Opinion

Home/Opinion

Europe’s niche manufacturers make a mark in difficult economy

By Peter Marsh, Financial Times, May 19, 2014 The future is far from rosy for many manufacturers in Europe but Roberto Gavazzi, chief executive of Boffi, a top Italian maker of upmarket kitchen and bathroom units, is upbeat “I am very confident that the current difficult markets are getting better for the best brands,” he declares. Underlying this sentiment is Gavazzi’s belief that Boffi – like many other European manufacturers of a similar mould – has built up strengths not just in product creation but in using service and design skills to offer customers something special that would be hard to obtain from rival businesses. “Consumers are even more selective – they want to choose only those products that have a real added value,” he says. “So [they choose] not only design and function, as is normal for our collections, kitchens and bathrooms, but now they want increasingly to buy something that gives them a very special mood or atmosphere. Here, I think we can do well.” Read full article

By |May 25th, 2014|Categories: Observations, Opinion|0 Comments

End game nears in the war of the wheels

By Peter Marsh, May 9 2014 It is high noon in one of the world's longest running business battles. In beginning their competing efforts to acquire the prize of Alstom's electricity generation arm, Siemens  and General Electric have entered the final bout of a marathon heavy-weight contest to determine the identity of the global leader in power equipment. The German and US engineering giants have been sparring for well over a century for pole position in what could be termed the 'war of the wheels'. We live in an age dominated by passage of invisible globules of information passed silently over the internet. But the the global economy would come to a standstill without the spinning turbine machines central to the creation of electricity. Siemens and GE - set up within 30 years of each other during the 19th century's great burst of technology innovation - both attached great importance from early on to building up leadership in power generation machines. They were helped in this by the invention in 1884 of the steam turbine by the UK engineer Sir Charles Parsons. In what is now an immense global industry - supplying products and services worth about $150bn a year - Alstom has in the past decade occupied the number three position behind the German and US leaders by dint of its acquisition in 2000 of the power generation division of the Swiss-Swedish ABB. But it has been obvious for some time that the French company's position has been slipping as a result of missteps in both technology development and in global market penetration, while its big two competitors have been moving further ahead. As Siemens and GE start what will be a politically charged

By |May 3rd, 2014|Categories: Observations, Opinion|0 Comments

An outsider’s approach at giant German Mittelstand business

By Peter Marsh, March 26 2014 Moshen Sohi has come a long way from the time – as a six-year-old in his native Tehran – he became fascinated by pictures of Caterpillar bulldozers and decided he wanted to be a mechanical engineer. Since those formative days, Mr Sohi has forged a career in manufacturing largely in the US, but has ended up in the quiet south German town of Weinheim where he is chief executive of Freudenberg, a family-owned business making everything from aerospace seals to mops. Holding forth in the company’s airy headquarters, Mr Sohi says he has been fortunate to experience a lot of different ways of running businesses, from the divergent styles of some of the big US companies that he worked for, to the time after joining Freudenberg in 2003 when he helped to run a big Japanese joint venture. Read full article

By |May 3rd, 2014|Categories: Observations, Opinion|0 Comments

A French mid-sized success story in exotic technologies

By Peter Marsh,  April 15 2014 As a purveyor of subsea drones, blast doors and 3D printing machines for making replicas of human skulls, Raphaël Gorgé could be a James Bond villain in the making. But if Mr Gorgé has any threatening aspects to his personality, he disguises them masterfully as he describes his efforts to build up his collection of exotic high-tech businesses into a global force. Indeed, the chief executive and part owner of Groupe Gorgé is the personification of calm reasonableness, displaying a pleasant sense of humour as he explains what induced him 10 years ago to abandon a career in finance to join his father Jean-Pierre in an industrial company the latter had started in 1990. “My dad had achieved some progress but I felt with my background I could help steer the business in a new direction,” he says. “Finance is a great field: if you do well, everyone thinks you’re smart, and if you fail it’s because someone else [running the business being supported] has been stupid. I thought an industrial job would be more challenging and satisfying." Read full article 

By |May 2nd, 2014|Categories: Observations, Opinion|0 Comments