The integration of Haas with Bühler has gotten off to a good start. In his conversation with Burkhard Böndel, Head of Corporate Communications at Bühler, Haas CEO Germar Wacker explains how the merger is creating added value for all stakeholders.
In my assessment, splendidly. Now, the change in ownership, of course, was a surprise and a bit of a shock to many Haas employees at first. A company, a workplace, is always a bit like home, and for Haas employees that meant the Haas family. But the way in which Bühler communicated the acquisition, and the way in which the integration is now being implemented, is and has been exemplary and gives everyone the opportunity to participate. We have been welcomed with open arms and we are being treated as partners, as equals. Uzwil didn’t send a raiding party, but sustainably minded business people with good intentions for both sides. This has eased initial misgivings and created trust.
How have you found it, personally?
While I was in the particular situation of not having worked for Haas before taking office, I was equally surprised that I would be working with new owners and a new boss I did not know. However, I still saw the industrial logic behind the merger as a great opportunity for Haas. Now, after five months, I am thrilled and happy that it happened. And I think that personally, I can use it to build bridges and mediate.
Can you briefly explain why the merger makes sense?
Our two companies complement each other superbly, and through their common values they’re a perfect match. It’s central that the product ranges don’t overlap: Haas is the world market leader in waffle and cookie production systems along with machines for mixing and aerating creams; Bühler has mastered milling and bakery in addition to processing chocolate and nuts. When you fit these puzzle pieces together, you create an image of complete value chains. Our customers benefit from this in two ways: firstly, we are able to offer them fully integrated solutions from one single source, from the raw material to the end product. And secondly, we can now start working together to adapt and optimize these solutions to make them even more cost-efficient and, at the same time, more sustainable. Therefore, for Bühler-Haas, one plus one makes more than two.
Sure, the list goes on and on. By introducing each other to our customers and sharing leads, we strengthen our sales department and ensure future growth. Bühler has a global network of nearly 100 service stations that will soon be able to take care of Haas equipment and installations all over the world as well. Haas has more connections in South America than Bühler and can open doors there. Bühler is pressing ahead with digital transformation, and Haas can follow suit now. In Uzwil, an amazing innovation center called CUBIC is being created, of which Haas will also be a part. The merger also opens up additional paths to our staff, not only in their career but also in their personal development. This really is an integration that creates added value not only for our customers, but also for both companies and all employees.
After these first few months, are there any concrete examples to back up your statements?
There are a lot of them – let me illustrate what I mean with just a couple. When it comes to digitalization, not only has the Haas smart glasses solution which supports repairs remotely won over an important Bühler customer in Belgium, the Die Casting Customer Service is now working on an augmented reality app, too. In Sales, we were able to convince a longstanding Turkish customer that Bühler is the right choice for his investment in a machine to cover the flat wafers of his new production line in high quality chocolate. In the meantime, Bühler has supported our import of spare parts for a big customer in Indonesia, and in Angola we’ve had the opportunity to start a conversation with local manufacturers through the strong business relationships Bühler has already established with them. Thanks to our proven expertise and the trust founded on it, our merger benefits everyone: us as well as our customers.
What are the main focuses of the integration right now?
Our number one priority is our customers. We have started to coordinate and synchronize our sales activities, and we will of course intensify our efforts to act as a single unit when interacting with our customers to be able to support them in all their needs. At the same time, we want to mobilize the service centers for Haas as quickly as possible, so we have to train the technicians, set up regional spare parts storage facilities, and inform our customers. To achieve that, it is imperative to streamline internal communications. Consequently, we’re taking the first steps toward an integration of information systems such as e-mail, Skype, Intranet B-World and SAP Hyperion. From an operational standpoint, we’ve already had some success bundling purchasing volumes. In the long term, we need to develop new, integrated solutions together. Long term does not mean that we only start doing so in one or two years’ time; we’re starting now. But it does take time to develop new, joint applications ready to go to market.
On a company level, Bühler has been pursuing a one brand strategy for decades. As a result, despite some acquisitions the company has maintained its uniformity and has developed a strong, highly appealing brand. That will likewise hold true for us.
What does that mean exactly? Will the blue Haas triangle disappear in the medium term?
At some point, Haas will become Bühler on a company level, so the Haas logos will eventually be replaced by the Bühler logo. On a product level, we will continue using the brands established with our customers, that is to say Franz Haas, Meincke, and Mondomix.
Isn’t that a tough transition for Haas employees and customers?
Of course, it’s a major change and I can understand if that isn’t easy for everyone. However, it is important to understand that having a clear identity has many advantages. The more distinct and consistent the development and lived reality of our identity, the stronger it will be, and the stronger our brand. And that benefits all of us in the end.
Our corporate cultures closely resemble each other.
This is also one of the reasons why Haas and Bühler colleagues clicked with each other right from the start. At the ProSweets fair in Cologne, Germany at the beginning of the year, people working for Haas and Bühler were already arm-in-arm– we’ve got that on camera. Both companies have a proud history going back more than 100 years. Both companies share a history of being family businesses where employees are treated with respect and long-term perspectives are being developed and implemented. Both companies are market leaders in their respective fields; they both have a solid reputation and are committed to quality. Sometimes, to put it simply, I say that actually nothing has changed for our people at Haas, except that our horizon is broadening, new opportunities are emerging, and, in the future, we‘ll be green rather than blue.