Cleaning Up

Steinbeis Student Develops Relaunch Strategy for Product Portfolio

Product managers at companies involved in global business have two central roles: to manage existing products and to launch new and innovative products, thus contributing to long-term growth and ensuring the profitability of the company as a whole. As part of his two-year master’s degree program at the School of International Business and Entrepreneurship (SIBE), which is part of Steinbeis University Berlin, Christoph Englert worked as Product Manager in the Product Area Chemicals of Adolf Würth GmbH & Co. KG.

Würth maintains a steady focus on two priorities: growth and profitability – something underscored in no uncertain terms by the company’s patron, Reinhold Würth. The transfer project carried out by Christoph Englert as part of his master’s degree also adhered to these clear principles: “Growth through customer-centric product innovations.” A central aspect of his project was the task of overhauling the existing product portfolio in a niche market to make it more client- and user-friendly, in order to achieve long-term sales growth. The products concerned are used in chemical applications in the food and beverages sector and primarily consist of cleaning materials, lubricants and oils. All have to be registered by category at NSF International, an independent public health and safety organization. Only NSF-registered products can be used by customers in the food and beverages processing industry.

The emphasis of Englert’s project was laying the strategic foundations for a relaunch to pave the way for subsequent implementation and to maximize success. The concept of transfer also played a decisive role, so Englert applied the instruments of strategic development that he had learned in his studies to his transfer project at his place of work. Accordingly, he carried out an evaluation of internal and external factors, a stakeholder analysis and an assessment of current customer requirements. He also conducted a comprehensive investigation into the market and competitors. In addition to this, he worked up relevant theories on ways to deal with both supply and demand, breaking them down to address key issues raised by the project. In doing so, he developed a launch model which drew on both theory and practice. Not only did it outline the new product portfolio, but also contained recommendations on the optimum timing of the entire project.

Aside from providing important findings with respect to the portfolio strategy, as part of his launch model Englert created a list of actions. This included measures to succeed with implementation of the project, which could be derived from Englert’s findings. Having developed a strategy, which Englert then included in his master’s thesis at Steinbeis University Berlin, in April 2014 Würth started rolling out the project in two phases. The first phase involves overhauling existing products in the portfolio,  before new and innovative products are introduced in the second phase. The aim is to have all products outlined in the strategy ready by the fall of 2015, across all categories, so that the company can start selling.

In the medium term, Würth’s aim is to raise sales with the new NSF portfolio, with growth of around 25% by the end of 2016. In the long term, this will allow the company to become a strong player in the German NSF market, which is continually expanding. However, this growth and the associated levels of profitability should not be at the expense of the customer. Prices should match market needs and the aim is for the new and innovative products outlined in the transfer project to access more customers in the food and beverages sector than previously, making a modest contribution to safeguarding the future of the Würth corporation.

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