At the turn of the year, there was a generational change on the ARADEX Executive Board: The two company founders Michael Schlingmann and Thomas Vetter as well as Gerd Günther retired from the Executive Board, and Dr. Stefan Hellfeld (CEO) and Dr. Yupeng Wang (CTO) took the helm at the Lorch-based company. However, all three previous board members continue to be involved in and for ARADEX. In the following interview, the new management board gives an outlook on how ARADEX will position itself in the future and outlines an initial route plan. Positive for all parties involved: the previous board of directors will remain with ARADEX – how will they position themselves? Read for yourself!
Mr. Hellfeld, after one and a half years at ARADEX, you take over at the wheel and move up to the Executive Board. Where is the journey heading?
My colleague and I definitely want to maintain the direction of the previous company management. ARADEX remains a supplier of system solutions for electric drive trains. However, we want to increase the speed of travel and the number of travel companions and become the market leader in value-added system solutions with inverters, motors and converters that generate added value for our customers with intelligent software.
You know the structures and processes of large companies and medium-sized companies, where are the advantages of each? What can the large learn from the small?
Speed, innovative strength, living processes, a sense of togetherness, a bond and appreciation that is often unique and reminiscent of a large family or a circle of friends are much more pronounced in medium-sized companies and do not have to be trained first. In contrast, a medium-sized company can only survive a global crisis such as a pandemic or the availability of components through the incredible efforts of everyone involved. But this also welds together.
You have been involved in the intelligent use and development of smart IT solutions for years. You are active as a software developer, architect, and consultant as well as in the conception of holistic solutions and the development of disruptive business models based on new technologies. Where do you see the most potential for ARADEX here?
The unique selling point of ARADEX is the intelligent software in excellent hardware. Expanding the converter or the inverter with software and thereby generating added value is still very rare on the market. We go so far that we can already realize certain hardware functions with software. This holds considerable potential for the future: IoT in the vehicle.
So far, you have dedicated yourself to research and development at ARADEX, can you continue to contribute here?
I am currently still sporadically active here, but of course have other tasks in the meantime, so it is continuously less. As a trained software developer, however, you can never completely let go.
You and Dr. Yupeng Wang – who is responsible for what?
Formally, my colleague Yupeng is responsible for the technological direction as CTO, and I take on the tasks of the CEO. However, we are in daily communication and always discuss important decisions so that we can then give the other person feedback and get his opinion.
Your initial goals for the upcoming months?
We have already initiated a few internal changes so that we can continue to improve our customer care and align the development of our next products even more closely to the market. The development of new business models is also high on the agenda. In addition, we want to strengthen cooperation with partners and, for example, become the best employer in the region between Aalen, Ulm, Heilbronn and Stuttgart. Sounds like a lot, but we are also taking over a functioning, highly innovative company. I would like to thank my predecessors here.
The car is the German’s favorite child. What is important nationwide to ensure that Germany does not lose out in the advancement of electromobility or electric drive solutions? And what can ARADEX do for this?
This is about our planet. We all must work together here. There are no national borders here. Accordingly, we are intensifying cooperation with our parent company without value creation moving out of Germany. We have excellent engineers here, and Germany must concentrate on its strengths. We have been resting on our laurels for some time now, and that must change. The others have not become faster, we have become slower. We are just picking up speed again considerably in the various cooperation projects and even want to intensify this so that together we can make all automobiles more climate neutral. ARADEX is focusing here primarily on commercial vehicles or mobile work machines, but our products are also used in ships.
Finally, a question about the pandemic: Corona posed and continues to pose major challenges to industry. ARADEX has developed new business models from this and thus also won an award at the RAW.21 of the Junior Chamber of Commerce for its proven resilience in the crisis. How can this esprit be continued or what opportunities do you see in these times?
Corona held up a mirror to us and showed us what is important, and, above all, what is sustainable, and where we have dependencies that we were unaware of before. Before the pandemic, speed was crucial. First followers were first losers in the pre-Corona era. Now, flexibility, creativity and adaptability have become more important again. Tesla demonstrated this by responding not only quickly, but also very creatively, to the chip shortage. Here we also see a great opportunity for ARADEX to not only survive the pandemic with new ideas and adaptations, but to learn to live with it.
Mr. Vetter, Mr. Schlingmann – after 31 years as founder, driving force and motor of the company, how difficult is it to say goodbye? What were your motives for taking a back seat and leaving the field to the “youngsters”?
In Germany, we see very often with managers as well as company leaders that as you get older, you have to step up and do more and more. Not infrequently, until you break as a result or make a lot of mistakes. We always wanted to have a better solution. We also don’t feel too old to contribute our experience. And that is why we are still happy to work in and for ARADEX. But just in a different function and without decision-making authority. This has now been taken over by the new generation and the new board has our fullest trust and support.
When were you first considering leaving the board?
The plan to hand over the baton to the next generation when we reach the age of 60 was already made 5 years ago. And that is now the time.
Dr. Hellfeld has been working in Lorch since 01.09.2020 and Dr. Yupeng Wang since 01.07.2021, how were you able to convince them to join the Executive Board?
Dr. Yupeng Wang has been working in Lorch since 01.07.2021 but has been working for ARADEX since the beginning of 2021 from Weifang, the headquarters of WEICHAI NewEnergy. He has a solid education and professional experience and is very well connected in the parent company. He came to Lorch together with two other colleagues who also have excellent expertise and a team of engineers established itself in parallel in Weifang. We are thus achieving synergetic cooperation in development, and Dr. Wang is the main link here. We are already seeing the first fruits here and that is the best motivation.
We knew and appreciated Dr. Hellfeld for several years before we started looking for him. He knew the very different ways of working of rather small as well as very large companies. Often, a majority shareholding of a very large company in a small company leads to processes and the entire corporate culture being imposed on the small company… if we put it so flippantly. Our decision in favor of WEICHAI – which has now been confirmed in real life – was driven, among other things, by the fact that WEICHAI does not do this even with majority shareholdings. Rather, one uses the strengths from the smaller and more flexible structures. We see implementing this in real synergy as challenging but also interesting.
What do you expect from the new tandem at the helm of ARADEX?
Now, to put it simply: climbing the next steps. We are convinced of our technology and our products. And with the strong parent company behind us, we are now reaching realms that were previously closed to us. And the new Management Board team is an excellent fit.
And now you put your feet up in the future…
Just as we did not want to wear ourselves out completely and uselessly until old age, we will not now look out of the window all day counting cars or reporting parking violations. And as already said, we are still active for ARADEX by supporting the new board with all our knowledge and experience.
Mr. Günther, you have resigned from the Management Board at your own request but will remain active in the company. What tasks will you take on in the future?
In my new role, I will focus more on customer requirements and thus user needs, which will then make me the interface between market requirements and product development. In this role, I will also continue to provide sales support to existing customers. In addition, I will remain operationally responsible for the areas of production and service.