Dipl.-Ing. Andreas Kandt has been Director Business Development at W. MÜLLER since October.
W. MÜLLER produces extruders and blow molding heads. Even very good ones. Actually the best - as of today. And in the future? Good question - but recently the Troisdorf blow molding specialists have actually had someone looking after this very issue: Dipl.-Ing. Andreas Kandt.
What is this man up to? First of all: Kandt wants to do anything but prepare for retirement in peace and quiet in Troisdorf. He wants to make a difference at W. MÜLLER. His job: to think in detail about how and where the company could continue, how to continue the success story of the past decades and possibly even add new chapters. In this interview, he offers a first glimpse of his ideas and approaches and explains how he intends to fill what is probably one of the most exciting jobs W. MÜLLER has had to offer in recent times.
Mr. Kandt, can you briefly describe your new area of responsibility at W. MÜLLER?
Andreas Kandt: Quite simply, my job is to find out how, where and with what W. MÜLLER can grow even further in the future. That is a super interesting and challenging job! I support Christian Müller and his sister Brigitte in their search for new business areas and growth strategies. Together, we want to keep an eye out for new potential that we simply haven't had on the agenda yet because day-to-day business simply demands too much time from the managing directors.
What qualifies you for this task?
Kandt: I know the industry very well after all these years in various positions. In all my previous jobs I have been involved in detail in the areas of plastics, packaging and special machine construction - both as a salesman and as a managing director, i.e., from a wide variety of perspectives. In a way, I am a child of the industry and I think that I can give W. MÜLLER some impetus thanks to the overview I have gained over decades. At the moment, for example, we are not yet very active in Asia. However, I have been able to gain important experience there, including in China. The development of Kautex Maschinenbau in Shunde in southern China, for example, can be traced back to my initiatives at the end of the 1990s.
What kind of potential do you see in Asia?
Kandt: It is - still! - the fastest growing market in the world! The demand for technically sophisticated extrusion solutions will increase there. The great art in the future will of course be to offer a better price/performance ratio than the Asians themselves can realize - a great challenge, but one that I believe we can master. We also need to find out what ideas the people there have, what direction they are thinking in - in fact, that is the basic prerequisite if we want to stay in business with the people there in the long term.
For me, the central key to opening new doors is therefore always intensive discussion with the users, our customers. Sometimes wonderful ideas and solutions open up simply by listening and taking the time to exchange ideas. But even that is only half the battle, because afterwards, of course, you need an excellent team to develop really suitable solutions. We have to learn to think ahead and look for completely different starting points. The same applies to other regions of the world, of course.
What other starting points?
Kandt: W. MÜLLER does, after all, have incredible know-how - industries that we don't even have our eyes on at the moment can definitely benefit from this. Currently, W. MÜLLER heads are mostly used to blow-mold bottles. However, film manufacturers basically use the same - or at least very similar - technology. Perhaps this technical "relationship" will open up new potentials ...
So you want to address completely new customer groups. How do you intend to approach them?
Kandt: Good question! At the moment, the sales department has to sell heads first and foremost. Our contacts are therefore naturally companies in the blow molding industry, machine builders and wind players. But perhaps we should also visit the end customers and find out what ideas they have for the packaging of the future and what their requirements are. If in one of these conversations the sentence "Actually, we need ..., but" falls, we have already won.
Doesn't that fall within the area of competence of your blow molding customers?
Kandt: No. We don't want to dispute their business. When we generate new business from discussions with end customers, everyone benefits in the end. I have experienced time and again that some users have no idea what is possible today - their day-to-day business consumes so much of their time that it is extremely difficult to keep up to date with technical advances. This is where we can perhaps open up new avenues for our customers with new ideas.
Do you have an example of this?
Kandt: Of course. At Hassia, where I worked for a while as managing director, we found out in discussions with Chinese customers that milk, quark and yoghurt are attracting growing interest in China. But suppliers have to travel enormous distances - and there is no closed cold chain. The country is huge and works very differently from Europe. So at that time we developed a fully aseptic thermoforming machine technology especially for the Chinese market. As a European supplier with a completely different background, you would hardly come across this very special need without in-depth discussions with the customers, driven by interest, respect and curiosity.
What do you want to stimulate in detail at W. MÜLLER?
Kandt: Well, if we already had concrete examples there, there would be no need for me. The classic approach is certainly to look at different markets, to develop the market in the best possible way, to look for products with potential and certainly to look for new service options. So we will scrutinize all facets of our business and together we will look for previously untapped growth potential.
I also do not want to ignore the aspect of environmental protection. With regard to resource conservation, for example, which helps to save money but also benefits the environment, engineers have made enormous progress in recent years, for example in terms of energy consumption, material weight reduction and the processing of regenerates. I would also like to mention multilayer technology, which can help reduce the use of additives/pigments. Even the topic of fast production changeover is not just a question of tool change: here the focus is also on optimized head flow channels for fast and material-saving color change. This calls for excellent engineering work! For this reason, I still see great potential here, which could be tapped with W. MÜLLER know-how.
You have worked for a long time as a managing director at various companies. Now you have to convince instead of decide. Can you shake off the old job so easily?
Kandt: Logically: as a managing director, you naturally look at many things differently than an employee. But in what company do you decide against good employees or good ideas? In the end, the shareholders decide, that's clear. But these decisions are prepared by the team - and only the right idea can be convincing. In my new position, I can finally take the necessary time to answer important questions and question things thoroughly - in order to ultimately develop precisely these good ideas. The really important decisions often arise almost by themselves as soon as you have identified and discussed all the options - at least in technology.
In this respect, I have excellent, extremely competent discussion partners at W. MÜLLER, whose expertise I will of course be happy to draw on. And, very importantly, I experience a management here that is extremely open to change. W. MÜLLER has an excellent reputation as an innovative, very open-minded company where genuine engineering tradition and quality awareness are still upheld. My impression is that the employees here "burn" for their work! With such capable and committed people and forward-looking management, you can implement a lot of exciting ideas.
What actually appeals to you about plastics mechanical engineering?
Kandt: There are a lot of things that really excite me! Take the example of packaging. Your job has changed massively in recent years. In the past, an aluminum can was enough to transport milk. Today, packaging takes on additional functions, such as protecting the contents and simplifying transport. And last but not least, it opens up completely new opportunities for marketing and advertising. One example is customer loyalty through a high recognition value. Another is "fun factors" for children's packaging. The technology that makes all this possible and still has to satisfy strict economic aspects is highly demanding!
Isn't the packaging market already too old for your approach of looking for something new?
Kandt: No, it is actually a very good example of a market that is in urgent need of innovation and must adapt to changing conditions. Look, people are getting older and older. The packaging industry must also react to these demographic changes. Older people evaluate products - and thus their packaging - according to different criteria than younger people. It's not just about recognizability and the price-performance ratio. Seniors, for example, pay attention to age-appropriate handling. Another example: single households. They are increasing not only in Europe. Singles, however, have completely different demands on the size and type of packaging than families or children. In the future, packaging designers will have to pay even more attention to all this than they do today. Of course, this will also affect blown packaging: It will have to meet new and diverse requirements. It is our task to provide our customers with the necessary technologies or to develop them.
1981 - 1994
1995 - 2004
2004 - 2008
Hassia Packaging Machines
2008 - 2013
2013 - 2017
Since October 2017