Exclusive interview: The plans of the new Wittur CEO
Why did Wittur shut down LM Liftmaterial a short time before the interlift? This is one of the questions Antoine Doutriaux, new CEO of Wittur Group, comments on in an exclusive interview with the LIFTjournal.
Why did Wittur shut down LM Liftmaterial a short time before the interlift? How is the merge between Wittur and Sematic going on? Antoine Doutriaux is the new CEO of Wittur Group since August 2018. The new boss of one of the world biggest producer of lift components comments on these questions in an exclusive interview with the LIFTjournal.
You've worked in a lot of different industries before, you are now for 1½ years in the lift industrie – what is the difference?
Doutriaux: What is common to all these businesses, including elevator, is that the people are passionate – which is great! We like doing nice products, with lots of innovation and a need for customer centricity, and you definitely find that in the elevator industry, too. What is probably more specific is that, while it is a large business, it is also a small world, where people know each other; so it is a good opportunity to build long-term business relationships, which is definitely what I want to do with Wittur.
Why did you shut down Liftmaterial and why did you do it right before the interlift?
Doutriaux: Liftmaterial has been in the market for 50 years, so this has definitely been a difficult decision. Regarding the timing, there is never a good time to terminate a business. Announcing this shutdown after interlift would probably have been worse and not fair to the customers. Why did we have to take this decision? We have invested in the past few years in people and R&D, but the fact is that the business was not sustainable and the way out of this situation would have been long and difficult. This is why we came to that conclusion with our board.
Can you tell me something about the future of Wittur Dresden?
Doutriaux: Wittur Dresden is the site where we develop and manufacture our drives: not only elevator drives, but also industrial drives, for which we have a long lasting relationship with a major international companies. So, this business is something we definitely want to grow and strengthen. The theme of Wittur at interlift is "freedom of components": we are in a position to offer a wide range of components – doors, drives, safeties – ranging from entry-level to premium, including special, one-of-a-kind products, which we think is a unique advantage for our customers. We definitely do not want to be a player purely in doors; instead, we intend to continue to offer a wide range of components and drives are part of it.
But doors are still the biggest part of your business, right?
Doutriaux: We sold more than 2 million doors last year, which accounts for a large part of our business. But we develop and manufacture a complete portfolio of safety gears – a very important part of the lift system – and we have a unique offer in the high-speed lift sector. And beside drives, we manufacture elevator cars and slings. In our production facility in Turkey we integrate our components into complete systems. So, while doors are still a big part of the portfolio, we do not intend to focus on doors alone, and we will extend and strengthen our range of products where it makes sense for our customers.
The share of Wittur revenues in doors is still round about 70% ...
Doutriaux: Yes, certainly we make about three quarters of our business in doors. As we are talking about numbers, I would like to point out that we just had last March 2019 a new investor, PSP Investment, join our board with 32% of stakes. We expect PSP to be a very long term investor: they are a pension fund who typically invest for something like 15, 20 years, without specific time limits. So, this is a good shareholder to stabilize our long term future.
And what are the plans of Wittur regarding future technologies and trends of intelligent components?
Doutriaux: We have a very strong innovation effort, which has been ongoing for the past years, and I am really committed to continuing that. We need to bring the right functions and services to our customers. Digitalization is a very important development, and it has already started: all of our doors are IoT enabled, and we are bringing advanced monitoring function to enable our customers to react to and even anticipate required maintenance interventions. This is true not only for doors, but for safeties, where we have introduced a new electronic safety gear, and drives. This is a key priority of our innovation strategy.
How is the merge between Wittur and Sematic going on?
Doutriaux: The merge has been going on for three years now; we are definitely happy with the direction and the acquisition itself: it has brought a wider base, in customers as well as geographical footprint. Integrating two companies with different cultures is not always easy, and we are still working to achieve a seamless integration.
Do you currently have plans to acquire other such companies?
Doutriaux: Our plans are definitely to grow, organically and profitably, and we think that bolt-on acquisitions could strengthen Wittur. This is certainly part of our strategy, and something we continuously investigate. On concrete plans I cannot comment right now, of course.
Ulrike Lotze conducted the interview.