A Mix of trusted continuity and future-shaping Megatrends
As part of our "Stories of INTERSCHUTZ" interview series we spoke with René Pol, CSO of the Ziegler Group, about changes and challenges in the fire and emergency industry over the years. Albrecht Ziegler GmbH has been a leading name in fire and emergency vehicles and equipment for 130 years.18 Jul 2019
Albert Ziegler GmbH has been in the market for almost 130 years. Is there anything that hasn’t changed since those early days?
Well, the world has changed a great deal, and our industry is naturally part of that, so there’s not an awful lot that’s the same as it was in the early days – certainly not our products. As an industry, we need to adapt to change; we can’t afford to close our eyes to the developments and megatrends that are going on all around us. That includes the Ziegler Group, which is constantly evolving and constantly developing technologies and new products to meet the challenges of the environment in which it operates. So, compared with our early days, we now have a much broader product range.
We have grown and changed a great deal, as indeed have our products, which have kept up with the state of the art in our industry. But in all that time we have never lost sight of our origins. Our ties with the fire departments and people who use our products are still just as strong and close as they always were, and that’s something we are immensely proud of. We’re also very proud of the fact that many of our employees have been with us for a long time – they’re just as willing and happy to work for Ziegler now as they were when they first started. No company can thrive without good employees, so we’re thankful that we’ve always been in a strong position in that regard.
In what ways does your company benefit from having such a long history?
Companies that have been around for a long time benefit first and foremost from the wealth of experience they have amassed. They also benefit enormously from the solid, long-term relationships with partners and customers that they’ve built up over the years. Having said that, we want to put our main focus on the future, not the past. So, while we are proud to have been a part of the market for so many years, we are now looking forward to what the future holds and to continuing our development story.
Has there ever been a period of such rapid change as the one we are experiencing right now?
Not that I can think of. Over the past few decades, things have been changing at unprecedented rates – and not just in our industry. Everywhere you look, it seems, nothing is the same as it was even just a few years ago. And a lot of that is due to digitization and related megatrends. But despite all the changes, it is important for us as manufacturers to maintain continuity – because there are some things that can and should remain constant. For example, it is important for the fire brigades and partners we serve that they can always rely on us and can always trust us not to weigh them down with new technologies that may not be fully mature.
What key milestones and new projects has your company achieved over the past five years?
One of the biggest milestones in the history of our company is without doubt our integration into the CIMC Group in 2013. That was followed by a number of important projects, including the expansion and modernization of our production facilities and the systematic development and enlargement of our range with the inclusion of products like our aerial ladder platforms and Water Tower units. In 2017, we relocated our service center to Bachhagel.
Our customers rely on our service center for competent, comprehensive support, and the relocation enabled us to expand and enhance the services available and deliver even faster service response times. Then in June 2018, we opened up a new production facility in Kutina, Croatia, and this year, we remodeled and modernized the entrance area at our headquarters in Giengen, so now we’re really able to give our customers and visitors the welcome they deserve. Over the past five years we’ve also developed various new markets, which, among other things, has enabled us to add a number of new expert partners to the Ziegler Group’s worldwide network of representatives. For the next five years we are planning a number of projects that will build on the growth we achieved over the past five years.
The lead theme for INTERSCHUTZ 2020 is "Teams, Tactics, Technology – Connected for Protection and Rescue." What role do digitization and connectedness play in your organization?
An extremely important role. We know that digitization offers significant added value for fire departments, so it’s important for us to embrace it and make sure it doesn’t pass us by. For us, digitalization plays a particularly important role in the development of new products. Having said that, we need to be careful to strike the right balance between digitization and human expertise. And for us, connectedness means much more than collaboration within our industry or integrating organizational processes in the optimal sequence. It also means having a joined-up approach to our products and making connections between our products and the people who use them.
Where do people fit in a world where everything is being digitized and made more intelligent through the use of artificial intelligence?
People have always been at the very heart of emergency responses, and they always will be, because we will always need people to make the important decisions. That means digitization and related new technologies will support people, but will never replace them. The aim here must be to minimize the risks and hazards faced by emergency response crews. That is why at ZIEGLER, people are always the focus of new processes and developments right from the outset – partly to reduce risks and hazards, but also to avoid developing new technologies that may not be human-friendly or practicable.
What other trends do you see as being of importance for your industry?
For our industry, it’s mainly the big megatrends that are important – trends like urbanization, globalization, demographic change and, of course, global warming and climate change.
And what do these megatrends mean for your company in practical terms? How are you preparing for them? What is your response to them?
Obviously these megatrends pose major challenges for our company, and not just on a short-term, day-to-day basis. The long-term challenge is that we need to develop our new products in such a way that they can be used to respond effectively to whatever situations these megatrends throw at them in the course of their service lives.
What will Ziegler be showcasing in 2020 at INTERSCHUTZ? In what way will your showcase reflect the lead theme?
Whatever we showcase, it will revolve around answers and solutions to the challenges posed by the current megatrends of our time. That will of course include new products and product innovations, focusing mainly on our core business areas, such as fire extinguishing technology and control systems. I’d rather not give too much away at this stage, but safe to say our new products and our overall showcase will reflect the INTERSCHUTZ lead theme in a variety of ways.
What are you most looking forward to at INTERSCHUTZ?
INTERSCHUTZ is a major highlight for all firefighters, for us as manufacturers, and generally for everyone in the fire and emergency sector. Hence we are really looking forward to presenting our new products to visitors and discussing key issues and current challenges with other industry professionals. This kind of direct exchange and face-to-face relationship-building with our customers is of great importance to us.
INTERSCHUTZ is an excellent opportunity to initiate and cultivate key relationships. We are all looking forward to showing the world where the Ziegler Group is right now and where it’s headed over the new few years.
What is your objective for INTERSCHUTZ 2020? What will it take for you to class your 2020 showcase as a success?
Well, in 2015 we obviously set the bar very high for what makes a successful showcase, so at the very least we’ll be aiming to match the fantastic product and brand experience we gave our visitors back then. For us, tradeshow success means wowing the visiting industry professionals with our new products, and one of the ways of measuring that is as simple as gauging the reactions of visitors to our display stand.
If our products, our experts on the ground and our showcase in general make a favorable impression with the visiting industry professionals, then we’ll be able to call INTERSCHUTZ 2020 a success for us, not to mention come away with some valuable insights that will serve us well for the next five years.
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