In the past 70 years of our company history, two aspects have been our main inducement: courage and innovation. By always exploring and conquering new fields, Zeppelin made it to the internationally renowned company it is today. Our clients appreciate our high level of expertise and the willingness to break new ground. The character of these grounds, however, changed over the years.
Digitalization is of course a key topic for Zeppelin and affects all its areas of activity.
New challenges require new expertise and solutions, both for internal company purposes as well as for client-focused solutions. In order to strengthen Zeppelin’s digital expertise and to bundle and focus all activities related to IT, digitalization and innovation, a strategic management center – “Zeppelin Digit” – was initiated in January 2020. Topics like software improvements, a company-wide IT infrastructure and data security are assessed, and digital products and solutions are developed along a customer centric approach and digital strategy.
We talked to Wolfgang Hahnenberg who has accompanied Zeppelin‘s digitalization activities right from the start and who acts now as Chief Digital Officer. He leads Zeppelin Digit which creates added value both for the business units and their customers by fostering digital and efficient processes and generating additional business.
Mr. Hahnenberg, what was the starting point for Zeppelin’s heavy investment in digitalization?
New digital business models – competing with one another – are constantly entering the market. Some of them have a “disruptive“ effect on existing models, which means they can lead to a fundamental change or even to a distinction of existing business models. For Zeppelin, it was clear right from the start that we wanted to create and form the future in the realms of digitalization, in order to further strengthen our leading market position. The question was rather how we wanted to do this. Uniting IT and innovation processes were a logical consequence: Zeppelin Digit was created from Group IT and Z Lab (which comprised digital transformation and venturing).
What is Zeppelin’s digitalization strategy?
Simplifying the approach, we can categorize our goals as follows: digital transformation of existing business, incubation of new digital business models and transformation of the organization (in terms of mindset, corporate culture, skills).
More in detail that means to increase the efficiency in the existing business models by digitizing processes; to enlarge our existing product and solution offer with digital solutions – in harmony with our customers’ needs – and to further enhance the transformation of the company along the lines of change management processes.
How has Zeppelin changed?
Within Zeppelin Group, there were and there are a lot of small and big steps towards digitalization. A large number of these innovations are products, services and solutions that are developed by interdisciplinary teams on a long-term basis. For many topics, we opted for the best technology available in order to satisfy our customers’ needs and at the same time prepare for the future already today. We have created an organizational structure which enables Zeppelin to handle comprehensive digital projects and furthermore enables our colleagues from the different business areas to focus completely on their core business.
What are the core tasks of Zeppelin Digit?
My team collaborates closely with the Zeppelin business units and their IT departments. Our common goal is to strengthen and further promote Zeppelin’s position as a digital market leader of the future – with suitable digital services and solutions for our colleagues and customers. Zeppelin Digit functions furthermore as a guard rail in the selection process of new technologies, the handling of data and cyber security.
What is the first visible success of Zeppelin Digit?
First of all, let me mention our newly founded ventures. With klickrent, klickcheck , akii and zamics we have created digital business models that significantly simplify our customers‘ daily business in respect of rental, returning and administration of equipment – in an innovative manner, just by pressing a button.
In addition, we have finalized a common technology for zeppelin.com with the Strategic Business Unit (SBU) Power Systems already being integrated. Zeppelin’s first e-commerce shop also went online in 2020.
How do Zeppelin customers profit from these services?
It is common wisdom that the construction industry has a problem in terms of productivity. This has something to do with the number of stakeholders operating on construction sites as well as with weather conditions. Many of our customers are looking into a number of technologies to increase efficiency in their processes. We want to support them in their efforts by offering adequate products and services. Our main focus is on the customers’ needs. Our mission is clearly to support our colleagues to find the best suitable solution for the specific problems and challenges that their customers are faced with. Thus, we ensure to perform in a digital environment and are able to compete on the construction site of the future and in all other relevant industries.
In your eyes, what are future areas of development? Which trends will dominate the future?
I regard Building Information Modeling (BIM) as a key trend for the future. It will be our task to create gateways to relevant tools or platforms and thus to ensure the best possible service for our customers. Furthermore, the internet of things (IoT) and telematics, e.g. the connectivity of all devices which are used on a construction site, will be indispensable in the future. The data retrieved will be the basis for making decisions and offer smart recommendations for our customers how to use their machinery and equipment in the best manner and thus to increase the efficiency. Last but not least, data analytics will become even more important. Only those who develop data-driven business models and offer relevant digital services will stay in business in the future.
How ready is Zeppelin today for a digital future?
We already achieved a lot within the past few years. Our customers, suppliers and partners often give us the feedback that Zeppelin is leading the field when it comes to digitalization. Our colleagues worldwide are motivated and willing to take the next steps into a digitalized work environment. I think we have created a good common basis of expertise and an innovative, future-oriented culture. Of course, we need to keep moving and should not rest. The world is changing quickly, but Zeppelin will be able to adapt and respond to the challenges – as we have always done in a pioneering spirit in our 70 years of history.