changes What’s driving the process industry

Strong ­relationship

How does a company gain customers’ trust? Klaus Endress and Matthias Altendorf know the answer: good business relationships have to grow, but what it really comes down to is people.

Questions: Martin Raab
Photography: Andreas Mader

“No one would have dared to hope at the beginning of 2021 that we would be in such a good position by the end of the year.”

Klaus Endress,

Supervisory Board President of the Endress+Hauser Group



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      Klaus Endress,
  
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Mr Altendorf, Mr Endress, the Group can look back on an excellent year.
Was that anticipated?

Altendorf: It’s not quite what we expected. Wave after wave of the pandemic made us cautious. Our goal for 2021 was to even out the dent made by Covid. At least in the first half of the year, we could not have anticipated significantly exceeding 2019 levels.

Endress: No one would have dared to hope at the beginning of 2021 that we would be in such a good position by the end of the year. By our definition, it was a ‘best ever’ 12 months. Incoming orders, sales, profit and headcount all reached record highs.

Are the family and the Supervisory Board also satisfied with the business year?

Endress:  I’m never satisfied… you can always do better. But I’m pleased and happy with these results – and I’m proud of the company and our people!

What were the pivotal factors behind this solid development?

Altendorf: China, an economic powerhouse, performed well. The US was also quick to emerge from the crisis – and hence Europe, as a significant exporter to both regions. A good half of this growth is probably attributable to catch-up effects. But the global drivers also had an impact: health, energy, food. We saw considerable investment in pharmaceutical plants, as well as electromobility and the energy transition. Cyclical and non-cyclical alike, all our strategic industries performed well.

Endress+Hauser outperformed the market. Where does this success spring from?

Altendorf: Customer intimacy is one important factor. Innovation is another. Our customers must be able to recognize that we can help them become better. Then there is the fact that at Endress+Hauser we don’t focus on short-term results but rather the long-term goal. Temporary headwinds won’t blow us off course. Above all, though, we put people first. The main drivers of our success are our employees who make it all happen!

Endress: Everyone worked very hard. We stand by our employees and they stand by us. At the beginning of the pandemic we made clear our objective to keep everyone on board, avoid short-time working and continue investing. And of course that creates a special relationship. We are all working toward a common goal. Great things always come out of such joint efforts.

A German study found Endress+Hauser to be the most trusted brand in measurement instrumentation. Where do you think this trust stems from?

Altendorf: It doesn’t happen overnight. This is trust that has been cultivated over decades. And we have to keep earning it, time and again.

Did this trust grow during the pandemic?

Altendorf: Challenging times always reveal how resilient a relationship is. That also holds true in business – and Endress+Hauser proved reliable, even in an extreme situation.

Endress: We delivered during the pandemic. We met more than 90 percent of our delivery commitments in the past year. And this at a time of interrupted supply chains and parts shortages. What’s more, we didn’t take advantage of the situation. The foundation of trust is respect. Customers have a keen sense of how they are being treated. This is something they never forge

Altendorf:  The market’s trust in us comes down to the people in the company. Endress+Hauser employees, management and shareholders share a set of values including responsibility, trust and commitment. We endeavor to practice these values in our daily activities. It reminds me of Alfred Herrhausen, a German banker, who once said: “We must say what we think. We must do what we say. And we must be what we do.”

The corporate culture is heavily influenced by the shareholder family. What are the main topics of discussion when you get together?

Endress: For one thing, the question of successors. We have on our boards an age limit of 75, so my elder brother Hans-Peter Endress retired from the Supervisory Board this year. The succession issue was settled years in advance and announced a while back: my niece, Sandra Genge, succeeded Hans-Peter. She has been a guest during the meetings and events of the Supervisory Board for the past two years and thoroughly prepared herself for this responsibility; she has now officially taken her place on the board. My succession is likewise settled, another process that spanned years. And it all works smoothly because we take a lot of time and put in a lot of effort. That’s something you can do in a family company.

 

Family ties

Klaus Endress (born in 1948) obtained a degree in industrial engineering from the Technical University Berlin. He joined his father’s company in 1979, took over the reins of the Group in 1995 as CEO and moved to the Supervisory Board in 2014 as president. Klaus Endress is married and the father of two grown children. A passionate horse rider and mountain biker, whenever possible he heads outdoors and into nature, accompanied frequently by Maya, the family dog.

“Challenging times always reveal how resilient a relationship is – and ­Endress+Hauser proved reliable.”

Matthias Altendorf,

CEO of the Endress+Hauser Group



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      Matthias Altendorf, 
  
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“We are all working toward a common goal. Great things always come out of such joint efforts.”

Klaus Endress,

Supervisory Board President of the Endress+Hauser Group



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      Klaus Endress,
  
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Also important for the future is the Group’s new Strategy 2027+.
What are its focal points?

Altendorf:  We are basically updating our previous strategy. The digitalization issue has grown more concrete; we’ve seen where we still have things to do. Developing our business in Asia and the Americas, where our market share is still smaller than in Europe, is a long-haul effort. Environmental protection, climate protection and the energy transition are a preoccupation of our customers and society as a whole. Here we can make a solid contribution to addressing these challenges. In terms of people, digitalization is changing the work environment. We need to find a way for our corporate culture to operate effectively in these digital and global work environments, so that we don’t lose our customer intimacy and cohesiveness.

What do you see as the hallmarks of Strategy 2027+, Mr Endress?

Endress: What I find special is the goal of acting and being perceived as one company. We have a tried-and-true structure with sales centers, product centers, holding and support entities. That structure drives a particular logic in these units. Nevertheless, we have to think about things from the customer perspective. And this we aim to accomplish with Group-wide business processes, stretching from the customer to ourselves and back.

One topic in the strategy is the energy transition. Does Endress+Hauser have to fear losing established business?

Altendorf: No, I don’t believe that business is in jeopardy. First, our share of the oil & gas market is very small; we’re not a major player here. Second, the oil will not disappear overnight but rather over decades. New energy sources such as green hydrogen and synthetic fuels are emerging to replace fossil sources such as coal and oil. That means different or adapted processes. But these applications too need measurement so that you can control the plant.

“We will grow and ­develop and do ­everything possible to make our customers happy.”

Matthias Altendorf,

CEO of the Endress+Hauser Group



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      Matthias Altendorf,
  
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Roots in the company

Matthias Altendorf (born in 1967) began his Endress+Hauser career with a mechanic apprenticeship, followed by studies, stays abroad and further education. He was appointed to the Executive Board in 2009 and became the Group’s CEO in 2014. He balances his work life by sailing, playing chess, riding his motorcycle and spending time working in the woods. Travel, the arts and reading round out his hobbies. Matthias Altendorf is married and the father of a grown son.

Let’s talk about the outlook. What are your expectations for the current year?

Altendorf: Politically speaking, the known troubles such as the Russia-Ukraine conflict are a cause for concern. In terms of the economy, inflation is creating uncertainty. The biggest economic risk I see is in countries pursuing a ‘zero Covid’ strategy. Of course we hope the pandemic will now downshift to endemic status. When things have opened up and people are on the move again, that will spur the global economy. That’s why we expect to see growth in 2022. Whether it’s single- or double-digit is unimportant. We will grow and develop and do everything possible to make our customers happy.

Your thoughts, Mr Endress?

Endress: Our world has seen fragility for over a decade. And in a fragile world, a company’s only chance is to focus on the customers. They are all we can rely on over time. We will support our customers wherever we can, and to the best of our ability. We have great products. Measurement technology always means efficiency, quality, protecting the environment – and they have all of that packed inside them. We can’t go wrong here. If we do it right, we’ll still have plenty of work a hundred years from now!

One last personal question: what would make 2022 a really good year or even a ‘record year’ for you?

Altendorf: If we overcome the pandemic, regain substantial freedom of movement and are able to reliably plan our lives again. That translates to a happy and satisfied life!

Endress: If the world stabilizes politically and the community of nations addresses climate change. That would be the best of all for me!

Raum, Aussicht durch Fenster

Long-term outlook: Endress+Hauser implemented all of its major investment projects in 2021 as planned.

Klaus Endress und Matthias Altendorf im Gespräch vertieft

Collaboration based on trust: Matthias Altendorf (right) and Klaus Endress in discussion.