After 70 years, Lenze drives market changes

Company officials see growth, challenges in IIoT market.

By Plant Engineering and Lenze January 3, 2018

Like Plant Engineering, Lenze is another major manufacturing leader marking its 70th anniversary in 2017. The company celebrated with a gala event in Aerzen, Germany in October, which Plant Engineering was invited to attend. In an interview with Plant Engineering, company officials discussed the future plans for the global system company and looked ahead at staying ahead of a rapidly-changing market:

Plant Engineering: Congratulations on the 70th anniversary year. How has the company changed over the past seven decades? What are some of the keys to growth in that time?

Lenze: Over the past 70 years, Lenze has demonstrated its ability to adapt to the requirements of its markets and customers – under all manner of different circumstances. We have evolved from a pure trading company into a product manufacturer, and today we are a system provider pursuing a solutions-driven approach.

Throughout all this, we have positioned ourselves as a cutting-edge system partner with an uncompromising focus on our customers. We understand their complex issues and see their individual requirements from their perspective. We also have the innovative capabilities and necessary sales and engineering expertise to provide the markets with exactly what they need: simple solutions that add value.

Plant Engineering: At your press conference in Germany in October to mark the 70th anniversary, you talked about how Lenze must change as a company to meet the changing market. Talk about how the market has changed, and how Lenze will change to meet the market needs.

Lenze: We are keen to maintain our current course while becoming even more agile and flexible. This is because we once again need to adapt to a changing environment. Demographic change and digitalization are permanently changing our business and that of our customers. Machinery is increasingly interconnected, providing more and more data to help optimize industrial processes.

As a result, we are exploiting our strengths in mechatronics to develop and implement outstanding automation systems incorporating hardware and software for our customers. Lenze is one of the few providers in this market that is able to support the entire development process of a machine and offer all of the necessary services from a single source on a modular basis. Our digital services mean we are already a digitalization partner to many of our customers, using our expertise to unlock simple and practical ways for them to exploit new opportunities.

This is an important responsibility, as many mechanical and plant engineering companies are still unsure about what Industrie 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT) means for them. These situations require automation and digitalization strategies together with the ideal tools for digital transformation – and that is where we come in.

Plant Engineering: You noted one key to the wider adoption strategies around of Industrie 4.0, or IIoT, will be to better reach the small and mid-sized manufacturers. What the message to that market? How do we do a better job of reaching these crucial manufacturers with the digital manufacturing message? 

Lenze: To achieve our strategic goals, we pursue the policy of using our portfolio of products and services to support our customers throughout the development process, from the first idea to after-sales – and from the control unit to the drive shaft, no matter the size of the company.  This enables us to differentiate ourselves from the competition as a global specialist in the promising market of factory automation.

We cooperate closely with our customers, working together to lay the foundations for intelligent, future-proof solutions at an early stage. This focus on teamwork also means our customers can integrate value creation processes efficiently.

Plant Engineering: Lenze is privately held, and one point made at the event in October is that Lenze will “be able to shape our own future with our own resources.” What advantages do you have in being able to innovate and invest as a privately-held company?

Lenze: The primary goal for the Lenze Group is to ensure profitable growth by means of our basic long-term strategic focus. In this way, we can continue to secure the independence of Lenze as a family-run business. Key factors here include our power to innovate and our close relationships with our customers all over the world. Our prudent finance and accounting policy safeguards the long-term viability of the Lenze Group.

Plant Engineering: Talk about the Lenze 2020+ initiative, and how to communicate that strategy to your team, and to the market.

Lenze: Over the past 70 years, Lenze has demonstrated its ability to adapt optimally to the requirements of its markets and customers. Our Strategy 2020+ sets out how we will continue to develop this focus successfully going forward.

In our future strategy, we have defined the cornerstones of our business model. We are building on our three areas of our existing expertise: high quality mechatronics products; automation systems and solutions; and digitalization services.  At the same time, we are emphasizing five focus industries in which we have the most expertise and the best market opportunities:  automotive, consumer goods, converting and printing, material handling and logistics, and textiles.

The customer has been, and remains, the driving force behind the way we think and act. We are focused on our customers’ satisfaction and commercial success. We consider ourselves a partner that keeps machine concepts in mind from the outset and sees the whole picture. This is because our approach can add demonstrable value for our customers: we are one of the few suppliers in the market that support the entire development process in plant and mechanical engineering – from the first idea based on the special needs of our customers to commissioning to aftersales.

We provide the products and services needed for this – whether hardware or software – from a single source and win over customers with our engineering and IT expertise. This results in drive and automation systems that benefit our customers in Industrie 4.0 in particular.

Plant Engineering: It was likely impossible for Lenze’s founders in 1947 to imagine what would happen in the last 70 years, so we won’t ask you to look 70 years ahead. From Lenze’s perspective, what will the next seven years look like?

Lenze: Looking to the future, we believe businesses will face three major challenges where

Lenze can make an important difference.

The most important external factor impacting the factory automation market is digitalization. This is being driven worldwide by the progressive individualization of products, which is affecting more and more kinds of applications, and ensuring that lot sizes are continuously shrinking in the direction of individual, one-off products. 

This is having a significant impact on the production of goods and the flow of materials. Today, a factory needs to be capable of effective and efficient production down to a lot size of one. One solution to this problem is to deploy sophisticated information and communication technologies – an approach often generally referred to as “Industrie 4.0” (the Fourth Industrial Revolution) or the “Smart Factory.”

In the long term, the challenges that digitalization creates for manufacturing are only likely to grow more complex. As digital structures continue to permeate through all areas of business, the market climate will experience dynamic change, and create a new, tougher competitive environment. We will rise to meet these new challenges and are already focusing today on tackling the digitalization tasks for tomorrow – offering our customers tailor-made solutions, complemented by made-to-measure consultancy and support.

Plant Engineering also celebrated our 70th anniversary in 2017. Click here to read our anniversary article.