Mr. Hertweck, in April 2018 Endress+Hauser received the HERMES AWARD for its iTHERM TrustSens industrial thermometer. What makes your product so special?
Pharmaceutical and food companies have to carefully monitor the temperature of their production processes, since even the slightest deviations can have an influence and even render the batch unusable. This monitoring however requires an elaborate amount of effort. Conventional temperature sensors need to be taken down and recalibrated once or twice a year. Considering you have an average of 1,000 measuring points per pharmaceutical enterprise, this results in considerable losses in output. Which is where TrustSens comes in, as this thermometer checks and calibrates itself fully automatically during each sterilization-in-place process, storing up to 350 units of measurement data. This measurement data can be further processed via data transmission and stored for example in a cloud or process control system, as required.
What has the HERMES AWARD meant for your company?
Winning this award has provided our team with recognition for nearly ten years of intensive development work, with all of the attendant ups and downs. Our employees can all be rightly proud of this achievement, and the company of course is also delighted at its success. Our perseverance has paid off, not just by creating a leading-edge product for our customers, but also by virtue of this fantastic confirmation from a jury of experts. The industrial thermometer has received further awards, including in the United States, France and the Czech Republic. The HERMES AWARD nevertheless enjoys the highest priority with us, as it attracts the greatest amount of attention worldwide. The award enjoys a strong reputation, especially outside of Europe. The market is now aware that our product is not simply a flash in the pan, but rather is setting a new standard in terms of safe, simple, automatic calibration. And this message practically spreads itself. We and our subsidiaries are receiving numerous queries for interviews, articles and events. And all of this media attention naturally does not go unnoticed by potential customers, with our sales team receiving inquiries from a wide variety of companies, industries and sectors from around the globe – something which is also reflected in our sales figures.
How important are innovations overall for Endress+Hauser?
Innovations are extremely important to us. You can already see this from the fact that our R&D expenditure amounts to around ten percent of our total budget. But money alone is not enough. To create something really new, you need a lively culture of innovation, plus lots of experience and good ideas. When our employees come up with a new idea or develop a new product, they stay on the ball. You can’t do that unless you believe in your idea. Creating something new is not simply a technical achievement – it’s also a mental one.
What is behind the creativity of your team? What is your secret to success?
Creativity comes from the freedom to act, as opposed to setting limits. That is why we offer all of our employees the opportunity to share new ideas in a variety of ways. We consciously promote creativity and let it drive promising ideas to product maturity. Lateral thinking and openness to new ideas make all the difference in a thriving corporate culture. And it makes us one of the leading providers of automation solutions in our line of business.
Innovations can fundamentally change processes and even entire companies. How do you deal with the typical concerns that customers express about innovations?
It is true that innovative products change many established procedures and thus naturally raise questions. But I wouldn’t speak so much of concerns, but rather of a high level of interest on the part of our customers. Our thermometer, for example, no longer requires a person to dismantle the sensor, calibrate it and store and evaluate the data. Everything occurs automatically, without any downtime. This is unusual, a bit like autonomous driving: In the beginning you feel insecure and prefer to keep your hands on the steering wheel, because you don’t believe the car can actually drive itself safely. The positive assessment of an independent jury of experts has naturally been an enormous help in boosting customer confidence in the new technology.
What innovations can industry look forward to this year?
We’ll be launching new products on the market again in 2019 and will present them to an international audience for the first time at the upcoming HANNOVER MESSE. What, exactly, I cannot yet divulge. But I cordially invite all visitors to stop by the Endress+Hauser stand and see for themselves.