Building trust, driving innovations

Following the restart at Lingl, the management team around investor Hubert Schug is committed to dependability, continuity and innovations in the digital sector. The entrepreneurial family Schug from the Upper Palatinate in Bavaria had taken over the insolvent machine and plant engineering company with effect from July 2021. The Schug family also owns Lippert GmbH & Co. KG, a machine engineering company based in the Upper Palatinate. Lippert manufactures machines and equipment for logistics, automation, technical ceramics as well as for the ceramic sanitaryware and porcelain industry. At the end of July, the Zi editors had the opportunity to talk to the new management team at Lingl, including Hubert Schug (HS), Lingl investor and CEO of the Schug Group, Dr Joachim Eibel (JE), Managing Director, Karl Liedel (KL), Head of Sales, along with Winfried Hein (WH), Chief Technical Officer (CTO) at Lippert.

ZI: Dr Eibel, what caused Lingl’s insolvency?

JE: In the past, Lingl had already had to get through one insolvency. The opportunities to emerge strengthened from this insolvency were unfortunately not taken at the time. That is unfortunately the sober conclusion. The capacities that had been built up were far too big, and as a result, the fixed costs got out of hand over the years. In contrast, not enough was invested in product and process innovations or in personnel development. Lingl was quite simply left behind by the market. And on top of that came Corona. That was, if you like, the last nail in the coffin.

ZI: How could Lingl be saved?

JE: With the sale to the Schug Group, the insolvency administrators and the board of creditors have ultimately chosen a solution spearheaded by a medium-sized enterprise, that’s the best thing that could happen to Lingl. The entrepreneurial family Schug, with Hubert Schug at its head, has already been involved, for instance, for years now with the machine engineering company Lippert, which also manufactures machinery for the ceramic industry. It has been mid-market entrepreneurs from the industry rather than financial investors who have therefore saved Lingl. This decision alone has already restored a lot of lost confidence.

“Our customers can depend on Lingl!”

HS: Let me just put in a quick word here as it is very important to me. The Schugs are not “locusts”, we are entrepreneurs who think in the long term! For this reason, I am not just a shareholder myself, my two sons also hold a stake in the company and are therefore equally interested in Lingl’s long-term health as a company. The Schug family is currently the face of the company, looking outwards towards customers, suppliers and financial institutes, to rebuild lost trust. The message is clear: our customers can again depend absolutely and completely on Lingl. For this, we shall lay the necessary foundations internally. That means, we’re investing long-term in processes that really work!

ZI: Speaking about that: What are your concrete plans to make Lingl competitive again?

JE: In future, we shall concentrate on research and development, planning and design as well as purchasing and assembly. We shall be awarding contracts for the actual manufacturing to partners. That doesn’t mean that we are getting out of inhouse manufacturing altogether, after all, of course, we want to safeguard our own know-how. But manufacturing will in future only be done in-house when we actually earn money with it. In the near term, we shall build up new supplier relationships, and therefore new trust in long-term cooperation, from which everyone will profit.

“We’re creating the digital twin!”

ZI: That sounds like good business sense. But what about innovations?

HS: Digitalization is the magic word! We are committing to robotics, digital simulation, and investing in process analysis in the run-up to project planning. Our goal: Working together with our customers and suppliers to create the digital twin! The brickworks customer puts on a VR headset and can already see the finished plant before even a single screw has been picked up. We are expecting great competitive advantages for Lingl, too. At Lippert we have already had very good experience with this.

WH: Right you are. With the creation of the digital twin in the planning process, we can optimize design, manufacturing and installation so that downtime at the customers’ operations can be either avoided completely or minimized. At Lippert, our digital simulations now match reality by 98 %. This way, we give our customers, that is brick and tile manufacturers, a high degree of dependability.

ZI: How is the market responding to the changes at Lingl?

KL: Very well! Feedback from the market is all positive, and we are landing new orders again. The process of resource optimization is already reaping benefits. Our customers are again trusting in our capability to reliably meet their needs and solve their problems. And ultimately, that’s what counts. In our SME-dominated industry in which everyone basically knows everyone else, that is extremely important. Only in this way can we survive in the fierce competition.

“Digitalization of the planning and development processes”

ZI: Mr Hein, you are CTO at Lippert, but also a member of the management team at Lingl. Will Lingl soon be merged into Lippert?

WH: That wouldn’t make any sense. The customer groups served by Lingl and Lippert overlap only slightly, But the two companies certainly profit from their respective know-how. Lingl has an outstanding reputation in the market, which is primarily down to its employees’ excellent know-how. My job is to drive the innovations and process improvements that we have already successfully introduced at Lippert now at Lingl, too. For example, it’s about synergy effects with the awarding of orders within the group, but especially the digitalization of the planning and development processes. With our group network, we cover a wide spectrum of solutions for the ceramics industry.

ZI: Talking about solutions: With its roadmap, the German brick and tile industry has set itself the goal of climate-neutral production by 2050. Does that have an impact on the planning processes?

KL: There is no simple answer to that. Plant engineering solutions depend on a number of factors, including the portfolio of the clay brick manufacturer, but also on regional circumstances.

At the moment we see a great need with regard to the dependability of the political framework. What general conditions must the brick and tile industry adjust to? How is trading with CO2 certificates going to develop further? What are the mechanisms for promoting certain fuels, for example, hydrogen? The clay brick and tile industry has played out various scenarios in its roadmap, now clear and dependable national and European conditions must be created so that brick entrepreneurs can invest accordingly. For there is one thing we shouldn’t forget: investments in the brick and tile industry sometimes cover timescales lasting decades. They have to do that as a medium-sized brick manufacturer can’t simple invest in a new tunnel kiln every couple of years!

HS: I can only second that. I wish that our government were more committed to strengthening the innovation and competitiveness of our industrial enterprises. The know-how of our industrial enterprises must stay here with us! Lingl stands ready to work together with its brick partners to develop innovative solutions for low-CO2 production.

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