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Michael Schwarzkopf Discusses Strategy, Vision, Objectives and Accomplishments of the Plansee Group: Globalization and Vertical Integration in Tungsten and Molybdenum




Photo by Andrew Marshall Alper
Dr. Michael Schwarzkopf, Chairman of the Executive Board of the Plansee Group and Dr. Allen M. Alper

Dr. Michael Schwarzkopf, Chairman of the Plansee Group’s Executive Board, spent some time with Dr. Allen M. Alper and Andy Alper at the recently held Plansee Seminar in Austria and spoke about his vision and the development of his company. In the seven years since we last interviewed Dr. Michael Schwarzkopf, he has accomplished his goals regarding: the vertical integration of the Plansee Group’s Tungsten and Molybdenum businesses, the increase in the Plansee Group’s global presence, the enhancement of its technical leadership position, the sharpened company focus and the substantial growth of his company.


Plansee Group uses a two tier system which includes executive and supervisory boards that govern companies.  In his role as the Chairman of the Executive Board, he and his colleagues create a long-term vision for the companies. When asked what has changed most, Schwarzkopf said, “I think the big thing that really changed, from a company perspective, was the sale of the PMG division (PM structural parts) and the strong focus on molybdenum and tungsten. He continues that “the raw material supply is becoming rarer, so we are becoming more vertically integrated on the tungsten side.”

 


Plansee Group purchased GTP (Global Tungsten & Powders) in 2008, which manufactures tungsten powders from ore and scrap.  Schwarzkopf added, “In 2011 we had an opportunity to buy 10% of Molymet, which is the biggest producer of molybdenum ore concentrates in the western world.  It has $1.3 billion dollars with production sites in many different countries. Meanwhile Plansee Group holds 14% of the shares in Molymet. This gives the Plansee Group a new vertical integration from the ore to the powder to the finished products.

 


The company supplies three primary sectors.  Schwarzkopf said, “Automotive, engineering and consumer electronics.  All of them are very innovative markets.  What has changed is the global footprint.  We have much more exposure in the states.  We have increased our presence in China with in total 1500 people.  We have a lot more presence in India.  Europe is less than 50% of our business today.”

 


Plansee Group continues to invest high levels of capital expenditures, year by year, Schwarzkopf points out. “What has changed is that we want to be a top three player in every market in which we are operating. Ninety percent of our sales are where we are top three in sales globally.”

 


Part of their strategy is to develop talent from within.  Schwarzkopf said that “we want to fill 80% of our senior and middle management with internal candidates.  This is a very ambitious target.”

Dr. Schwarzkopf, who is the grandson of Plansee’s founder Paul Schwarzkopf, points out that it is Plansee’s goal to “run this privately owned company very professionally like a public company with a professional management.  I’m the only family member on the executive board.  We are not strictly a family run business, but it is important to have family shareholders interested, as the fourth generation is already there.  What we decided is that – as a member of the family – you can be a part of the supervisory or executive Board level, but we don’t want family members to do just any job in the company.  These governance issues are focused on continuity.  Said Schwarzkopf, “For us, the continuity is an important aspect.  Continuity in the shareholder structure and in the management keeps us successful. 

 


The future plans for Plansee Group are oriented toward performance and additional upstream and downstream development for tungsten and molybdenum.  Schwarzkopf stresses “We have very ambitious goals in terms of growth and performance.  However we wouldn’t sacrifice our business model. I think that one of our strengths is that we are focused on our business and do the best of it cost- and technology-wise.  I believe that our focus still will be upstream on moly and tungsten going downstream.” The recent joint-venture with Günther Wirth, a multinational solid carbide tool producer, underlines this strategy.

 


Dr. Schwarzkopf plans for the future, “There is a lot of room to grow, especially in China and in Latin America.  And I am convinced that we will find the right moment to invest in these countries.

 


 

We’re glad we had the opportunity to attend the Plansee Seminar and interview Dr. Michael Schwarzkopf, Chairman of the Plansee Group’s Executive Board and to become updated on the progress that Plansee has made under his leadership.

Plansee has changed quite a bit in the last seven years. With a focus on running a world class enterprise, Plansee Group is a market leader expanding its position in tungsten and moly. Plansee Group’s objective is to be an employer of choice, employing the best and brightest professionals in the sector. And Plansee Group continues to be one of the leaders in innovation and development in the industry. It will be interesting to see where they are seven years from now.

For more information on the Plansee Group and their development, read the archived article at:  http://www.metalsnews.com/Spotlight.aspx?ArticleID=602.

And go to URL http://www.plansee-group.com

 

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