In this interview, Michael Preinerstorfer - the new Managing Director of the European Industrial Business Unit (EIBU) and a qualified engineer - explains how he intends to further expand on the company's good position with the help of his team. His aim is to offer users from the machine tool and plant construction industry superior added value with 100% in-house developments and extensive service.
Mr Preinerstorfer, you joined NSK in August 2014. Why did you decide to make this move?
Michael Preinerstorfer: In my previous position, I mainly worked with distribution. I missed having access to top industrial clients, which NSK now gives me in lots of different sectors. Of course NSK's strong position as number three on the global market appealed to me, but I was also attracted by the NSK brand's huge growth potential, its good customer contacts and the professional team I can rely on.
What are your goals?
I think it's important that clients see us as the supplier that offers them superior value. Using NSK products should enable our customers to sell more machines and plants than their competitors. With this in mind, my team and I have identified niches in which we want to achieve technology and market leadership in Europe. For instance, I expect manufacturers to come to us first in the future as the technology leader before they develop a new machine tool. I would also like NSK employees to be the most highly respected professionals in our industry in five years' time.
Where does NSK manufacture its products?
We have a very broad customer base and work directly with stockists as well. The EIBU has very strong growth opportunities here. Approximately half of our products come from overseas. About 3 years ago, NSK sped up its production localisation and improved its distribution and logistics to reduce the long lead times associated with such deliveries. In addition to this, we have increased the stock on hand for distributors by 20 per cent over the past 6 months, which has considerably improved our availability.
In other words, you're turning a supposed weakness - overseas production - into a strength: you're playing the logistics card?
Precisely, because in our customers' eyes we're already ahead of the competition in terms of technical expertise and support - here we rank as number one. Unfortunately, in the past there were problems with long delivery periods. Optimised logistics processes allow us to play our other trump cards better too. As a result, we have achieved growth of around 20 per cent in our distribution business over the last few months.
Which areas are you prioritising now?
I firmly believe that we have huge potential in industrial distribution. On top of this, there is our new distribution service for the automotive industry. Of course, focusing on niches as I mentioned earlier will also be a priority. It goes without saying that we will also concentrate on top delivery performance and developing products in conjunction with our clients for the machines of tomorrow.
The product portfolio ranges from spherical roller bearings, high-precision bearings and ball screws to linear guides. Is that enough for you?
No, NSK will also add Tools & Maintenance Services to its product portfolio. However, we won't do this too hastily because the tools have to meet extremely high quality standards. We will also expand our aftermarket range to offer customers more of a one-stop shop. For example, we will supply tools to fit and remove bearings along with laser measuring equipment for precise shaft alignment in the near future. In addition, we want to offer our clients condition monitoring in future to actively support them if problems arise.
We already have a unique position in the field of linear and high-precision technology and we will continue to tap this potential. We are the only manufacturer in the world to offer ball screws, linear guides and spindle bearings for machine tools from a single source.
And what is NSK's unique selling point when it comes to service?
We offer a special service in the form of the Added Value Programme - AIP - which helps our customers to select and use the right bearings and linear products. Thanks to AIP, our clients have already saved between 50,000 euros and in excess of 1 million euros a year. This means NSK has been able to achieve substantial added value for its customers. We keep a written record of these customised solutions and use the results throughout the NSK network. To me, that means we offer an end-to-end service - from direct assistance for OEM customers who can build better machines with the help of our products to supplying spare parts via the aftermarket and finally offering advice with AIP.
On the subject of synergies, what is NSK's global network like?
There is a worldwide R&D network spanning China, Japan, Singapore and the USA. At the Japanese headquarters, there are several thousand engineers working on every aspect of bearings and linear products plus NSK's core technologies (tribology, material engineering, analysis technology and mechatronics). Knowledge and experience is shared within the global NSK network, of course, to ensure that everyone is up to speed and the company can offer holistic solutions.
Is there a production network?
Yes, of course - we have a production network in Europe and our Polish plant in Kielce serves as an upstream supplier for the other factories. However, to safeguard security of supply around the world, every NSK product is made at a minimum of two plants.
NSK will celebrate its centenary in 2016. What does that mean to you and what targets have you set your sights on to mark this special occasion?
Our NSK President Norio Otsuka has set turnover of 1 trillion yen - approximately 7 billion euros - as a target for 2016. It is just as important for NSK that we also further expand our international presence over the next 2 years. I would like to make a substantial contribution to this with the EIBU. On top of this, I think that further improving our employees' technical expertise and significantly increasing the regular training courses we offer customers are important goals for 2016. Brazil is a positive example, where NSK trains 100,000 people every year. I think Europe still has enormous potential here. If clients and end-users experience the advantages of our products first-hand on training courses, there is - of course - a better chance that they will choose them.
Are there any plans for growth via acquisitions?
NSK has achieved further growth in Europe by means of acquisitions in the past. We are still looking for suitable companies to speed up our production localisation.
Would you like to say a final word?
NSK has been pledging to deliver Total Quality for almost 100 years now. I am confident that we will continue to deliver on this promise for our customers with our team, our knowledge and our customised products. I'm delighted to make a contribution towards this.
Born in Austria in 1970, Michael Preinerstorfer studied metallurgy at the University of Leoben, Austria. In 1998, the qualified engineer started working for the IMI Group, which operates globally from its base in Birmingham (UK). Within the space of a few years, he progressed from sales manager to executive. Immediately before joining NSK, he was the sole director of IMI Hydronic Engineering Deutschland GmbH (previously TA Heimeier GmbH) in Erwitte, Germany.
In short, what exactly is AIP?
Using the wrong bearings or linear products - or fitting them incorrectly - can reduce a machine's performance or even cause the whole plant to grind to a halt. NSK helps customers to solve these problems with its Added Value Programme, AIP. NSK experts help users to make their operations and servicing processes more efficient - and therefore more profitable - with a practice-tested AIP procedure. Go to www.nskeurope.com to learn more.