Interview with Ralf Lange
Ralf Lange will take over the management of Deutsche Plasser from Mr Flatscher on 1st January 2018. The Technical Manager and Authorised Signatory has been with the company since 2001. We talked to him about his new job.
You will take over the management of Deutsche Plasser on 1st January 2018. How do you feel about the new job?
I feel respect and I look forward to it. Respect because Mr Flatscher has shaped the company profoundly for many years. It will be a challenge to follow in his steps. I look forward to it, because I have many ideas for the further development of Deutsche Plasser and for making it fit for the future. Mr Flatscher has put together a great team. I was involved in building this team in the past few months. Therefore, I am confident about the next step.
You have been with Deutsche Plasser for many years. Which positions have you held since you have joined the company?
I have been with the company since June 2001. I started as Head of the Repair Engineering Department. I was very lucky. My experienced colleagues supported me. They were a huge help back then. At the time I joined the company, Deutsche Plasser had entered into a framework agreement with Deutsche Bahn on the overhaul of tamping units. Mr Flatscher gave me the opportunity to optimise and enlarge the workshop. I was successful and set a first example of my work.
Another major project was introducing our ERP system in the then newly established Leverkusen-Opladen maintenance workshop in 2010. During this time, I spent several days of the week in Leverkusen to help introduce the system successfully and to train the colleagues on the job.
In 2012, I became Technical Manager and Authorised Signatory. At that time, I had the opportunity to visit many branches of the Plasser & Theurer group, for instance in the USA and Australia, to report on the expansion of the work unit overhaul in Munich. This was, by the way, an important driver for the development of our work unit offer.
How will these experiences benefit you in your new position?
During my years with the company, I got to know a lot of business sectors, many first-hand. This is why I understand the requirements our workshop needs to meet. In my position as Technical Manager and through the close collaboration with Mr Flatscher, I gained considerable experience in the field of management. It will be a great help for my new position.
Beyond that, I learned how important team work is. In a functioning entity, every individual plays an important role, crucial to provide the high-quality performance our customers are used to. I’ve had the opportunity to get to know the staff of Deutsche Plasser very well over the years. I am looking forward to collaborating with this highly motivated and competent team.
You will take over this position from Mr Flatscher. Looking back, what do you think of his work?
Mr Flatscher is a visionary. He has brought the company forward. He put ideas into action that some of us thought were daring – and he succeeded. This is how he managed to draw the industry’s attention to the company and to present the brand “Deutsche Plasser” positively.
Two projects stand out in particular. They could be described as his lifework. One of them is the Leverkusen-Opladen maintenance workshop, which has evolved to become a crucial element of our service portfolio. The other is the Training Centre in Bingen am Rhein which has evolved into the independent, international academy “PMC Rail”, which operates independently of machine manufacturers.
What are the challenges Deutsche Plasser will have to face in the near future?
Our industry is on the move. New technologies and working methods will increasingly gain importance. I am thinking about “Industry 4.0” and all that it entails. This goes hand in hand with generational changes – both in our company and at many of our customers. Members of staff and business partners retire. The young people who follow their lead approach their tasks differently. To many of them, the changes Industry 4.0 implies are self-evident and they handle them intuitively.
We will face this challenge. At the same time, however, we ensure that the deep knowledge of the “old hands” remains in the company. For this purpose, we have introduced a transition process a long time ago, forming teams of experienced and young members of staff to help them benefit from each other’s knowledge.
We intend to meet the generational changes at the customers by placing an even greater focus on them. We want to talk to our customers to learn more about their wishes and demands. This will help us understand how we can support them even better.
Where will you place the focus? Where will the customers of Deutsche Plasser find your signature?
Our main goal will continue to be ensuring the highest possible level of availability for our customers’ machines. To ensure this, we are working on our 24 hours “around the clock” service.
In general, we wish to be even closer to our customers to support them even more. We will meet the needs resulting from an increasing level of digitisation by collaborating intensively with P&T Connected. We have designated a member of staff who will deal with the topic in particular.
Just as it was to Mr Flatscher, it is a major concern to me to support and promote our staff. I want to enable them to participate in further training to make sure that we will be able to deal with generational changes in the best possible way and that we can further develop new services for our customers.
It is crucial to me to intensify the personal contact with our customers and to communicate effectively. We want to work together with our customers towards our goal to support them in ensuring the machines’ highest possible level of availability.
Therefore, we have set the course and have introduced structural changes in the sales management and other departments. I expect this to stimulate the entire company considerably.
Where do you see Deutsche Plasser in ten years?
That’s a difficult question. The next three to five years will be particularly challenging. We are looking forward to taking on the challenge. Thinking further ahead, I expect that we will be using new machine technologies. Who would have thought five years ago that we would maintain machines with hybrid drive today?
We will be able to repair both hi-tech machines and machines using “good old mechanics”. This means that we will have to meet specific requirements. I am confident that we will satisfy them. When it comes to the staff, I am sure that we will be able to manage the generational changes and the resulting transfer of knowledge to the new members of staff very well. Hopefully, the company will be such an interesting and attractive employer that we will be able to face the predicted skills shortage without difficulty.
I expect the company to have a sound foundation, just like it has now, and to grow sustainably. We will increasingly use service contracts. ECM and digitisation 4.0 will be central elements of our service offer.
To summarise my wish for 2027, I hope that our customers will be happy that Deutsche Plasser exists and that we will be the service provider of first choice in our markets.