Under the Sennebogen pyramid

26 June 2014

The German crane manufacturer Sennebogen has over 60 years worth of experience in the industry. Recently, it opened a new training facility in Staubing, Germany. Zak Garner-Purkis went to the launch of the new company’s new centre to hear about Sennebogen’s plans for the future.

One of the exhibits in the newly established Sennebogen training facility is a sketch by Erich Sennebogen of his vision for the company's new training facility. The diagram is of a structure with a raised central point which Erich Sennebogen designed to represent the philosophy of having one clear goal to strive towards. It's fitting that this is how the new building came into being as the first crane products ever produced by the German manufacturer were also born from the pencil and slide rule of its founder.

Sadly, Erich Sennebogen Snr died in 2011 but his legacy lives on through the continued ownership and management of the manufacturer from his two sons Erich Jnr. and Walter Sennebogen. Both were in attendance as the firm inaugurated the new €6m building in May this year.

There are many family businesses within the lifting industry but you'd be hard pushed to find many that go to the lengths that Sennebogen do to blend the company's history with its plans for the future. As W alter Sennebogen explains: "When our father Erich Sennebogen began the business he started with just a book of tables and a slide rule, from this he developed the first pieces of equipment that became the business that continues to expand to this day. The history and philosophy that exists within a family run enterprise is something that we want to make visible to the customer. This new training centre is an investment that shows we are planning for the future. We've had partners in the past that have struggled with the onset of globalisation, but not us. It was deemed by some that traditional businesses wouldn't survive I think that we've proved that isn't the case."

"Sennebogen has changed a lot, you go back 20-30 years the structure of the company was different. How many companies still exist that were founded around that time? Let alone at the point the Sennebogen came into being. Our firm is a family company with a rich history and one of our objectives is to show this history to the youth of today. Some of the Sennebogen cranes in our museum were still working before they came here, that is a true testament to the level of machine that we have been making over the year s. They fulfill that same design philosophy we practice to this day based on a simplicity of design together made using quality components. Some people will ask where do we go from here? And the answer is that we have to keep it up. This is what we wanted to show here with this new facility."

It's not only history that is of importance to the Sennebogen group it's the place where the firm's is based as w ell. The new centre is built alongside an existing facility in Straubing, Bavaria and the decision to build at this location was very important to the company. Erich Sennebogen Jr. explained that the company's ties to the region go far deeper than one might think: "We have deep roots in the region and we take stable decisions based on this history and the values of the area. This is the second generation who are now running the company.

We deliberate built a multi-purpose are as part of this development because building a centre that could be used by other businesses in the region was vital. We need to appeal to people in the area. We are competing with other firms for employees but it's also key to play an active role in the community."

The pyramid building is split into different sections including three technical training rooms where both theory and practice can be learnt. As well as a museum, which contains machines from the many different eras that the manufacturer has been in existence. The space has been designed so it can be hired as an event space by outside par ties. The whole building is 24,000 sqm with the largest space taken up by the testing area where realistic environmental challenges can be simulated. The academy has been set up as a company within the group although it is separate Sennebogen said that it will play just as important a role as the other segments of the business.

Simplicity and Service
It's one thing to talk about principles and visions of the future of a business and another to deliver a product line that reflects this. However, Sennebogen believe that they have just that putting together a range of cranes where the ease of use and reliability are the two most important characteristics.

Bernthard Kraus, the manager for Crane Line products worldwide, explains: "The philosophy is always the same, you don't just sell the machine you star t a partnership with the customer. Selling and service are one entity that begin with a customer's specification. You look to find out what the customer's demands and aim to have a quick response"

"We believe in having a close relationship with the customer. We want to specify the right crane in the right way, provide the most helpful advice. It's about having a fast response to their needs and knowing the right solution to fit with their requirements. It's with these same philosophies that we use in our academy, sales and service."

"In Germany we have an expression known as called Über engineering, this is when a product has been overly manufacturered and has unnecessary features. We believe instead in having reliable products with high quality components. With duty cycle products the machines are doing jobs such as dredging , in these lines of work reliability it vital as well as easy serviceability. Local service is also very important to customers using these machines. We aim to make machines that are of high quality but are easy to maintain. Cranes you don't need to bring in a specialist to fix. "

But Sennebogen's ambitions are not only restricted to the German market Sennebogen aims to keep growing its presence overseas. Kraus, continues: "We've have been expanding our Asia activities in the last few years, finding good distribution and service partners. Our core aim is looking at the duty cycle cranes, we are looking at the telescopic and crawler markets where we very active. We're not only looking at the Asian market we're also targeting Latin America."

"The duty cycle market is related infrastructure projects, these are frequently found in developing markets where there are young populations and the economy is growing. In Europe large parts of the infrastructure is already there. There just aren't the same levels of extreme growth in these economies. In Europe if there is 1% growth we are very happy in other countries 3% to 4% is considered disappointing."

"In regions such as Latin America, the labels "made in Germany" or "made in Europe" are not that important it's quality that the customer responds to. We prioritise having good service partners that compliment a strong product, that combination is the key. To find the right partner you have to look for specialists and together you develop confidence in your offering. These partners have to have the same service philosophy as we have here at Sennebogen for us to work with them. We want to use the academy for service training, it will be available to distribution partners and for internal use. It will happen on a global level."

The history of the firm is useful even from a sales perspective as it helps reinforce arguments about a manufacturer's ability to deliver. Having a well known and respected name in the industry can only serve a business positively says Kraus: "History is very important, without it you have no experience. We have more than 60 year s worth of experience it gives you the expertise that helps you with new developments in the market. Tradition is important, when you look at the telescopic and duty cycle markets you make an investment for 10-15 years its not about the short term. Continuous development that comes from history that we have. New developments we have the over a looking time 2 years compared to 60 is a major difference to new customers."

"The branding of the product and the name is connected to the history. The green colour and the name is important. Sennebogen are about that service and distribution. Some firms look at direct distribution we work through partners. Local experience is the way that the company markets itself in new countries who fully understand local demands and regulations."

How the construction industry will develop in the coming years is anyone's guess, but undoubtably Sennebogen's clear philosophy and sense of history will stand them in good stead. As for the company's management another exhibit in the Erich Sennebogen museum perhaps provides a clue to this; a picture of the full Sennebogen family, Erich Sennebogen his sons and grandchildren all stood by a crane.