Large trade fairs are tiring and the IAA trade fair for commercial vehicles is no exception.
You are on your feet all day, are involved in numerous discussions, and have to maintain a high level of concentration with scheduled breaks few and far between. But if you observe Dr. Pius Trautmann, you will notice that such a trade fair also has many good sides. As Director of Engineering Liquid Filter Systems Heavy Engines he is responsible for the development of liquid filter systems for commercial vehicles and industrial applications at MANN+HUMMEL. At the trade fair his opinion was valued by many on a wide range of subjects. I managed to catch up with him and asked the following questions.
What makes for a successful trade fair?
Trautmann: Frist of all we naturally have to present ourselves well as a company. Our trade fair stand is always very friendly, open and inviting so that customers and potential customers are happy to visit us. Then of course we also need competent personnel on the stand. We therefore take care to ensure that someone from R&D, sales and management is present. Visitors should not leave the stand without getting a competent answer to their question. This was also our strategy at the IAA trade fair for commercial vehicles.
And the exhibited products?
Trautmann: These are also important. At the trade fair we presented a good cross-section of products for all areas of filtration and types of drive. In this process it was not our aim to impress visitors with a huge number of exhibits. Rather we selectively presented products which are relevant and important for the commercial vehicle segment. This sector is understandably very oriented to costs. Here the emphasis is not on “beautiful things” which may well be justified in the passenger vehicle segment. The commercial vehicle segment instead requires products which combine a high level of functionality, proven reliability and acceptable costs.
And does MANN+HUMMEL meet these requirements?
Trautmann: Naturally. Take a look at my personal favorite at the trade fair. This is our plastic/aluminum hybrid design for highly stressed liquid filter modules that we presented at the IAA which is the first product of its kind worldwide. MANN+HUMMEL has developed a technology which simultaneously exploits the mechanical strength of aluminum and the design flexibility of plastic. This technology uses an aluminum frame to provide stability in areas which are subject to high stress. The aluminum frame is then overmolded in plastic which includes the elements the liquid flows through. The advantages of this are that threads, sealing surfaces and hydraulic connections are directly integrated and further machining steps are no longer required. Customers then benefit from this reduction in costs.
What particularly interests you at trade fairs?
Trautmann: It’s the discussions we have about products and also about cooperation, plans, developments and much more. A trade fair provides an opportunity to also have casual discussions, for example, at the stand, while having a coffee or at lunch, with customers, partners and suppliers and also with end customers, i.e. the people, for example, who will change a filter in the repair shop. If we give these people our time and are prepared to listen we can learn about how we can improve our products. This is because when a service employee is not satisfied with the user-friendliness he will use our product less, regardless of the actual performance of the product. Of course we cannot consider all of the suggestions made, but in the past I have been able to pick up a number of interesting ideas from such discussions.
How do we handle the competition at a trade fair?
Trautmann: We show respect, cooperate with others and often have friendly relations. We know each other, and at the end of the day we are rather a small community. They visit our stand and have a look around. I go to their stands and also have a look around. Sometimes we drink coffee together, talk shop and have a chat about our line of business. And why not? Nothing confidential is shown at trade fairs. Anyone can buy a product and test it at home in the lab if they want to. As long as everyone is open, honest and plays by the rules, we can all get along.
Were you sometimes able to discover something interesting?
Trautmann: Oh yes! Other companies also have clever developers. And this is true for competitors, our partners and also customers. I am always impressed when someone has developed a new solution because this shows that there is always room for improvement. The trade fair is the ideal platform for us to inform ourselves about many new areas of technology and ideas. This is important because when we know early on about something this will help us to think about future assignments and priorities for ourselves, our team and the company.