Linde’s international sales and service team received very thorough and detailed training on the company’s latest developments and product innovations during the first two days of the World of Material Handling event. Members of the press were also invited to attend on those days. As far as I could see from my discussions with press colleagues, overall they were more than satisfied with the event and took lots of material and many impressions back with them to their editorial offices.
On day 3, the visitors’ list consisted of German dealers with their sales and service personnel. This was one of the largest groups expected at WoMH with over 500 people. For them, too, the agenda included a tight programme with lots of presentations and expert discussions.
Of course, I didn’t miss the chance to talk with dealers and service personnel. Who could tell me more than this group that comes into contact with customers on a daily basis. I had the opportunity to quiz people from all over Germany – from north to south and east to west. How are Linde products received? What problems are there? Where are the bottlenecks? How satisfied are the customers?
Initially, of course, the people I spoke to were a little sceptical about what I was up to. At first, the answers were rather stiff and superficial, if not downright cautious. But we then soon got to the heart of the matter.
Let me describe the discussion I had with a salesman from the Rhine-Main region on the subject of Connectivity. I asked him whether the topic of networking and digitalisation was already being addressed by customers beyond the usual group of large companies. The reply I received in the broadest Hessian dialect rather surprised me: “No, customers are the ones urging Linde on. They can’t get enough! Customers have understood how important the whole thing is!” In other words, customers expect Linde to offer an increasing variety of solutions based on networked systems. “Of course, there are also customers that don’t need it; for example, if they only need to drive a roll of carpet from A to B once a day.” In other words, not all customers need or want a fleet management system. Nor do they all need to have precise details about the state of their vehicles. As someone who comes from the IT world, I know it’s a good sign when users do not reject a system on principle, but actually ask for enhancements when they need them for operational reasons.
Other discussions centred on new Power Systems – above all, on the still relatively new lithium-ion technology that is now really beginning to take off. While the car industry seems to be having problems with this, alternative drive technologies have long since found a place in the world of logistics, especially wet-cell batteries. Two dealers, one from Bavaria and one Baden-Württemberg, engaged in some playful banter in their respective dialects (unfortunately, some of the fun gets lost in English translation).
“The new lithium-ion solution is just the thing for my customers. They’re driving around with lead-acid batteries and are literally waiting to change.”
“I have exactly the same. Of course, they’re not immediately changing over, because the old forklifts are still running well. But some of them are already seriously thinking about it, because having to change batteries is no fun and wastes space.”
“Yes, exactly. I know customers who send their employees to the warehouse to change them at the weekend.”
“But upgrading is definitely also a question of cost. Lithium forklifts are a bit more expensive to buy, but that soon pays for itself. When you add it all up – the handling, the time saving – it’s a really good investment.”
“That’s right. Linde has done the right thing at the right time. Are you hungry? Let’s go and have something to eat!”
And off went the two dealers, they’d completely forgotten about me.
I kept hearing conversations like this. The dealers were in good spirits and expected Linde to offer the right mix of products and services. As a reporter you like to hear critical opinions now and again, but I heard nothing fundamentally critical at all. The picture is rather different in other industries: you only have to go to a meeting of car dealers to hear very different tones.