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Messer - Geschäftsbericht 2008

Special: 44 years economic history

Gary Li coordinated the construction of the ASU in the Romanian city of Resita from Germany.


 
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The former Messer sales managers meet up once a year to reminisce about the old days and share their latest experiences.


 
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Employee Development

The different dimensions of “yes”

The differences between Shanghai and Krefeld are huge. The Chinese metropolis has a population of almost ten million, about 40 times that of the city on the Lower Rhine. Yet they do have something in common – Messer has a presence in both cities.

Gary Li (31), whose real name is Hong Wei is coordinating the construction of the ASU in the Romanian city of Resita from Germany – a major opportunity and a difficult step, because when the time came to say “yes” to Europe, there was another happy event in Gary’s life: his wife Wendy (real name: Zhao) was expecting a child. “It wasn’t an easy decision to make”, says Gary.

Fresh air in Krefeld
Their son, Siyuan, was born on 15 April 2008 – and now the young father can hardly wait until his small family joins him in Krefeld in October and they can enjoy the fresh air there together.

Air was also Gary’s reason for leaving Messer Zhangjiagang, but not the fresh air on the Lower Rhine. In order for the construction of the air separator in Resita to run smoothly, the work carried out in Krefeld and China has to be perfectly coordinated. Gary’s colleague, Matthias Klapper (44) from Krefeld, also lived in Shanghai for a while. He knows: “The mentality in the Shanghai region is completely different from the German mentality”. The understanding of procedures, teamwork, deadlines and negotiations is totally different. While Germans set great store by calculations and authorisations, the Chinese rely on experience. And while a German’s “yes” is apparently set in stone like part of a mathematical equation, the same “yes” in China may be a polite, but relative affirmation. Both mentalities have their strengths. The problems arise when both dimensions of “yes” converge in one project. “That is why it is so important that we have a project manager like Gary, who understands both sides”, Matthias Klapper explains. And Gary backs this up: “The insight I am gaining into the work in Krefeld is very important to me.”

DuoCondex knowledge for Prague

From March to August 2008, Antonin Kroupa (31) swapped his position in Prague for Krefeld. The application engineer came to Germany to learn more about DuoCondex. In spite of the fact that the industrial region on the Rhine is very different from the Czech metropolis, Kroupa was fascinated: “I am interested in industrial heritage sites, and this region has them in abundance”, he says. But the visit has particularly benefited Kroupa in terms of his technical knowledge. Back in Prague, he wants to promote the DuoCondex application in Central and Eastern Europe.

Strong together

The proximity of the national teams to their customers and the strength of an international enterprise do not have to be mutually exclusive: customers’ requirements and problems are similar in many countries, so it is possible to create sales opportunities by evaluating the market requirements together. Furthermore, international cooperation in technology development encourages the best use of resources.

Each industry-specific technical unit at Messer holds an annual Group-wide network meeting. Besides the central topic of the the main presentation, training seminar, workshop or site visit, the primary focus of these meetings is to exchange information and experience among the experts active in the market.

Intercultural cooperation in plant construction

The construction of the air separation plant in Smederevo (Serbia) marked the beginning of the collaboration with the Chinese installation teams from Hangzhou Hangyang, Messer’s joint venture partner for the construction of important production facilities. Since then, the different cultures have come together on a number of building sites – and got along well. The air separator at Lonza AG in Switzerland is the fifth plant to be built for Messer by Hangyang. Mutual understanding is the basis for smooth and friendly cooperation.

Focus on key accounts

Messer has set the course for a new international key account management system. The International Key Account Management (IKAM) Team will have responsibility for total turnover and contribution margin from key accounts. This is intended to further strengthen customer loyalty as well as the strategic objectives of the Messer Group.

Being together is what counts

They have been meeting once a year for the past 15 years – last summer they gathered in the picturesque town of Interlaken near the Swiss capital, Berne. Gerd Haase from Berlin is one of the former Messer sales managers who stay in touch with each other and get together to reminisce about the old days and share their latest experiences.

In 1954, the student Gerd Haase got a temporary job at the Messer head office in Frankfurt. His “Berliner Schnauze” (manner in which Berlin people speak) was noticed and two years later he became assistant to the commercial representative for Berlin, East Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia. For various reason, it has become a rarity for someone to spend their entire career with one company. “Changing companies was unusual in those days, with firms outdoing each other when it came to years of service”, says Gerd Haase. “After fifty years of service, you got a gold ring and a handshake from the boss.”

In Interlaken, the eight former sales managers still vividly remember the merger of Messer GmbH and the Hoechst subsidiary Knapsack-Griesheim in 1964. “Suddenly we had to answer the phone with ‘Messer Griesheim’”, recalls Reinhold Hartlieb, former head of the Stuttgart subsidiary in southern Germany and, subsequently, managing director of Messer in Switzerland. The merger brought a difficult integration phase that lasted several years. After all, it was a merger of two independent companies that had previously been fierce competitors in the market place for many years. The conversations get heated when they talk about the mistakes that could have been avoided, if “those at the top had talked more frequently with one another” and had listened to their employees’ suggestions for improvement.

The company first
Judging by the reaction of the wives, this isn’t the first time that they have seen their husbands get worked up about this subject. One of the wives also used to work at Messer, while the others looked after their families. “We were a men-only club”, says Gerd Haase with a smile, “just like our customers. Sales conversations would start with a cigarette and a cup of coffee. We knew what our customers liked, even their favourite whisky.” “The family had to make sacrifices”, adds Traute Haase, and the other ladies agree that the company came first on too many occasions. Now that they are retired, they have plenty of other things to talk about and time to exchange photos from the last get-together, share a laugh and explore the surrounding area. This year’s event was organised by Reinhold Hartlieb, who stayed on in Switzerland after retiring. “We try to do things we find enjoyable”, he explains, although the group excursion to his beloved Jungfrau, Eiger and Mönch mountain peaks was thwarted by descending fog. But that doesn’t matter, because being together is what counts.

 


 

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