into industrial systems as well. Endress+Hauser measurement instruments are connected via Ethernet/IP, exchange data and monitor themselves when it involves maintenance or calibration.
11. What role does ZVEI play?
This kind of transformation always creates opportunities because it opens up new markets and leads to new business developments. But it presents a risk as well. Those who don’t keep pace can be left behind. The impact of digitalization is being felt deep in the value chain structures and it’s changing the business models. With ubiquitous access to information, companies such as suppliers can react more quickly and completely reorganize their logistics chains. Despite these opportunities, we cannot ignore the issue of data security. Secure solutions in non-secure networks are essential to the success of The Internet of Things and Industry 4.0. ZVEI and the associations of machine building and IT industries offer companies a common platform for developing the technologies and business models that we’ve been discussing here.
12. Will that leave you any time to carry out your duties as Endress+Hauser COO?
I hope so! (Laughing) The fact is, I’ll be spending many days a year in Berlin or Brussels. I’ve obviously given it much thought and am well prepared to take on this additional responsibility. I also have the backing of the Endress+Hauser Executive Board and the Endress family shareholders. We all agree that the company can only benefit. Professional networking is hugely important for any company and its executive leadership. You can’t always generate new ideas from within. Innovation requires maintaining a dialogue beyond your own borders. You have to look beyond the horizon, be open and have the capacity to learn.