Helming generational change

October last year, Lars Brorsen handed his position as Chief Executive Officer of JOST to Joachim Dürr. This was a momentous shift in leadership which the company dubbed at the time a ‘generational change’.

Brorsen had held his role since the end of 1999, and under his reign, the German company flourished into an internationally recognised group. Over a period of 20 years, global sales quadrupled while the number of employees doubled. Brorsen expanded and enhanced JOST’s product portfolio and service offering with strong brands such as TRIDEC, ROCKINGER, Edbro and more recently, JOST Axle Systems.

Under Brorsen’s leadership, JOST Werke AG was listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange in 2017 and even made the leap into the SDAX index. With such a successful career to date, and retirement on the horizon, Brorsen prepared for his position handover with calm and prudence, adding that “Dürr will keep the spirit of the company alive and will continue JOST’s success story”.

At the beginning of 2019, Dürr was appointed Chief Sales Officer (CSO) of JOST Werke. With a background in graduate mechanical engineering he has many years of international sales, product and leadership experience in the commercial vehicle industry. Global Trailer met with him to see how he is settling into his new responsibilities as CEO.

Q: Firstly, congratulations on your appointment as CEO (effective 1 October 2019). What does this position mean to you?
A: JOST is a great company and a strong brand in the commercial vehicle industry, which has gained the trust of many customers worldwide. I find that very appealing. It means a lot to me to lead and develop such a respected company and to continue to serve our customers.

Q: Could you provide a brief overview of your career at JOST?
A: Like most people in the commercial vehicle industry, I have been in contact with JOST for many years, especially during my time working for MAN. At JOST itself, I started as Chief Sales Officer in January of 2019.

Q: At the start of the year you were appointed Chief Sales Officer. How did this position prepare you for your new CEO function?
A: It was the perfect beginning to start as CSO to get to know the company, the people and the products. Through the CSO function I gained great knowledge about our international sales structures and had the opportunity to meet many colleagues worldwide. But the most important aspect for me was the direct contact with customers and business partners all over the world; to get the customer impact and industry touch. That’s a key element to further the future business strategy.

Q: Do you have a primary focus for the next 12 months? Are there any business goals you would like to share and elaborate on?
A: We have the ability to adapt quickly to market fluctuations. Furthermore, we will continue building JOST’s global position, improving our products and services and winning additional customers. Also, I would like to focus on highlighting the new technologies we already provide, showing our customers the benefits they bring. Our goal is to always offer our customers a clear added value in order to consolidate and grow our market position.

Q: You said in a statement that the commercial vehicle industry will continue to grow in the medium term and in the process undergo major changes. What changes do you expect to see?

A: The industry is undergoing significant changes. Three trends stand out: safety, comfort and autonomous driving. On the one hand, the need for transportation is growing at a rapid pace, and yet, on the other hand, the lack of drivers is affecting the industry’s ability to keep up. Drivers are getting older and haulage firms have difficulties to find qualified new drivers. Moreover, customers of haulage companies themselves are setting their own environmental and safety requirements which haulage companies need to comply with. Therefore, as a customer-oriented supplier we are developing new technologies and solutions to solve these issues.

Q: Can you tell us more about the range of opportunities that this presents for JOST? Autonomous driving? New interfaces for truck-trailer applications?
A: We are working closely in projects with our end customers, OEMs and suppliers to develop the first applications of these technologies. As the shortage of drivers increases, these solutions will become more and more relevant. JOST’s expertise in the industry, especially regarding the coupling of trucks and trailers, offers an excellent opportunity for us. We intend to be ready with the right products at the right time.

Q: JOST released a new brake pad range earlier this year that is optimised for longevity, improved efficiency and optimal road safety. What are your thoughts on this innovation and for the future of disc brake systems?
A: JOST’s high-end trailer axle is recognised especially in high value trailer due to outstanding quality and long-term value. Our JOST axles perform excellent in these applications and show outstanding durability. Therefore, it was important for us to bring these cutting-edge blue brake pads to market. It was a logical development for a high-end system focused on long-term performance.

Q: We also saw the launch of a service and parts website for European customers, featuring service information and training videos about the JOST, ROCKINGER, TRIDEC and Edbro brands. What are your thoughts on JOST’s commitment to after-sales support?
A: Our traditional products are so reliable and easy to maintain that our customers don’t require much additional information or special tools to service them. In general, they need little training for maintenance. However, the new technologies that we are introducing to the market (for example, products with sensors and software) have a higher level of complexity. Therefore, we want to provide our customers with any additional information and documentation they might need to gain the most out of these products. The new service & parts website is a perfect vehicle to make this possible, offering excellent training opportunities and technical support as well as quick access to our ample dealer and distribution network.

Q: The new biodegradable high-performance lubricant that made its debut at the 2018 IAA Commercial Vehicles Show in Hanover was very popular. Is corporate responsibility in regard to sustainability important to you?
A: Of course, sustainability is important to JOST and we want to support and offer solutions for environmental-friendly behaviour. But we define sustainability in various ways: For us at JOST, it’s more than just eco-friendliness (for example, the high-performance lubricant “green grease”). It’s also about long-term relationships with our customers and employees and about safety and health at work. It’s important especially in our production, but also for the users of our products, the truck drivers. Offering automatic and sensor couplings will make their job not only safer but also physically less strenuous.

Q: The Edbro portfolio of hydraulic cylinders continue to offer JOST customers added value. Do you have any comments on this?
A: We think in transport missions and always strive to combine our valuable products. With our high-quality Edbro products, we can offer complete solutions for special transport applications such as mining and quarrying. We’re happy that these products are part of the JOST brand family, especially our Edbro cylinders with premium power weight ratio and hydraulic components and the wet kits offer for tipping application.

Q: Steer axles are proving to be quite popular for fleets around the world. Manoeuvrability, especially in urban areas, is a critical consideration in terms of efficient route access. What is JOST focused on in the axle market?
A: Again, JOST is working on solutions that help fleets meet the rising requirements for transportation. With growing urbanisation even more goods need to be transported into the inner cities. At the same time, vehicles need to become more sustainable, maximising the use of space to be more compatible for city transit. Our TRIDEC solutions offer an ideal solution, they can double the transport volume, while achieving a similar manoeuvrability as a small delivery truck.

Q: The uptake of commercial vehicles fitted with couplings featuring sensors and self-lubrication systems is on the rise. Why do you think that is?
A: The lack of drivers is pushing the industry to develop a safer and more comfortable work environment for drivers including more and more female drivers. At the same time, fleet customers are increasing their own requirements and raising standards regarding the transportation of goods. Sensors and automatic lubrication systems provide higher safety and valuable time savings while increasing the eco-friendliness of the products. Besides the comfort and safety gains, this increases sustainability and efficiency for the fleet operator.

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