It doesn’t take long to be swayed by Carlo Lazzarini’s enthusiasm for the BPW brand, a globally renowned specialist for axle and suspension technology based in the west of Germany. After being part of the Executive Board for less than a year, he has fully immersed himself in the BPW culture, traveling the globe to understand just how high the expectations really are when the legendary blue-and-white logo is in play.
But there’s more to it than just devotion to the job. Lazzarini has a set himself an ambitious goal. He will help turn BPW into a company that not only provides individual products and solutions, but also tailored customer services – combining cutting-edge telematics solutions with intelligent running gear systems and trailer components to increase customer value.
Q: Mr Lazzarini, businesses supplying the automotive industry have their work cut out by on-going technological advancement, over-regulation and globalisation. What drew you to BPW in such a shifting environment?
A: When I first learned about BPW in 2013, I was immediately fascinated by how they managed to combine a long and proud tradition with innovation leadership. The Board knew that consistent performance was not enough to perpetuate itself, which really left an impression on me.
I too believe that to keep a multinational organisation like BPW relevant, leadership must heed the reinvention imperative. It was when we started discussing how BPW could add value by developing a complete mobility solution that I felt like I wanted to be part of the journey.
Q: What will that journey look like?
A: Our journey will see BPW add a whole range of services to the product-focused business. Of course the product itself and its quality will still be at the heart of everything we do, that’s a given. But today’s transport businesses are looking for a different kind of partner, someone who can actively help them optimise transport and loading processes. OEMs, on the other hand, are looking for someone who can help them streamline production processes and professionalise. The BPW we envision can help both. Naturally, change is a complex process and can’t be achieved overnight, but that’s what our customers want.
Q: How will that manifest itself from an organisational point of view?
A: If we look at the mega trends currently shaping the trucking industry – globalisation, big data, specialisation, increasing regulation and of course sustainability – you will realise that reliable running gear alone won’t help our customers achieve the best possible outcome anymore. That’s why we won’t just focus on moving freight from A to B anymore, but on optimising transport and loading processes and reduce the total cost of ownership of a BPW-equipped vehicle.
Q: So at the end of the journey we will see a whole new BPW?
A: Let’s say a refreshed one at least. BPW is a long-standing family business with a strong corporate culture, which we intend to preserve. But we’re also in a time of change. We’re moving away from being a specialist for running gear to providing integrated transport solutions that will benefit our customer’s businesses as a whole. As a result, our value proposition is now completely different – we are an international mobility partner for the transport industry and an international system partner for the OEM scene.
Q: What does that mean in detail?
A: The idea is to optimise loading and transporting processes, increase efficiency, safety and transparency by combining all the technology already available across the BPW Group. Think about it: next to cutting-edge telematics technology, we can already supply anything from the tow coupling through to the tailgate. We even have subsidiaries specialising in lighting systems, composite solutions and superstructures – it’s a huge portfolio. It’s just a question of systemising it all and leveraging the full potential of our collective expertise.
Q: The Group is taking centre stage.
A: Exactly, even though we’ve always appreciated our subsidiaries for what they were. As part of the BPW Group, all those standalone businesses have been successful in their own right. But we’re now ready to reach that next level and leverage the synergies between them. The idea is to collect information from critical components and feed it all back to the telematics system, thereby achieving more transparency.
Q: Can you elaborate on that, please?
A: Let me explain – there is still a common misconception in the marketplace that the truck is earning the money and that the trailer is just some kind of ‘add on’. In reality, we consider the trailer to be one of the solutions to the problem – it must be reliable, intelligent and calculable. The key to tapping that potential is connectivity. By using modern telematics technology, the trailer of the future will be able to actively help improve efficiency while being used. It will know when its due for maintenance, for instance, and check whether there is a certified BPW workshop somewhere along the way to avoid wasting fuel.
Q: So you are now also working in the data processing business.
A: Correct. We just merged our recent acquisitions, idem and Eurotelematik, and are now able to cover the whole spectrum of telematics – from simple tracking to highly specialised solutions, for example for the pharmaceutical industry. Who else can do that? I think we’re the only company covering both truck and trailer to that extent, offering components that can actively communicate. You will even be able to specify a remote locking mechanism or monitor how much space there is on the back to squeeze in a pallet somewhere along the way; but to us it’s most important that the fleet will receive all that data in a usable form, which I believe is our core competency.
Q: So is BPW crossing over into the trucking field as well?
A: It has to. There is hardly a homogenous fleet out there using one supplier only, which is why we had to find a more holistic solution. Our new motto is ‘we think transport’ – indicating the new level of service we are trying to achieve. We want to set trends and be proactive.
Q: How far will BPW’s diversification process go?
A: I would not call it diversification, but fully leveraging our core business. We do everything to help our clientele achieve what they want to achieve. For example, we start offering maintenance contracts, even though we’re not an OEM. But if you consider that 90 per cent of the maintenance work on a semi is running gear-related, you’ll realise it does make sense to go down that path. We know everything there is to know about running gear, and the missing 10 per cent are covered by our highly regarded subsidiaries and 3,200 service partners around the globe, meaning servicing is our core business already. In co-operation with partners, we now also offer financing and leasing. It’s a complex business, but we’re not reinventing the wheel here. We did have access to all that expertise already; we’re just bringing it all together. It’s the next logical step in our development, really.
Q: OEMs like Krone and Schmitz Cargobull have been embracing the one-stop-shop strategy too and are now moving into the equipment market. Does the development concern you?
A: No, we’re not concerned about OEMs entering the component market. In fact, we co-operate with most of them and appreciate being able to support them. Schmitz Cargobull has had its own axle for a while now, for example, but it didn’t stop us from growing. We have the economies of scale and achieve the right volume to offset that development, I think.
Q: Is there a certain time frame you have committed to?
A: No. As a family business, quarterly performance is not so important to us – we have chosen a
long-term approach to doing business. We’ve been around for 116 years and have been successful in pursuing mid-term objectives without building up unnecessary pressure. We take our time to evaluate what kind of service is required in the marketplace and react accordingly, with a long-term view. We want to increase our value adding partnership for both fleets and OEMs and you can’t put a time frame on that. What I do know is that BPW is changing; I’d like to think we’re now a service provider first and foremost.