Michél-Philipp Maruhn: Let's start right away with the topic of "Digital Transformation". What does that mean exactly and what does your daily work on the topic look like?
Daniel Stadel: Specifically, we are dealing with the digitalisation of our business. We are investigating how construction processes can be supported and accelerated to the maximum extent through digital technologies, so that our customers have real added value and can complete their tasks better and faster. It may be, for example, that we work directly on our products with chips and sensors or analyse entire processes via a digital twin. Every day, we examine new business models, topics and technologies and decide on the next steps as a team.
Michél-Philipp Maruhn: That's really exciting. Do you have an example of the processes in which sensors are used?
Daniel Stadel: As a specific example, sensor technology is used in the in-situ concrete process. Temperature plays a very important role here – the concrete hardens and heats up. With digital recording of the temperature and concrete strength, it is thus possible to react more quickly and it might be that formwork can be stripped earlier. Sensors can also be used for hydrostatic pressure, which occurs when concrete is poured into the formwork. The customer can thus monitor the load limit of the formwork and adjust the concreting speed if necessary. For example, if the load limit of the formwork has not yet been reached, the customer can pour faster. If the formwork is at its limit, we ensure through monitoring that the formwork will not be overloaded and burst. This increases the time and cost savings on the construction site immensely.
Michél-Philipp Maruhn: You try to align the whole thing closely to customer needs. What is that like, exactly?
Daniel Stadel: Yes, absolutely. The approach in development work is changing at the moment. In the past, people tended to focus on the product, which was developed or refined when they had the idea. In the meantime, the focus is very much on customer feedback. Customer-centricity is a buzzword that is often mentioned in this context. The customer pays the bill in the end and that is why it should also be the central point of action. It is important for us to develop this understanding of the process. What drives the customer? What challenges does it face on the construction site, especially when using our products? How can we provide value-creating support with new technologies and new models?
Michél-Philipp Maruhn: What does the future hold for you? Do you plan to follow a certain path or are you completely open?
Daniel Stadel: Among other things, we have the Future Products and Technology department, which explicitly deals with how PERI's core business can be destroyed and what the future looks like in the construction industry. This has resulted in some innovative approaches, such as 3D concrete printing. In the last five years, we have learned a lot and have always professionalised our approach. By now, we have a very good picture of what we want to do.
Michél-Philipp Maruhn: Is it conceivable for you not only to optimise processes and systems, but also to develop entirely new services and make them available to your customers?
Daniel Stadel: Further development is a must in order to continue to be successful. If I compare this with the automobile industry – there the focus is no longer on the car but on mobility. It is about the process or even the result and not about the product itself. We have a service portfolio that goes from logistics to cleaning, repair, site supervision and supervisor issues, but of course these are very closely linked to our product applications. Nevertheless, it is highly apparent that the demands are increasing. Currently, a generational change in leadership is also taking place in many companies. This is where the so-called "digital natives" are now taking the helm. They no longer question our products so much as they expect the corresponding goal to be achieved in the best possible way. We have to be prepared for this, know the market very well and, if necessary, also initiate the corresponding developments.
Michél-Philipp Maruhn: You just said that the new generation is coming of age. The generations are changing, they have new and different views. A company may know the market, but does it still know its customers in the next generation? I think that's a big task for industry and commerce to keep their finger on the pulse and not lose the thread there. What do you think?
Daniel Stadel: Absolutely. That is essential. If I lose contact with my client base, then it is only a matter of time before I can no longer offer the portfolio that clients demand.
Michél-Philipp Maruhn: Let's talk about you again: We already know that you have gained a lot of experience in the digital sector and in innovation. What are important points for you that you would like to share here?
Daniel Stadel: An open exchange is important and one should be honest with oneself and admit that things will change. You have to accept that a product that has been successful for decades will eventually reach saturation point at the top end. At some point, it simply can't go on any longer and then something new has to happen. A second point is to be bold and we can see an entrepreneurial spirit, especially in medium-sized and family businesses. That means also having the courage to tackle things and to revive this entrepreneurial risk. The third and final point is that it requires a healthy dose of pragmatism. We simply have to do things and not just talk about them. I think we are very good at analysing things repeatedly and weighing them up again. At some stage, however, we reach the point of final realisation via the learning curve of doing and, in some circumstances, failing. I think we should see this as an important learning opportunity, and then also draw the conclusions from it. Of course, you don't have to make all the mistakes yourself, but you can exchange ideas with others very effectively. Nevertheless, I believe that you simply have to go through certain things yourself in order to move forward – because there are also different cultures in companies. The most important thing is to stick with it and take the issue seriously.
In this interview
Here you can see a portrait of the interview participants Michél-Philipp Maruhn and Daniel Stadel.
Michél-Philipp Maruhn, founder and host of the DIGITALWERK podcast
Head of PERI Digital
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