Schubert North America is expanding
Schubert regards North America as one of its key export markets and as playing a key role in corporate group growth strategy. Since the end of 2015, Schubert’s headquarters for North American business has been located in Charlotte, the largest city in the state of North Carolina. As well as the unique feature of modular technology as an outstanding selling point for new customer acquisition, Schubert is increasingly focussing on its well-conceived and finely tuned service concept, with more training opportunities and services.
With food multinationals such as Nestlé, chocolate bar specialist Mars Incorporation founded in 1932 or Hershey, one of the world’s largest chocolate producers with annual sales of over seven billion euros, Schubert’s list of customers in the United States reads like the ‘Who’s Who’ of the US food sector. And many medium-sized companies also rank among Schubert’s existing customers. “We achieve close to three quarters of our sales from companies in the food sector,” explains Fritz Kipfer, Managing Director of Schubert North America. “But, for example, B-Braun from the pharmaceutical sector or cosmetics producers like L‘Oréal are also among the US customers of the packaging expert from Crailsheim.” Kipfer, a Swiss national, sees further enormous growth potential in the fields of cosmetics, food, confectionery and consumer goods – especially among medium-sized companies.
Schubert has its own subsidiary in the US since 1998. As well as its new headquarters in Charlotte and a workforce of 17, the company has an office with six employees in Dallas, Texas, and a further subsidiary with ten employees in the province of Ontario in Canada.
The decision in 2015 to transfer the headquarters from Dallas to Charlotte is a key component of Schubert’s overall US strategy. “Charlotte is significantly closer to the coast of eastern America. This is where several companies which are already Schubert customers are located as well as those we intend to win over to Schubert technology in the future,” states Fritz Kipfer.
When it comes to the food sector, the profile of American consumers differs from that in Europe. “For example, US consumers are very keen on consumer-friendly ready-made portions for rapid preparation in a microwave. The portions need to be combined in appropriate containers which make it easy to keep replenishing stocks for consumption straight out of the fridge. The trend is clearly towards portion packaging,” as Fritz Kipfer describes an example of typically American consumer behaviour. This is predicated on rapid product changeovers and therefore necessitates exceptional speed and flexibility with regards to retooling the respective packaging machinery. As for primary packaging, the Flowmodul provides our customers with significant added value in terms of quality control, efficiency, space requirements and flexibility.
Short customer product cycles inevitably increase the need for new format parts and require more service. Schubert can easily score with good service: with the rapid adaptation of machines for new products or advice regarding the storage of parts subject to wear and tear or ordering spare parts and tools.
Charlotte has developed into a commercial centre with an international reputation. After New York, the city is the most important American financial centre, and home to the headquarters of the Bank of America. The metropolis is also a magnet for international companies. 986 companies from 44 nations run their US subsidiaries in Charlotte. And the largest share of companies from one country is from Germany. Besides Schubert, a further 198 German companies are represented there.
It is not only the excellent infrastructure but also the high quality of life that speaks for Charlotte as a location. In addition, there is also a wide range of leisure time and educational opportunities. Charlotte is surrounded by extensive lakeland scenery with over 800 km of shore line, with an impressive network of cycling paths, good secondary schools, colleges and universities. These are important features aiding expansion of the workforce at Schubert North America, without which achievement of the growth targets would not be possible. The company has gained six new recruits, all of them quite recently.
Since customers will in the future, as in the present, receive their new machines straight from Germany, the US headquarters is focussing on sales and distribution, service and customer advice. “Service and customer support are very important in the US market,” says Fritz Kipfer. “In view of the traditionally short-term results orientation of American companies, the key feature for new customers is not just the technological but also the commercial expertise of consulting services. After all, at first glance, Schubert machines are not inexpensive to purchase – but when customers grasp the system flexibility, efficiency, durability, product quality and optimised workflows, they quickly recognise the long-term earning power of their investments.”
Especially in the areas of service and personnel training, Schubert aims to strike out in directions which are quite new for the sector in the States. In Charlotte, the company has access to ideal premises for this and will soon have two training machines with which machine staff can qualify with the necessary skills. “Over the coming year, we will be receiving a machine without an electrical cabinet with the latest generation of control features,” explains Fritz Kipfer, “to enable us to run training programmes for the latest control generation.” The centralised training in Charlotte has the crucial advantage for customers that employees can concentrate on the training material without being distracted by the day-to-day demands of the company’s operations.”
Training and service have always been extremely important in the US, and North American companies generally experience greater workforce fluctuations than here in Germany. This automatically increases the need for training activities. So in Charlotte everything points towards the achievement of future business targets for Schubert in North America as well. They are clearly defined. Fritz Kipfer highlights, “With current sales turnover of just under 50 million euros, Schubert North America accounts for close to 20 per cent of total Schubert sales. By the year 2020, we aim to double our share.”
Charlotte ranks among the fastest- growing regions in the United States
With around 809,000 inhabitants, Charlotte is the 16th largest US city. The city’s history reaches back over 350 years to 1567 when the bank of the Catawba River was first settled by Europeans, including many Germans. In 1768, the name Charlotte Town was officially registered. The town was named for Charlotte, Duchess of Mecklenburg Strelitz, wife of the English monarch King George III. Today, Charlotte is part of the area known as the Piedmont Atlantic Megaregion, the fastest growing megaregion in the US – stretching from Memphis in the state of Tennessee to Atlanta, the capital of Georgia.