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Interview with Peter Fischer, GM of BASF Coatings de Mexico

Published on 2004-05-06. Author : SpecialChem

"People Make the Difference"

Münster/Mexico. University studies in Münster (Germany), employed by BASF Coatings in Cologne (Germany), Würzburg (Germany), Shanghai (China), and since 2000 in Tultitlán (Mexico), 30 kilometers north of Mexico City. Peter A. Fischer is a classic example of a person who thinks and lives globally. For about half a year he has served as the general manager of BASF Coatings de México. Fischer, who is 46 and is married to a Brazilian, clearly defines the goals that must be met in order to achieve sustained profits growth: to create value and benefits for the customers, competitive cost structures, and a "winning team."

A tour around the Tultitlán site reveals a high standard when it comes to technology and innovation, and an equally high standard when it comes to processes and cleanliness: The Mexican plant is definitely first-class.

BASF 2015 covers all the key ingredients needed to ensure corporate success. In today's business and environment, a series of factors go into sustaining a company as a world-class supplier. Our "Challenge No. 1" defines this very clearly, too. Successful customer orientation begins at home. If our own customers want to visit our site, then we want to present an image that exceeds their expectations. We want to distinguish ourselves from the competition. This builds customer confidence. That's why, for example, I see neatness and cleanliness as important. Another thing that distinguishes us from the competition is our people. A high level of professionalism is decisive. Only a person who is satisfied with his work and his environment can go the extra mile and face the challenges head on. Our business is characterized by close cooperation in the spirit of partnership with our customers. We distinguish ourselves through competence, service, cultural sensitivity and international experience. After all, we are dealing with global players. Plus, we are part of the global Coatings organization. So the flow of know-how, "best practice sharing" with other sites and an international exchange are especially important. I think that if we know how to use our global network, we will be able to do our job right and offer our customers high quality standards and effective service. We have to create the best team possible and put our people in a position of being able to do that.

Your success shows that you're right.

I've learned-in Mexico too-that success doesn't happen overnight. The strategy that we pursued in past years was good and it still is good. Under the leadership with my predecessor, Dr. Mahr, we laid a solid foundation. We can now approach the needs of the market and face our competition with self-confidence. In changing management, we maintained our customer orientation. In doing so, the key message that we always wanted to communicate was "continuity" in the market. This is very important, especially in Mexico, and our customers have taken note. The process was a success. The work we have been doing in recent years and our successful personnel transition have created a solid basis. So now we are building on it, with the goal of making a clear contribution to the global business success of Coatings.

And business is growing.

We have signed a system partnership agreement with Volkswagen in Puebla, Mexico. We are the main supplier to General Motors and have intensified our cooperation with them. Our business has been growing in recent months, especially in the segment of plastic and metals automotive components suppliers. This is also one of our target orientations. There are many interesting ventures going on in this business field, especially in the northern part of Mexico. A recently completed market study proves this. And it's on this basis that we are moving forward. Needless to say, we want to continue to solidify our business with our key accounts in Mexico, such as General Motors, Volkswagen and Ford and, wherever possible, continue to expand it.

But here I want to add that we see ourselves as part of a whole. Successes like those that we are having here in Mexico are the result of good cooperation within our network in the Coatings world. When you work abroad, you really get to appreciate this.

Another component of our concept is deep NAFTA integration. We have just completed a transfer project and are now also supplying a GM plant way up in the northern United States. It's a distance of about 5,000 kilometers. Already today we are supplying our basecoats to more OEM plants in the United States than in Mexico. As a part of our NAFTA strategy, we plan to expand Tultitlán further as an export location.

What specifically do you want to improve further?

Everything, all the time. But perhaps a few specific examples would help. Close partnerships with customers and their suppliers play a very important role for us. Since the market is dynamic, this is a never-ending task. We make customer goals our goals. We work in defined projects on intelligent solutions for the customer, so that he meets his goals. In the Quantum initiative, we are also working on our cost structure to achieve ambitious cost reduction goals. A new initiative on the topic "build the best team in the industry" is taking us right into Mexico's top universities in order to locate young talents. The response has been very positive. Fifty to 100 students attend our events. Our exchange program is another example of how we are trying to develop the best team possible. In addition, three of our employees are currently in Münster at a know-how exchange. This helps us a lot, and I want to thank all of my colleagues who are supporting us in this way.

It's obvious that a lot of emphasis is being placed on health and safety.

That's right, everybody has a stake in it. Safety is the responsibility of every single one of us. We need a continuous, clear picture of how we stack up in health and safety matters. We see accident prevention as our top priority. Only by working safely can we be successful. In fact, we even have special campaigns to include the families of our employees and extend the topic of safety beyond the workplace right into the family. We believe that this contributes to sustainable growth.

And you also have a social commitment.

Correct. We at BASF have a commitment to serving the public. Sometimes we can provide urgently needed help for schools, kindergartens, or hospitals in a fast and uncomplicated way. Within our company, we focus on the families of our employees. This is important in Mexico. Here, work life and home life are more closely interrelated than they are elsewhere. Just one example: We also offer preventative medical examinations and visits to doctors to our employees' family members. In addition, we provide good, safe working conditions. When a worker walks through the gate, he or she should feel at home, part of the big BASF family, if you will.

You're seen as being close to employees, and in fact you even play on the company's soccer team.

Well, I hope you don't get the wrong impression. I'm not exactly a good representative of German soccer. The players on our team didn't take very long to figure that out. So I play more for fun and to get to know people. Plus, it gives me a chance to make it clear to people what I think about our business-without fancy PowerPoint presentations and long talks: It's like soccer: two competitors, the same conditions, and "no excuses." There are no ties in our matches. So it's quite simple-the best team wins! And that's also what we're shooting for in the business world.

The interview was conducted by Dr. Michael Golek

Source: BASF Coatings


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