It’s all about the users
Seisenbacher CEO Werner Pumhösel im Gespräch über die Zukunft des Mobility Interiors, „dumme“ und „smarte“ Ausstattung und die Business-Transformation mitten in einer Pandemie.
Inventing Mobility Interiors is Seisenbacher’s vision. What does that mean, exactly?
It means not always just trying to offer the cheapest price for a product that is currently in demand, but recognizing developments in society and the evolution of operators' and passengers' requirements and translating these into a product and solution portfolio that meets the needs. We try to identify these needs of today and also those of tomorrow early on and develop suitable solutions - so that they are ready and available when the need arises.
How do you balance needs of the three groups: operators, manufacturers and passengers?
By putting the focus on those whose needs are the hardest to predict: the passengers. Essentially, the key is to understand how to make travel time a time well spent, so that the user does not perceive the journey as an interruption. A current example: I come to the train station to sit at the tracks, my life is on pause while I sit in a tube that brings me where I want to go, and then my life can continue again. For us, the goal is to make travel time a productive and meaningfully invested time in people’s lives. Regardless of what other needs one might have. A business passenger will expect something different from a family traveling on vacation.
What concrete steps can be taken?
There are various areas. Passenger safety is a key issue. The requirements for rail vehicles have always been very high. With this in mind, we have developed our table system for passenger trains, for example. This table system is designed to absorb impact energy in the event of a collision, thus minimizing the risk of injury to passengers.
But we are also trying to incorporate the influences of digitalization, for example. At the moment, there may be WLAN in rail vehicles, but that is already the ultimate (laughs). But wireless charging for all the devices you use is just as important an issue as data security and much more.
We see it as one of our tasks in the future to make simple interior components, paneling, partitions wall and so on smart, whereby smart does not always mean "digitized. It has to be so smart that it really meets people's needs. Of course, this will also help to attract more and more people to public transportation.
This approach is not only beneficial in the rail industry.
Exactly right. That is why we want to move in the direction of bringing our Mobility Interior to air or sea industry.
To realize its ideas, Seisenbacher puts modularity at the center of its developments. Why is that?
We want to use the advantages of modular design in order to use standardized components on the one hand. This brings advantages in production, lower costs, consistent quality, but also, for example, better availability of spare parts. On the other hand, modularity naturally allows a high degree of individuality and adaptability. To ensure that we succeed in this, we also work together with a renowned design studio.
Seisenbacher had evolved from a production partner to an innovation partner for the industry, and reoriented itself as a company…
In the past, as a classic medium-sized company, we mainly produced according to demand. The shift to observing needs, innovations and their implementation in interiors,is of course, a paradigm shift. We redefined our company, from the inside out. We are changing many things: structures, access to information and, above all, our approach and way of thinking.
How do you accomplish that?
This requires the right thinkers. In the last three years, we have not only succeeded in building a successful development department, but also in employing people who have a correspondingly open mindset. Who are focused precisely on this: How is the world evolving? How is mobility evolving? How is the industry evolving? What technologies are there or will there be, and what opportunities that people really need can be created with them? Our success has a lot to do with this perception, awareness and passion of people. And with a team in which experience and new ideas cross-fertilize each other and things are sometimes looked at in a new way. The best expert is of no use to us if he can't think in visionary terms. Edi-son would never have invented the light bulb if he had only ever worked on improving the candle.
Was 2020, with all of its difficulties, the right year for this transformation?
We began the transformation process even before the crisis. There is never - or always - the right time.
The know-how, the people, are there, so no additional high investments were necessary.
After the crisis, the market will be different than before, and if we have transformed our business in the right direction, we will be in a much better position. Of course, we have also been affected by order postponements, but we have used the free capacities for something that will take us further.
Speaking of “forward”. Where is Seisenbacher’s destination in the more distant future – in 5 or 10 years?
In addition to our core business in interiors, we will in any case be moving more in the direction of development partner for the rail vehicle industry. Our main focus will be on modularity, passive safety and sustainability. The development and application of new - more sustainable - materials in the rail sector, for example, has to go through many approval procedures and is therefore often restricted. But new materials, new manufacturing processes for greater energy efficiency and lightweight construction will occupy us more and more. We want to position ourselves even more as an innovation partner for the mobility industry.