25 years in the business

Henning Gloede, Managing Director, Siempelkamp Singapore.

All things considered, Henning Gloede had a very exciting life. He is German by birth, but only spent eight of his 53 years in Germany. He grew up in Jakarta in the 1960s when his family moved there for his father’s job. By the time he returned to Europe for further studies, his Bahasa was perfect.

When school was over, the next phase of his life—31 years and counting—went to Siempelkamp. He wanted to do a good apprenticeship with a global company in the hopes that one day he could return to Southeast Asia.

“I just… like it,” Mr Gloede says of his childhood home. “I feel at home here and people are really friendly.”

At a time when national borders were less porous, Siempelkamp already had sales representatives and offices in the U.S., Italy, France, Spain and China. The company was then positioning itself as the market leader for wood-based panel machinery in Southeast Asia.

Mr Gloede eventually got his wish in 1992, moving from the Krefeld headquarters to Singapore to support sales operations.

By the time he arrived in September that year, Siempelkamp had delivered its first continuous press to Southeast Asia, to a company called Rimba Particle in Semarang, Indonesia.

The rest, as they say, is history. Mr Gloede would later be integral to Siempelkamp’s growth in the region and be part of the evolution of the wood-based panel board industry. In April 2001, he was made managing director, a title he holds till today.

YESTERDAY

In the late 1970s when Siempelkamp successfully concluded the first order to the Philippines and Thailand, it was clear that the market would grow in the next few decades. In April 1979, a Singapore company was incorporated under Germapore Machine Manufacturer Private Limited. Siempelkamp held a 50 per cent stake in this company. With the economic boom of the 1980s, the demand for board products accelerated, leading to the conclusion of four more contracts in the five years that followed.

By then it was clear that the projected market outlook was coming to pass. Siempelkamp acquired Germapore in 1982 and subsequently incorporated the company as Siempelkamp Singapore in February 1989.

Southeast Asia had real appeal because of its vast natural forests and hevea brasiliensis (or rubberwood) plantations.

Combined, it was home to one of the world’s largest tropical timber resources. Utilising rubberwood back then was almost unheard of, but Siempelkamp broke through in its pioneering work on MDF, setting new standards in the industry.

“The intense R&D work and experience we gained from the first lines with this raw material secured our front row seat in the board industry here. We have since sold more than 45 lines to-date,” Mr Gloede shares.

Soon, the Siempelkamp Conti Roll came along, setting another gold standard for continuous board production.

To-date, 33 Conti Roll presses have been sold in the region. (This excludes the Kuesters presses Siempelkamp took over in 2007.)

TODAY

Today, Mr Gloede continues to head the Singapore and Kuala Lumpur offices, which mainly oversee sales, acquisitions, spare parts and service support for Siempelkamp, Metso and Kuesters press lines in ASEAN. It also manages installation supervision services for all new Siempelkamp lines.

“I have great memories of the region, its cultures and people,” Mr Gloede reflects. “I appreciate that there is always a way around things. Here, people have positive attitudes, the glass is always half full.”

He manages 29 staff in both offices and likes them to be open and honest with him about problems: “Address it together, so we can do something about it, learn and become better!”

The business has also evolved to include servicing plants. It was one of the reasons the KL office was opened in 2007—to have staff dedicated to spare parts supply and after sales service in addition to installation supervision. It is supported by the global spare parts and logistics centre, which is close to Frankfurt airport, meaning parts can be delivered in 24 hours.

“Malaysia is a good place for this office because it is strategically located. It has a good pool of skilled engineers that speak so many different languages. Since the installed base has grown, maintenance needs have also increased… so have expectations!”

Siempelkamp also improves existing lines by solving bottlenecks in production. Some machinery are upgraded with the latest technology launched at LIGNA 2017, such as the new EcoDrive system and improved EcoFormer.

TOMORROW

So what is the plan for tomorrow? “Sell a lot of lines!” Mr Gloede laughs. “It may surprise you but the number of enquiries for new lines is still coming in today, especially for particleboard. A lot of the finished product goes to China, which lack wood material ever since forest harvesting was severely reduced.”

Some new projects currently underway are FSC Vietnam, a brand new MDF and particleboard line for Vanachai, and Green River, which will feature a 50.4m Conti Roll Generation 9 and hold the record for SEA’s longest continuous press.

A few countries in Southeast Asia have not a single line, yet have ample raw materials to sustain one or two. Mr Gloede expects the first line to pop up in one of these places, especially as the furniture market shifts from predominantly solid wood to wood-based products.

Over the years, factories have grown larger and more sophisticated; presses are longer and capacity, bigger. The big manufacturers, he says, will get bigger by acquiring smaller lines.

To maintain their market position, the actual people managing these lines must be more skilled. They not only need advanced engineering degrees, they also need more training on the specifics of the machines.

As a result, the demands on Siempelkamp as a complete plant supplier have also increased. “It is a very competitive landscape and survival is dependent on innovation. This market force drives us to develop efficient and sophisticated production lines in the panel industry.”

EPILOGUE

With Southeast Asia set to grow exponentially in the long run, work is getting busier. Mr Gloede still spends most of the year— up to 180 days—on the road visiting clients. The nomadic lifestyle makes finding the right work-life balance very challenging.

Yet he credits the ability to manage this well to a very understanding wife who looks after the family: “[She] has been a very important part of my professional life over the past 25 years here in Asia.”

31 years and counting still, Mr Gloede is not done with his story. He has more to write about the future. 

 

*This article first appeared in the March/April issue of Panels & Furniture Asia.