Andreas Schilling, divisional director of the Liebherr Components Division in the USA, talked about the company’s approach and activity for the North American market.
Q: Liebherr Components has been represented in the USA since 2012. What are your objectives here?
Andreas Schilling: “We have been serving our North American customers in the mechanical, hydraulic and electric drive and control technology sectors for eight years from our Saline site in Michigan. We also provide sales support to the Liebherr site in Monterrey (Mexico) and help to offer our components to various industries in the USA.”
Q: Which sectors do you deal in?
Schilling: “For our customers in the wind industry, for example, we supply bearings and slewing rings as well as gearboxes and electric motors to power wind turbines. However, we also furnish parts for cranes of all kinds, as well as earthmoving and construction machinery, support customers in the mining industry as well as in agriculture and forestry. In addition, Liebherr components are used in the maritime applications and in automotive and traffic engineering.”
Q: What do you see as the advantages of on-site presence in the USA?
Schilling: “Local-for-Locals is the core principle of our customer-oriented approach. We want to be the central point of contact for our North American customers. Therefore, we combine our German corporate philosophy and the “Made in Germany” engineering expertise with local sales expertise.”
Q: Can you give an example of this?
Schilling: “In North America, it is common for sales and engineering to act more or less independently as separate entities. To put it bluntly, sales and marketing professionals drum up the business. In the second step, technicians deal with the actual implementation for the customer. We are pursuing a more effective and efficient approach. Our sales engineers not only handle sales, but also bring engineering and application expertise to the table, where they deliver best practice solutions directly to the customer. This also makes it possible to consider technical feasibility aspects in engineering and production.”
Q: Viewed from the outside, the drivetrain seems to be a simple affair that requires clear physical and-mechanical requirements. What else is there to advise about?
Schilling: “The principle of “one for all” does not work in modern mechanical engineering. For the gearbox of a fire ladder, which extends up to 60 meters, the specific requirements are not the same as for a small mobile crane in horticulture. In addition, each manufacturer also follows its own operating instructions. Our experience and components can provide valuable support for the design of their gearbox to fit the specific application.”
Q: For example?
Schilling: “We once went to a customer in Texas who wanted to optimise a drive unit of one of his facilities. A German construction manager from Liebherr Components in Biberach also took part in the visit. When analysing the existing transmission, he noticed that the bearing’s raceway was not perfect. Correcting it allowed us to achieve a 60% higher bearing capacity in one go.”
Q: How far does the consulting and support approach go beyond such detailed technical solutions?
Schilling: “We like to maintain comprehensive customer relationships and are able to go all the way, from the first to the last mile. This includes the whole spectrum of activities – from advice on purchasing, customs clearance and logistics to installation, as well as maintenance, repair and adaptation to later development.”
Q: What does this mean for the personal customer-supplier relationship?
Schilling: “Intelligent, durable technology is more than the physical result of mechanics, electronics and a few algorithms. It is always a people business, where communicating on equal terms and with each other is key. This is the only way to gain the trust that is indispensable in order to build confidence in a technical solution on which the customer and its employees will build their future.”