What customers want

 

If a company were to put together an identikit profile for a “dream employee”, then there would certainly be several key points on the wish list.

More than seven years with the company, professional experience abroad, and empathy with the customer’s viewpoint are a promising start here. So it’s all the more felicitous when someone like this doesn’t have to be profiled, but can already be “found” right here with us in Neutraubling.

In 2000, after graduating from Munich University of Applied Science Michael Gschwendner joined Krones, with a remit covering aseptics. Back then, this specialism was being handled by just three people – something that very soon became inconceivable, because in the next six years Krones’ aseptic operations expanded many times over.

Changing sides

Then, in 2006, Michael felt called upon to tackle new challenges and left Krones AG to join Nestlé. He moved over to the customers’ side, and handled a huge project in Indiana, USA. A picture of the factory he created on a greenfield site back then still hangs in his office.

“That was a brilliant experience, handling a factory construction project from beginning to end. And that’s the way things are: you learn the most from projects that aren’t always easy. It was definitely a tough time, but it was very exciting as well.”

This was followed by three years at Nestlé in Research & Development and a second end-to-end project in USA. Then Krones came knocking again. The crucial reasons why Michael Gschwendner came “home” to Neutraubling, were ultimately “returning to an interesting remit and getting back together with the people”. Many of his old acquaintances were still there, and aseptics had evolved significantly at Krones in the meantime. “When I left, aseptics was still in its infancy. While I was away, it had grown up to be an adolescent, as it were. So it’s been great to come back and to get involved in driving it forward.”

From the customer’s viewpoint

Following his spell with a customer Michael came back with an entirely different viewpoint: “I kept my eyes open and learned what users actually need.” He relates that engineers are inherently in love with technology: inspired by a wish to improve details and develop elegant solutions. During his time with Nestlé, he found that customers often have different, simpler wishes:

 

“Customers want tangible benefits. The machine has to be fit for purpose, easy to operate, performatively excellent, and require minimised maintenance.”

Now, as Head of Aseptic Technology at Krones, Michael Gschwendner attaches major priority to these wishes from our customers. “The basis for our strategy and our development work has always been our customers’ requirements. I do a lot of travelling, and I benefit from an excellent network – so I bring back to Neutraubling quite a lot of insights into what our customers actually want, and that’s what we try to give them.” In this context, he also emphasises the potential that the group’s restructuring has created. “Meanwhile, I have ultimate control of the entire process – from preparing quotations to final validation. Thanks to this end-to-end approach, we are able to meaningfully respond to the customer’s expressed wishes, and also to learn from empirical feedback.”

A solution for everyone

What does Michael Gschwendner think are the reasons why customers opt for aseptic solutions from Krones?

“Our portfolio meets a whole lot of different requirements. We have suitable technologies for different products and packaging variants, and are always able to guarantee the requisite microbiological safety.”

As an example, he cites the Contiform AseptBloc, an aseptic block comprising a stretch blow-moulder and a filler: for customers who insist on optimum microbiological safety for their sophisticated low-acid products, this block is the right solution. For producers of somewhat less demanding high-acid products, Krones also offers a more affordable alternative: Contipure, a system for preform decontamination using H2O2. So customers can choose the product best suited to their needs.

A look into the future

Michael closes with a few brief thoughts on current developments on the aseptics market: “There are some highly disparate trends when you break them down by regions. Quite generally, it’s observable that the European market is tending more towards solutions in the medium output range, whereas the Asian market, with its higher sales volumes, is calling for progressively higher outputs.”