About Prospects, aspirations and guiding principles

Since the start of the year 2018,: Rainer Zimmermann has been sole managing partnerof the AZO Group . He shared insights into the family business with the FN, spoke about changes and the outlook for the future.

By our editorial staff member
Melanie Müller

OSTERBURKEN. Change alone is unchanging – while that applies to AZO where continuous introduction of new inventions, innovations and products are concerned, but not when it comes to the management team, which has been composed of members of the Zimmermann family since the firm was first founded.
Trust, commitment and loyalty provide the family business with a huge competitive edge – if the family is used successfully as a resource to serve the business. When in doubt, the maxim in family businesses is: “The firm comes first”.

Mr Zimmermann, what do you consider the advantages of a family business to be?
Rainer Zimmermann: With a flat hierarchy, making decisions is faster. It is easier for employees to identify with the company when the management is simultaneously an active managing partner and is made up of family members.
As we are no longer the founder generation, we have need of vision, goals and guiding principles, despite the family, to show where we are heading. This is why we drew up and published new guidelines for the company in 2015 and  provided further details of them under the overall heading of “AZO’s Culture” in cooperation with our employees. 
After your brother retired from the company at the end of last year, you took on sole management of the company. What is going to change?
Zimmermann: Where our staff are concerned, not much will change in the organisation. Besides of my personally taking on sole management of AZO, there will be organisational changes in the executive team.
Apart from this, the primary aim of changes in the company is to make AZO into a comprehensive mechatronics business. This will lead to changes as regards operational workflows.
Our customers will also benefit from this. We will make today’s effective processes in our overall value chain substantially more efficient, resulting in a reduction of our throughput times and thus entailing shorter lead times.
Simultaneously, we intend to decrease our process costs, resulting in lower production costs and consequently cheaper sales prices.
Why is your niece Denise no longer a member of the management?
Zimmermann: She wants to do something different and has decided to pursue further education.
What are the strengths of the AZO Group and its staff?
Zimmermann: We create innovative automation solutions and services which correspond to our customers’ needs. AZO’s strengths are the people who remain true to the “WE” and our values. Mutual trust and the knowledge that you can rely on each other is what characterises AZO. The strength of AZO lies in its employees themselves. They are advisors and partners to our customers.
How are you confronting “the future”? Where do you envisage AZO in five years’ time?
Zimmermann: We are on course to create a modular standard for our products that will result in shorter times to market for us and still allow us to create flexible, bespoke and affordable solutions.
In the next five years we intend to achieve further sustainable growth. Particularly when we take general price trends and increasing costs due to higher tariffs into account, we will need to fine-tune our processes constantly and make them more efficient as regards profitability of our business.
What challenges will your company have to face?
Zimmermann: Even as a conventional plant engineering firm we too feel the impact of changes that have come about as the result of the megatrends of customisation, digitisation and globalisation. Ultimately, these trends are the triggers for the necessary changes I mentioned previously, so AZO becomes an integrated mechatronic and digitised business.
Which goal are you currently pursuing?
Zimmermann: Driven by the commitment and determination to lead AZO to a prosperous and secure future, we intend to remain market leader in a variety of sectors and regions and to further expand this position.
To do this, we have to create new products and services that satisfy our customers’ needs. Our customers are confronting the digital transition and related challenges just as we ourselves are. This is why we need to be a professional, strong and reliable partner for customers.
How do you tackle trends and innovation?
Zimmermann: In our fast-moving times, we need more than ever to keep our ear to the ground and prudently weigh up which trends to adopt and implement for our customers so that they derive a benefit from it. We have a worldwide presence through our sister companies and agencies, we are in constant dialogue at trade fairs, in specialist bodies and with customers directly. Our flat hierarchy allows us to react to this input flexibly.

Origin: Fränkische Nachrichten January 19, 2018

Rainer Zimmermann is the sole managing partner of the AZO Group.