Anuga Food Tec 2018 and the strategic direction of Product Management
PFLITSCH strengthens its presence in the food and pharmaceutical industry segment
PFLITSCH announced a realignment of strategy for its Product Management department at the beginning of this year. It will increasingly focus on individual key industries. Since 1 January, Heiko Emde has been the point of contact and market segment manager responsible for satisfying our customers in the food and pharmaceutical industries. With the Anuga Food Tec trade fair taking place this month, we took the opportunity to speak with Heiko Emde about his new role, the importance of the food and pharmaceutical industries for PFLITSCH, the topic of hygienic design and future projects.
Mr Emde, you are relatively new to PFLITSCH and the freshly created position of Market Segment Manager for the food and pharmaceutical industries. Why is it important to take a holistic approach to specific industries like these?
The importance of taking a holistic approach to these industries can be demonstrated very well based on a few simple statements. In Germany alone, we produce food with a value of EUR 180 billion per year and, according to the United Nations, food production worldwide will increase by 70% by the year 2050. The predicted growth is enormous. But it is not simply a matter of just producing the food.
The legal framework and requirements applicable to food producers are becoming ever more stringent. Protection from disease-causing agents and germs must be guaranteed. According to the Fraunhofer Institute, people are becoming more prone to food-related illnesses – almost 500,000 infections per year, of which up to 10,000 prove fatal. Not only lawmakers are directing the focus on preventative measures in food manufacture, customers are also insisting that they receive food that has been "safely and cleanly processed". If that does not happen or food is actually contaminated, the consequences are usually very easy to predict. Looking back on the food scandals of recent years, it is notable that these events are always accompanied by correspondingly serious damage to the image of the company involved and sometimes drops in sales.
The industry finds itself under the spotlight and must take appropriate precautions to preserve the integrity of the hygiene chain during food production and transport. Production plants need to be designed hygienically, which is the first step in the right direction and the starting point for taking a holistic view of all the processes involved. Our high-quality cable glands and trunking make a major contribution to maintaining the integrity of the hygiene chain. Machinery and plant benefit little from being designed to the latest state of technology and hygiene standards if they incorporate inferior components that cannot be easily cleaned and in no way comply with the generally applicable hygiene requirements.
To compound the situation, many areas of the food and pharmaceutical industries are governed only by guidelines and recommendations that are seldom implemented in a consistent and logical manner. It could be said, therefore, that this industry is "a law unto itself".
How do you see your role developing in the future?
In addition to giving application-focused advice to customers about how best to use our products in the food and pharmaceutical industries, it will primarily involve giving strategic and operational support to our national and international sales partners. I consider it also important to build up and maintain long-term partnerships with our customers. I would describe myself as the "connecting link" between Product Management and Sales, which often entails finding individual customer solutions and working extremely closely with Research & Development. An important aspect of my work is analysing demand and observing trends. As the interface, I communicate with the market and our customers. By targeted marketing of our innovative and special products, we seek to strengthen PFLITSCH's position as the market leader in this technology.
What areas of the job do you focus on most? Have you already got some concrete projects in mind?
A main task is to develop and extend the range of customers for our selection of hygienic design products in new market segments. This is also about keeping in touch with the market and finding requirements for new applications in which we can provide our products and services or develop new solutions.
Due to the lack of statutory provisions or regulations relating to plant design or the components used in many areas of the food industry, some of the conditions under which food is produced remain worthy of improvement, despite the imposition of higher requirements. There are only guidelines and recommendations – most notable those from the EHEDG or the FDA and concepts such as HACCP. The best course for PFLITSCH is to further increase the level of cooperation with the food industry and satisfy the ever more demanding requirements it faces, such as providing a longer shelf life for convenience foods, by offering better and most suitable products. Along with our sales partners, I share the view that it is therefore necessary and even essential to remain in close contact with our customers and stand by their side as an applications-focused adviser. This allows both sides to gain in the long term and only in this way can we develop perfect solutions for our customers' applications.
A good example in this context is the approach of the HDW Hygienic Design Certified System: here it is not only individual components but the standard of implementation of hygienic design requirements of the whole plant that is evaluated. As a matter of course, the evaluation considers plant and machine components such as cable glands and trunking as well. We are fortunate in this respect because we are the world's first manufacturer to have a stainless steel and a plastic cable gland certified by EHEDG in its range of products.
Anuga Food Tec is the foremost trade fair for the food industry and is about to take place shortly. How important are these trade fairs for a company such as PFLITSCH?
For an innovative and forward-looking company like PFLITSCH, which has always been able to satisfy customer requirements and market trends, while at the same time being way ahead of the field in most product developments, trade fairs play a rather important role. In addition to direct contact with the target customer group, PFLITSCH also obtains an extensive overview of the industries and can ensure the information collected and feedback from our customers flow into discussions of strategy and decision-making processes.
Anuga Food Tec had over 1,500 exhibitors in 2015 and is considered the Mecca of the world's food industry and its suppliers. Added to this is the fact that the event is held only once every three years and therefore the interest following recent developments is very high. This platform for ideas and solutions in and around the field of manufacture and packaging of all types of food is of great significance to a high-profile company such as PFLITSCH. In this era where digital communication dominates, the trade fair is a wonderful opportunity to make direct and "real" contact with PFLITSCH's target group and potential customers. In addition to traditional advertising and promoting our image by our presence at Anuga Food Tec, we also seek to foster and expand our sales and communications activities. Attending trade fairs is the best way of communicating PFLITSCH's core competencies, such as solution-finding, our drive to innovate, quality and reliability but also the personal touch and willingness to listen to individual requirements – in short PFLITSCH's DNA.
What highlights from PFLITSCH can visitors look forward to this year at Anuga Food Tec?
PFLITSCH has long been considered a leader in this field of technology. With the blueglobe CLEAN Plus® in stainless steel, we were the first cable gland manufacturer to bring a hygienic design variant onto the market that was certified in accordance with the strict EHEDG guidelines.
In addition to this existing, very successful solution, we will be introducing an absolute superstar this year at Anuga Food Tec in Cologne. We will be presenting, as the one and only manufacturer worldwide to have achieved this, the EHEDG-certified plastic cable gland – the blueglobe CLEAN Plus® in polyamide. Both cable glands meet the stringent requirements with respect to hygiene compatibility and cleaning demanded by the food, pharmaceutical and chemical industries and cleanroom technology.
Furthermore, we will have our EHEDG-certified blind plugs on display and, in the field of trunking, be introducing our new Z Wire-tray Trunking and a Wire-tray Trunking version with a side height of 30 mm, which allows cables to be routed separately, thus avoiding bundling.