They joined Jacob GmbH at almost exactly the same time – one in 2002, the other just a year later: General Manager Bernd Bohl, 49 (right), and Manfred Strerath, 53, Sales Manager for Europe, are connected not only by the career path they have shared for many years, but also by a clear vision of the correct course for the future. The key coordinates? Innovation, speed and communication.
What would you say makes Jacob GmbH special?
Bernd Bohl: Our staff, our products, our service. We are the specialist when it comes to cable entry solutions.
Response times, development times – speed is becoming increasingly important as a criterion in determining market position. How can a mediumsized enterprise with a global customer base like Jacob keep pace with such developments?
Bernd Bohl: We have prepared very well for this. Due to our long-standing customer relationships we are always up to date – communication plays a key role, of course. The Jacob sales managers and the customer service team are in touch with our customers every day. Longstanding international sales partners strengthen the proximity to our customers even further, and are therefore considered an important part of our company. The product managers and developers are always within touching distance of the market, so we are always on the ball. Small, solutionoriented teams create the desired velocity. Everyone communicates with everyone else, which enables us to act quickly and efficiently.
With its heavy focus on international business, the company needs to have a high level of expertise with regard to standards and regulations ...
Manfred Strerath:That’s right! Our hands-on work on the relevant committees gives us a key advantage in this regard. Jacob’s product management and development staff play an active role in shaping the content of standards and regulations. This ensures that we are always up-to-date to technical and legal requirements. All developments are communicated to our customers and sales partners around the world by our customer service team. And it goes without saying that they can download all the most important documents directly from our homepage.
Cable glands are a safety factor in many systems. How much awareness is there on the market of the risks involved?
Manfred Strerath: Jacob products are usually part of a complete high-tech solution in the field of electrical systems. Both we and our users are very aware of the safety concerns involved in such systems. The safety features of our cable glands are designed to make the end product even better and safer for the customer.
Bernd Bohl:Our testing laboratory plays an important role in this. It allows us to simulate extreme cases and to test and design our product features with safety as our utmost concern. Jacob also offers products for use in special and potentially explosive environmental conditions, such as oil platforms, refineries, and public areas like airports and rail vehicles. Safety is a hugely important watchword for us.
So how do you turn fast response times into long-standing customer relationships?
Manfred Strerath: Well obviously, a quick response to a customer’s expectations and requirements is the only way to ensure you’ll be in with a chance again next time. In the current climate, nobody wants to wait a long time for a supplier to send them a quotation or call them back. Short response times form part of the requirements our customers expect us to meet. And we do identify ourselves with our customers’ concerns. If we’re fast, the customer can keep their own processes running without delay. If you think about it, it’s a situation we’re all familiar with in our private lives. If we need a new phone, we go where we know we can get one quickly. Speed is now an integral part of a good responsiveness. The number of long-standing great relationships shows how good we are at this.
Technologies or market segments: What’s the main focus for Jacob?
Bernd Bohl:Both areas are important, and they play into one another. The market tells us what the requirements are in different industries. Nowadays these are more complex, individual and demanding than ever before. In order to fulfill them, it is essential that we develop and apply our expertise in many different types of technology. Technological innovation is an important key to new products.
The requirements of the markets change fast. What trends have you noticed recently, and how is Jacob responding to them?
Manfred Strerath: We’ve noticed that a lot of customers can no longer be satisfied with standard products out of the catalog. If you like, there’s a trend toward individual solutions – but there are also service-oriented trends toward ever-shorter lead times and individual packaging. Standards and regulations are leading to stricter product requirements in terms of safety and environmental protection. We are running tests with alternative materials, such as lead-free brass.
Bernd Bohl: We’re set up well to deal with the customization of products and services with a special team dedicated exclusively to individual, customer-specific solutions. Due to our close communication with our customers and partners we know about the developments on the markets. Together we focus far more on the opportunities the trends present to us than the risks. For example, the politically driven trend toward electromobility represents an area of huge potential for us. I can see a whole host of opportunities we are planning to be involved in, both now and in the future.
Where are the new markets for Jacob’s project business?
Manfred Strerath: The old markets are also the new markets. We see potential for customized solutions and special projects in all the well-known fields of industrial applications. There are no limitations for us in this regard. In almost every market segment there’s potential for improvement. This is demonstrated by the large number of ongoing projects we are already working on together with our customers. It is our aim to improve the technical aspects of our customers’ applications and make them more efficient. This approach works just as well in trend-influenced markets like electromobility as it does in mechanical engineering.
Environmental regulations and the increasing scarcity of raw materials represent additional challenges for technology companies. How is Jacob handling these challenges?
Bernd Bohl: Part of our risk management process consists in qualifying alternative suppliers and materials in order to reduce the risks for our customers. We deal with the increasing complexity of environmental regulations by developing new products using environmentally friendly materials, such as lead-free brass. Generally speaking, though, environmental awareness is too important for us to simply wait around for new laws to be passed – we prefer to be proactive. Year on year we reduce our waste figures and introduce more and more recyclable operating equipment and materials.
What areas of expertise will experience particularly high demand in the industry in the future? What steps does Jacob take to keep new prospects at the company?
Bernd Bohl: Well of course, specialists like process mechanics and cutting machine operators will remain just as essential for us in the future as they are now. However, we’re also starting to focus more and more on skills like team spirit, creativity and flexibility. Our employees bring so many different skills and abilities with them. I see it as my job to create the perfect conditions for each individual to put their strengths to use. And to answer the second part of your question: We have our own training program and a great network of vocational training centers, schools and universities. What makes Jacob special? We allow everyone to shape how we work, encourage them to stand on their own two feet and give them the space to try out new ideas. There’s always something new going on – that’s what makes working here so exciting.
Where do you see Jacob in five years?
Together: We’ll still be a major league manufacturer of cable entry solutions, of course! Highly motivated, in great shape and with that special quality and drive for innovation that will allow us to be even better and faster at responding to our customers’ requirements.