Lean & Lead

Lean Management

As operations started to no longer run smoothly in harmonic drive se’s sales department, the consultants of Staufen AG helped the leading manufacturer of precision gears and sophisticated drive solutions realign with a lean approach. This success radiated across the entire company and has once again led to sustained growth in sales and earnings.

For years, Harmonic Drive SE in Limburg/Lahn had a steady stream of orders. Customers from the fields of mechanical engineering, robotics, medical technology, special environments, and aerospace ordered partially customized drive solutions. Business for shaft gear units and actuators was literally running smoothly. But after the worldwide boom in robotics, other players are trying to take over the market. “At that time, we realized that

the sales department had to be optimized and we had to react,” explains Daniel Liedke, Head of Overall Sales, Design & Development at Harmonic Drive SE. The company management decided to bring in outside expertise. The consultants from Staufen AG were to help Harmonic Drive SE analyze new growth markets. The goal was to optimize and define new sales processes to bring customer acquisition back to previous levels.

From standard to customized – every sales process is different

First, the sales team and consultants took a close look at the sales processes. The sales department was divided into three levels and processes were reorganized. Today, Harmonic Drive SE distinguishes between a standard process, “semi-customized” process with minor modifications to existing products and “customized” process with special customer requirements for which completely new innovations have to be developed. “This separation has helped us move forward beyond sales, because within the three processes, customers’ requirements and wishes differ very clearly,” explains Dominik Kaiser, Sales Manager Germany. In the standard process, speed is crucial, he said. Harmonic Drive SE now ensures more speed here by streamlining the release processes as well as other measures. “Customized orders, on the other hand, involve developing and manufacturing products that only we can offer the customer.

Here, the focus is on finding a solution,” says Sales Manager Kaiser. In the customized process, therefore, industry experts are brought in at the customer acquisition stage right through to preparing the quotation, providing additional specialist knowledge at the start of the process. Subsequently, project management takes over.

Lead management ensures more orders

In the semi-customized segment, the company decided to approach customers even more actively to sell its drive technology solutions. “That was the catalyst for establishing lead management,”says Liedke, Head of Sales and D+D. To achieve this, clear task competencies were assigned to individual employees. Today, lead managers generate promising customer contacts and hand them over to field sales representatives, who plan on-site customer visits and thus form the spearhead of the sales force. There is still work to be done: “But what belongs together, grows together,” says Dominik Kaiser. “Communication among employees is the key to success.” For this reason, regular communication has been strengthened. Once a week, the lead managers coordinate with the sales representatives responsible for the sales regions and the technical office staff in a very structured manner.

In generating leads, the team initially focused on winning back customers who had once backed out because delivery times were too long at the time. The current focus is on acquiring new customers. Leads are also generated with technical support. Software tracks company visits to the Harmonic Drive website, where they can find out about products and download information, for example. If a company downloads CAD data, an email address must also be provided. Lead managers use these contacts to actively approach prospective customers. In addition, lead management in the future will look more closely at so-called “parallel applications” for semicustomized products.

“With the help of key performance indicators, we have given the topic greater commitment,” adds Dominik Kaiser. “This is how we now control sales by means of key figures. And that gives us confidence.”

“Small quantities and high variance, that is where we are the undisputed market leader.”
DANIEL LIEDKE | Harmonic Drive SE

“The probability for a series order is at 80 percent.”
DOMINIK KAISER | Harmonic Drive SE

Approximately 35 percent increase in order intake in the first half of 2021

The current business figures prove that Harmonic Drive SE is once again on the right track: Order intake increased by approximately 35 percent compared to the same period of the previous year. The company intends to grow further in the future, particularly in the area of special products. “Small quantities and high variance, that is where we are the undisputed market leader,” says Daniel Liedke proudly.

In 2019, Harmonic Drive SE delivered around 30 prototypes; a year later, the Staufen project saw 123 prototypes, and by the end of May 2021, the number had risen to 125 prototypes, with the goal of cracking the 200 mark in 2021. “The probability of a series order is up to 80 percent,” says Dominik Kaiser.

But this is not the end of Harmonic Drive SE’s transformation. Lean management, which got off to a successful start in sales, is now being extended to other areas of the company with the help of Staufen consultants.

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