What do you offer your customers?
Eiden: We have defined seven service packages that we offer on a modular basis. The products range from seminars, workshops, and analyses of materials and processes to substantial support for optimizing costs and weight.
Kessler: The content depends on the customer, however. A workshop for purchasers focuses on economic efficiency, logistics, and an understanding of the steel production process. By contrast, everyone from the pressing plant wants concrete information about processing characteristics or new production processes. And a developer is interested in the choice of materials or the properties of new coatings.
So your job is essentially to consult on steel-related issues?
Eiden: You could say that, because our products present a lot of possibilities. Our job is to identify the right material for a component and to integrate it into the customer’s vehicle architecture and production philosophy. We seek to advise customers that they will achieve better results with our innovative products as well as our conventional ones, whether it’s a question of weight, cost, or safety.
Eiden: Absolutely. The earlier we get involved in the customer’s development process, the greater the potential to implement our ideas. For example, if a new product is about to be put on the market, we make sure it is introduced early enough to allow our purchasers adequate time to sample and deploy it.
Kessler: For this purpose, we also make individual data such as material models available to customers for use in the virtual world, and we explain the properties of products and the results of our tests. The latter is extremely important, because not all customers have the same software standards.
Do you explain how to read the data?
Kessler: I would put it differently: We carry out our analyses, explain the results, and work together to arrive at conclusions. We do not do this in every case, but there are customers who lack the technical capabilities or do not have employees with the requisite skills.
Eiden: Customers only decide in favor of something new or different if they see added value in it. Our job is to make this added value visible.
Eiden: They usually go through Sales. We contribute our understanding of the customer’s needs, after which our coworkers in Application Technology contribute their technical expertise. This ensures that our advice is professional and right on the money.
Kessler: There is no point in our suggesting a material that the customer does not want, even if it would be a better solution from our technical point of view. Such an approach would be counterproductive. So in cases like this, we rely on the expertise of the Sales department.
Eiden: The key account manager is usually the customer’s first point of contact. In some cases, the customer consultant or the engineer responsible for the project may also be an important contact, for example, when the customer is seeking to improve processing methods. It isn’t always the material itself that is put to the test.
Your service portfolio includes both materials and production processes?
Kessler: That’s right. And it also indirectly includes plant design, for example for hot forming. If a customer wants to get on board in this area, we offer them everything the Group has to offer, from consultation to preparation of prototypes and resources.
Eiden: Our holistic approach, which combines developmental expertise with specialized knowledge of the product and its processing, sets us far apart from the competition. That’s because we work with our customers to develop intelligent solutions involving steel.
Is the service portfolio strictly limited to the automotive industry?
Kessler: No, it is also open to other industries, for example, industrial and heavy plate customers. The focus, however, is on the automotive industry, because it comprises a large percentage of our customer base and often drives innovation.
Eiden: Car manufacturers challenge us the most, because they have to be innovative to remain competitive. Nor should we forget that they are major customers, meaning that profitability is another given.
Eiden: CO2 limits have to be observed, which requires lighter construction methods. Crash requirements are also getting stricter, and the structure of the vehicle has to take them into account. The pressure to cut costs is immense. The complexity of vehicle development has increased enormously, not least because of our large portfolio of materials. The sooner a customer gets us involved, the greater the chances for optimization.
What does a customer have to bring with them to benefit from the service portfolio?
Eiden: Openness and trust. In the beginning they will often have to provide us with data so that we have something to base our work on. And they have to be ready to implement innovative solutions. That may require additional effort in the early stages, but it will pay off during production in the form of reduced weight or costs.
Kessler: Trust is the most important aspect of our customer relationships, some of which have lasted for decades. Our outside perspective helps us think outside the box. Our job is to show the customer where we see potential for another processing method or a different material. We are steel consultants, so to speak.
Eiden: Absolutely. In the past we have developed many different car concepts. InCar®plus is a recent example. We have an extraordinary amount of inhouse expertise with regard to resources, materials, and points of contact.
Kessler: And of course we benefit from working with partners within the Group. Take, for example, our cooperation with employees from Components Technology and Industrial Solutions. The expertise that we are capable of bringing together is part of what makes thyssenkrupp so unique.
Kessler: When we help a customer manufacture a component and the result is that rejects are no longer produced or the process is accelerated with no reduction in quality, this positive experience will hopefully persuade them to stay with us.
Eiden: We obviously have to take the bottom line into account. That is why we are targeting specific customers with this service portfolio. Both sides have to benefit, so that a win-win situation results.
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