Reshuffle in the management team at Liebherr in Ehingen.

The retirement of Dr Hubert Hummel and Mario Trunzer marks the end of an era. However, they left their staff in good hands – Ulrich Heusel has been responsible for production since 1 May whilst Daniel Pitzer has been in charge of the commercial department since 1 October. And whilst you are reading this article, Mario Trunzer is very probably skiing through fresh powder snow with Dr Hubert Hummel looking down on him from his light aircraft. They’ve earned it. We made sure that we got all four of them around the table whilst we still could. And what can we say – as you will see, we had a very intense conversation full of power, plans and cranes. Read it for yourself.

Dr. Hubert Hummel
Dr. Hubert Hummel

Dr Hummel, you joined Liebherr in Ehingen in 1999 and were appointed Director in 2003. Over these last two decades, we have undergone incredible growth and the factory site has doubled in size. Which milestones do you think were particularly important?

Dr. Hubert Hummel: The construction and site expansion work were certainly major milestones. These proved to be the right moves and very sensible in hindsight.

But they are the things you can see. Those that we can’t see are just as important, such as the continued development of the organisation to create the powerful, flexible unit we see today. Of course, a company develops all the time and it is the accumulation of all those little everyday improvements that drives a company forward.

What do you think of the reasons behind Liebherr’s success in Ehingen?

Dr. Hubert Hummel: It’s the total package, the product, the organisation, the commitment and the loyalty of the workforce, the solidarity of the management team but also having confidence in that team. There is also the fact that it is embedded in the family structure of the group – all the things that about us that customers and business partners value.

What times were difficult for you despite this?

Dr. Hubert Hummel: I was always deeply upset by accidents, which thankfully were very rare. But also the things that happened to the employees, which we were confronted with in one way or another.

And there were also the plans which simply did not work out as we had hoped and the things that people, but also organisations, did, which at times were very difficult to understand. None of that was easy, but I suppose it’s part of life.

There are things we simply cannot control, like the current corona pandemic. They're simply part of life. Setbacks happen and LWE will get over it. We have strong foundations. The things we worked for in the good times will help us now.

Dr. Hubert Hummel

Have you got used to your new life? What you enjoy doing in your new-found extensive leisure time?

Dr. Hubert Hummel: Actually, I think I’m still in holiday mode, and I suppose you could say I’m still training to be a pensioner. When I received my pension ID in September, that certainly helped.

The extra leisure time is a real privilege, and I’m really enjoying filling my days with sport, reading and flying. And, of course, I can also enjoy more time with the family. In any case, I’m certainly not bored. But I do not just plan my whole day ahead and I’m content to let the future bring what it will.

Have you got used to your new life? What you enjoy doing in your new-found extensive leisure time?

Dr. Hubert Hummel: Actually, I think I’m still in holiday mode, and I suppose you could say I’m still training to be a pensioner. When I received my pension ID in September, that certainly helped.

The extra leisure time is a real privilege, and I’m really enjoying filling my days with sport, reading and flying. And, of course, I can also enjoy more time with the family. In any case, I’m certainly not bored. But I do not just plan my whole day ahead and I’m content to let the future bring what it will.

Has your wife had you in training? How is she getting on with you being at home so much?

Dr. Hubert Hummel: After I’ve finished one career, I’m certainly not taking up a new one. But seriously, my wife is delighted that I have more time. Of course we have to get used to our new personal situation and plan our activities together and how we share the jobs.

But in contrast to Loriot in “Pappa ante portas”, I have no intention of making the whole house a mess – although establishing lean management in the kitchen might be taking things a little too far.

What's the first thing you think of when you look back at LWE?

Dr. Hubert Hummel: I look back fondly at working together and communicating with different people in a range of functions. The experience you gather, and the opportunity to mature using that experience. All that whilst working at a great company with a great team, which was not exactly unsuccessful – I will miss it.

A full working day provides structure. What I now need is to find a new rhythm and framework to fill my time. But time and peace will certainly play a major role in that.

Mario Trunzer
Mario Trunzer

Mr Trunzer, you came to Liebherr in 1990 where you were initially HR Manager in Kempten. Six years later you were appointed Commercial Director there. In 2002 you took on the same position in Ehingen. How did you find your time here?

Mario Trunzer: Unique, fulfilling and enriching, I learned so much. I’m still impressed by LWE almost every day – and I have been a Director here for 18 years. What still impresses me is that everything works, despite the fact that I’ve been here so long –

Where is Liebherr-Werk Ehingen today and what advice would you give your successor?

Mario Trunzer: LWE is in a good place, there is no doubt about that – with good people and great structures. The plant in Ehingen has always continued to develop, and that should continue in the future. Some people believe that this will take care of itself because we are the market leaders. That’s just wrong. We have to continue to make it happen every day. At the beginning we were the challengers, and there were lots of competitors who were better placed. But some of them no longer even exist today. We have never needed the services of a consultant. We did it all on our own.

If he does his work properly, a director always has an eye on the whole picture and the people and teams within the company. People must be able to trust you, otherwise they cannot do their work properly. That means directors have to be authentic, they have to do what they say and say what they do. That's the only way to create trust and reliability. And that's what the management team as a whole needs, it is never just about an individual. I'm absolutely convinced of that, and so are our successors. and I have yet to find a company that comes close. The spirit is very special.

I would currently advise people to try to live as normally as possible whilst observing the guidelines. Fear and hysteresis are poor advisers.

Mario Trunzer

What should we keep doing – and what should we stop doing?

Mario Trunzer: That’s an easy one – simply develop and supply good products. But what's becoming more important is the development of our customer service and product management. Our customer service is doing absolutely the right thing. And we should continue to do it.

One thing we should never do is become arrogant or self-satisfied. Otherwise somebody will turn up out of the blue and make our lives hell. The fact that we've been successful for so long may be a risk – we might start believing that it’s a given. But success is part of a journey – and you have to restart that journey every day.

How are you planning to spend your time now?

Mario Trunzer: I'll be doing all sorts of things, with lots of free time that I'll fill with my family, friends and hobbies, such as sport and culture. And I'll be tackling those projects that I've been putting off for ages. I’m looking forward finally to being the first one on the piste in the powder snow and not just having to go on worn slopes on Saturdays.

Are you fearful that you might just be a little bored?

Mario Trunzer: I hope I'll be bored sometimes – I’ve never been bored before. And time just to sit there and be quiet – I’m really looking forward to that! But I've got lots of ideas to put an end to any boredom. And what's more, boredom often results in creativity.

Ulrich Heusel - Production director LWE
Ulrich Heusel - Production director LWE

Now we’d like to hear from our new directors about what they’re thinking and planning. Mr Heusel, you came to Liebherr in 1994 since when you have worked for quite a few Liebherr companies. You transferred to Ehingen in 2005 where you headed up the work preparation team and the production order centre. Do you have any special memories from when you started out at LWE?

Ulrich Heusel: I certainly do – Liebherr’s absolute commitment in Ehingen and the prospect of managing a department doing such exciting work. At the outset, it was the impressive products but also the size of the factory, the incredible amount of material and the organisation and preparation it all required. Nevertheless, the processes have remained simple and robust – they really are an art form.

And my working relationships were friendly, helpful and based on trust – a good team, but we always had fun as well. And we have always had a good, productive approach within the department. One of the main factors behind the company’s success is the mixture of experience and youth. Everybody has always been focused on customers and finding solutions for them. And that is still the case today.

Can you give us a few of the highlights from your last few years?

Ulrich Heusel: Almost every day is a highlight for me – the smell of steel and drilling fluid simply feels like home. But the regular customer days are really unique.

I can sum up my highlights in general – we've completed lots of projects which were all essentially focused on the processes. It was less about how we could change things through investments, and more about how we could use the fantastic expertise of our staff to make our business processes more productive, and sometimes also more transparent – whilst still enjoying our work. I’m rather proud of the results – we know our processes and have redesigned some of them. That’s a good thing, but it’s certainly not par for the course.

I would also like to express my thanks to Dr Hummel. His choice of people and management staff enabled him to form a good, powerful team with plenty of freedom to try new things, gather experience and continuously develop. Learn from their mistakes. That's one of the main pillars on which success is based – a good team.

Showing flexibility is even more important in extraordinary times. The stable processes that we have established in the past will help us enormously.

Ulrich Heusel - Production director LWE

What are the current challenges for your department?

Ulrich Heusel: The basis for a productive factory is good, stable planning. Nevertheless, meeting as many customer requests as possible is a real challenge. The world is getting ever more hectic. Everybody wants things to be done more quickly, but want the suppliers to be reliable – in other words making promises and then keeping them.

On the other hand, continuity and stability form the basis for successful supply chain management. Balancing these two opposites is the real challenge for the modern world – but it’s quite exciting as well.

The constantly rising space requirement due to the wide production range would be challenge enough on its own, but we also have to contend with all the building work and the areas consumed by it, albeit temporarily – that’s enough to keep us busy! On top of that we have a few mammoth projects such as the complete reconstruction of our plant logistics and the introduction of a new ERP system. But we must make our company ready for the future.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not at work?

Ulrich Heusel: I’m a very keen DIYer and tinkerer. I also love sport – skiing, diving and sometimes jogging or cycling. But diving is my real passion. And a good book is always welcome. Oh, and redesigning the garden, hopefully with a mini excavator.

Daniel Pitzer - Commercial management director LWE
Daniel Pitzer - Commercial management director LWE

Over to you, Mr Pitzer. After completing your degree in International Business, you started working for LWE in 2006 where you held the position of Regional Sales Manager for several years. In 2015 you were appointed Managing Director of Liebherr USA and also division manager for our products. Now you're back at headquarters and we must ask you whether things have changed at LWE during the five years you were away?

Daniel Pitzer: Not just in the last five years, since 2006 it seems as though something has changed at the site every year. Somewhere there is always an excavator or you can hear the sounds of building work. But of course from a distance you also get a better view of home. LWE has become even larger and more successful without losing its unique feeling of everybody belonging.

Regardless of where we are, everybody at the plant is a salesman and a brand ambassador. And that's a sensational attitude. That's precisely the secret behind our success that we want to maintain and strengthen in the future. That's extremely important to me.

We've learned to adapt and swim with the tide. Thanks to our unique feeling of everybody belonging, which always links us to our staff and customers, we continue to be a reliable partner, even in these unsettling times.

Daniel Pitzer - Commercial management director LWE

To date your work has been focused on sales. Will you miss having contact with customers and all the travelling?

Daniel Pitzer: I've always had very good relationships with our customers. I managed and strategically expanded our American service team with a great deal of passion and energy. All the travelling was part of that job, but it was always only a means to an end so that I could discuss projects with customers on site or at their own offices and move things forward.

In my new job in the commercial department I'm still going to have a great deal of contact with customers, but now they will be internal customers. Overall, you could say that the jobs I’ve held over the last 15 years or so at Liebherr have taught me everything that I now need for my new job. I've been in training and I'm now returning to the management team to include my own experience in our processes.

I know the plant, the staff, the region, the customers, the markets and our partners. What’s more, I’m taking over a fantastic team and LWE is on a more than firm footing.

What attractions and challenges do you believe the new job will offer you?

Daniel Pitzer: What particularly attracts me is working with my team and other departments to actively forge the future of our division. The challenges include our major investments in the new logistics concept for spare and standard parts over the next few years and the impending switch to a new ERP system. In addition, we need to develop the commercial department so we can continue to meet future requirements and keep the whole company going.

A lot has been said and written about the USA recently because of the presidential election. In your experience, what's different here compared to the “land of unlimited opportunity”?

Daniel Pitzer: There’s actually just one sentence that says it all – “Everything's bigger in the US!” That really does cover it all. It’s not just the size of the vehicles or other everyday items, but also the opportunities and possibilities.

Did you and your wife and children enjoy living there?

Daniel Pitzer: Our children found it very difficult at first but after about a year things started to improve. Overall, our time there was a fantastic adventure. Our horizons have definitely expanded and, of course, one of the by-products is that our sons now also speak perfect English. We still talk about our time in the USA within the family every day.

Our current management team (from left to right): Daniel Pitzer (Commercial management), Dr. Ulrich Hamme (Design and Development), Ulrich Heusel (Production), Christoph Kleiner (Sales)
Our current management team (from left to right): Daniel Pitzer (Commercial management), Dr. Ulrich Hamme (Design and Development), Ulrich Heusel (Production), Christoph Kleiner (Sales)

Dear Readers,

If you regret that you have not been able to say goodbye to your long-serving business partners, Messrs Hummel and Trunzer, we can now do it for you. Simply send what you would like to say to them to [email protected]. We will pass on your messages in confidence. As you know, both of them now have plenty of time to read letters and messages in peace!

This article was published in the UpLoad magazine 01 | 2021.

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