The expansion into a new country, or even a new continent, is a major milestone for a company. It was no different for Hirschmann Automotive. This step was necessary in order to sustainably secure our future. Our local growth at our headquarters in Rankweil (Austria) – in 2015, 100 new employees were hired – would not have been possible without our operations abroad. Today, I say with full conviction: If we do not follow our customers, other companies will close this gap. That would not be in our interest.
For a medium-sized company such as ours, globalization can be an enormous challenge – also financially. At the same time, it opens up interesting opportunities which we should not let slip. For the automotive industry, for example, China is the largest market and our clients operate local manufacturing facilities there. Increasingly, they source components and modules for their production locally. In business terms, this trend is called “local for local”. If we do not seize these opportunities, then we do not act entrepreneurially.
We now operate independent production plants in the Czech Republic, Romania and Morocco. In China and Mexico, we have created a fully-fledged company in the past year, with product development, process development and sales capacities. These processes will continue this year. In all of our plants, we attach great importance to qualified and loyal staff, in order to maintain our high quality standards. For this reason, we train some executives in Rankweil, in the course of which we benefit from mutual knowledge and cultural exchanges. The international locations also offer our apprentices attractive options: They are able to gain valuable international experience during their education.
Working abroad or at new production sites requires not only language skills, but also a certain degree of knowledge about the cultural realities. This can quickly lead to disharmonies – I myself had an experience of this in previous work: Because I refused to allow a Japanese colleague to carry my briefcase, I was given no acknowledgement in the subsequent meeting with the Head of Development at Toyota. He simply believed that I was “only” the bag-carrier. In order to reduce the possibility of such negative experiences, we offer our employees numerous cultural workshops and language classes.
We cannot yet predict exactly which other cultures we will work within in the future. However, we will concentrate at this moment in time on achieving a significant market share in China and Mexico. And then we will see.
The planned expansion of our plant in Rankweil was delayed due to an objection filed against our building permit application. As we have met all requirements, we expect to receive planning permission shortly. As an interim solution, we will expand the rear car park to the west in February.
I hope all of you were able to make good use of this reflective time at the end of the year and recharge your batteries for the year ahead. For 2016, I wish you much health and success, also on behalf of my colleague Thomas Mayer.