“Now is the time to change things”

A new generation is changing the way Viessmann works and making this air conditioning manufacturer fit for the energy revolution. 29-year-old logistics specialist, Wiebke Herguth, is a great example of this.

Allendorf (Eder) sounds like a tranquil place. The Battenfeld fair and cattle market, for example, features in its events calendar. “This is where cows, bulls and calves from the hardy Galloway, Highland, Rotes Höhenvieh and Dwarf Zebu breeds of cattle – breeds that you don’t get to see every day – are exhibited. Okay, Allendorf is not exactly San Francisco. But time has not stood still here and the people who work here measure themselves against the quality and service standards of Silicon Valley. Globalisation is also changing everything in Allendorf, creating new challenges as well as new opportunities. Challenges and opportunities for Wiebke Herguth, too. She works at the family-run Viessmann company, one of Germany’s medium-sized “hidden champions” that not many people know about, but are successful all over the world. Viessmann produces heating and air-conditioning technology that is delivered to Djibouti and Turkmenistan. For one year now, this 29-year-old specialist has been running the Logistics Support Germany Team. Logistics has traditionally been a male domain and never before has a young woman been a team leader here.

Yet changing generations are prompting a leap forward in development – including in cultural development

Viessmann has always been innovative, otherwise this traditional company with its 12,000 employees would not have a presence with its products all over the world today. But inner diversity has flourished especially well since Max Viessmann has had more of a say in the company. Since the beginning of the year, at the age of 29, he has taken over the company management from his father, Martin, who is now Chairman of the Supervisory Board. Together they are turning the company into a next-generation family business. The elder Viessmann took the opportunity to give his son the following advice: “The transition from one generation to the next gives a family-run company the unique opportunity to take a leap forward in strategic and cultural development. We will do everything we can to take advantage of this opportunity, to meet the challenges of the energy revolution and digitisation in a profitable way.”

“Today there is a demand for ideas that enable us to achieve more together”

This change has been made clear to the employees. “The transformation can be felt everywhere since Max Viessmann joined the company” said Wiebke. The working atmosphere here has always been agreeable, but the quality of communication has changed. “There is greater openness, more ease and more clarity”, she said. “Previously each employee did their own work. Today there is a demand for ideas that enable us to achieve more together. Collaboratively.” Of course there were people in the company who were sceptical at the beginning, “especially those who had already been here for decades”. Yet in the meantime the changes and the different approach to the employees has been well received. Wiebke is convinced that “if you are not willing to change, you don’t have a chance in any company. Now’s the time to change things and shift towards digitisation.”

The VC/O Viessmann subsidiary in Berlin, for example, is developing new business models for the digital age. But they can only be successful if the colleagues in Allendorf and all over the world pull together. Wiebke is full of enthusiasm. She is not afraid of being compared with the Big Four tech companies. “What Amazon can do with Next Day Delivery is what we have been doing at Viessmann since I’ve been working here”, she said. That’s five and a half years. “If you order from us by 6 p.m., you will have your boiler on site by 8 a.m. on the next morning, anywhere in Germany.” Wiebke is currently working on extending the delivery service, so you can order by 8 p.m. for delivery as early as 7 a.m. Viessmann also offers Same Day Delivery for all orders that can be sent as parcels, in a pilot project in Hamburg, Frankfurt and Berlin. “We are often compared to Amazon. But what does Amazon do differently? They market their service better. The customers are often not aware that our delivery service is so fast”, said Wiebke.

“Allendorf has charm”

Logistics is something that has always fascinated her. “It’s the last link in the chain. If you want to provide your customers with good service, the logistics must be right.” Wiebke studied logistics in Bamberg, specialising in supply chain management. After her degree she returned to her homeland in Hesse. “I come from the region and the Viessmann name has a good reputation here. It was my first choice”, she said. “What’s happening in the company at the moment is really exciting.” In logistics, too. “We are in the process of continuously improving our procedures through digitisation”, said Wiebke.

You don’t have to be in Berlin, you can also do this in North Hesse. After work she often goes running with her colleagues or plays golf. “I like living here. The Eder lake is not far away. I spend time there with friends and the family. Allendorf has its charm.” And you really don’t get to see the cows, bulls and calves from the hardy Galloway, Highland, Rotes Höhenvieh and Dwarf Zebu breeds every day.

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