The motor housing of a wind turbine. Your seat in an airplane. The playground your child plays in. Most people would not immediately be curious about where the materials for all of these items come from, but to epsotech CEO Matthias von Buzay, this is a question that has vast implications for thousands of businesses across Europe, including his own.
"We have products that we are selling into a diverse variety of sectors, from mobility to industrial applications to construction materials," Matthias says. "Lead time is a key criterion for our customers."
Starting in 2018, a year after he graduated from CFO to CEO of the Jülich-based extruded plastic producer, Matthias orchestrated an ambitious reconfiguration of the eight companies that comprise epsotech today, including facilities in Germany, Austria, Italy, Scotland, Denmark and France.
"We are a group of eight individual companies with long-lasting reputations in particular markets and with eight strong brands and eight different market approaches. Our management team decided that we should transform this network to become greater than the sum of its parts, to bundle our competencies in order to be more successful," Matthias says.
The reorganisation has allowed epsotech to offer each of its customers a broader range of products for an even wider variety of applications, with its staff concentrating on the success of not just their own locations but the entire group. "This brings us nearer to our customers," Matthias says.
"With our multiple locations, we are able to supply our customers rapidly, and we can guarantee the security of supply with our network of backup lines in place. "Today, we are moving forward as one group. This has been one of our greatest achievements of the past five years."
Matthias spent his formative years in business administration at the German conglomerate Haniel Group, working his way up from controller to CFO of different business units of Xella Group, a construction materials supplier and former Haniel subsidiary.
In 2009, he began consulting for German car manufacturers, drawing on his experience to advise them on sales and service performance. But even with all of this expertise under his belt, he says nothing can fully prepare a person to serve as a CEO other than the experience itself.
"As a CFO, you are typically the co-pilot in the company. Of course, you are up to date and involved in every project. But as a CEO, you really switch the gears. You become responsible for making the company more successful, and this challenges your entire personality," Matthias says.
Among the specific challenges Matthias faces is the need to incorporate digitalisation into the epsotech group. "With our investment in digitalisation, we will significantly improve transparency along our value chain. That will be a big step ahead for the group and will give us even more opportunities to manage each order through the complete value chain, from sales to supply to customers," he says.
This transparency will also enable what Matthias calls "complete material efficiency" – allowing epsotech to avoid not only unnecessary costs but also unnecessary energy consumption. As an example, he offers the case of plastic seat shells, which epsotech supplies to various railway lines and airlines across Europe.
"I’m particularly proud of our development for seat shells in trains, called R6 and for ceilings R1. The R6 was something we developed working very closely with various suppliers in order to arrive at the right recipe for that product," Matthias says.
"It’s based on a different polymer material than is traditionally used in railways – polypropylene – which has a lower density and therefore a lower weight compared to traditional materials. This weight reduction saves our customers money and energy, and is therefore more sustainable."
Innovations such as these are what give Matthias the assurance that his successes as CEO benefit not just epsotech but also its customers and the wider community.
"My agenda is really to steer innovative ideas and make sure they are developed in a certain period of time so we are ready to deliver products to the market," he says.
"With our broad range of products, material efficiency and quick turnaround times, we are giving our customers significant opportunities to grow."