Digital Transformation and mid-sized businesses—a conversation with Martin Becker, CEO of the family-owned KNF company – Part 2

KNF has been a technological leader for decades. Numerous customers—from industries as varied as aerospace or Formula 1—trust KNF as a global, organically-growing supplier of long-lasting and reliable products. How KNF is using the challenges of the Digitalisation to their advantage is focus of thesecond part of our interview with Martin Becker, CEO of KNF. (You can find the first part of this interview here.)

Martin Becker has been active at KNF for 32 years and became sole managing director in the year 2000, when he took over the reins from his father. He is married and has 4 children, with one of them already working in the company.

Back in early 2016 you set out to initiate digital transformation. What approach did you take?

We took a holistic approach. Going digital is not IT. We didn´t just strive for relatively simple process digitization and optimization. That´s the reason we looked at all 8 activity fields, ranging from digital leadership, strategy and customers to processes and products, collaboration, mindset and transformation management. We took stock of all areas, questioned our own leadership and staff and analyzed their responses.

We utilized these results and compared them with our customers´ expectations. We carried out a customer survey, in order to understand in this context what role our customers expect us to assume in the digital world and what demands we will be faced with in the future.

That´s when we started actually developing our new strategy. Again, we stressed a participative process. We brought together managing directors, specialists, industry veterans and newcomers in different kinds of workshops such as OpenSpaces and BarCamps, where we developed high-level strategic thrusts that were later turned into long-term strategies. We also had the support of external consultants that ensured that we stayed on course throughout the process.

You were just talking about external consultants. What made you decide to partner with doubleYUU and, in your opinion, how does doubleYUU differ from the competition?

doubleYUU truly is different from many traditional consulting firms—we felt it was important to find a partner that already has practical experience in this field, one that can inspire us with real-life examples and set new impulses. At the same time, we needed a partner to develop a tailor-made strategy that would be in line with our company´s DNA. What sets doubleYUU apart and makes them unique is their holistic approach as well. Digital Transformation doesn´t only consist of software and the digitization of processes. We needed a partner that would pursue an integrated approach and would also push issues such as mindset, change management and collaboration.

doubleYUU helped us not only with taking inventory, but also supported us with customer surveys and joined us in taking this participative process and turning it into a comprehensive digital strategy. In retrospect, we realized just how important this approach was, because it considerably increased the level of acceptance during the implementation phase, which continues to be tremendously helpful while in the process of operationalizing our new strategy. And even when facing some bottlenecks, when we needed some additional hands, doubleYUU did not hesitate to actively help at the operational level.


So, the strategy is set, but you also spoke of implementing it at the operational level just now. Are there any tangible results you would be willing to share with us at this point?

Obviously, it is early days still, but we already have some initial accomplishments to report. We have acquired 3D printers to assist with the development of functional prototypes during the design and concept phase and were able to increase prototype production by about 200%. Also, when designing parts during the production process (e.g. when dealing with mounting devices), we were able to reduce delivery times from around 5 weeks to 2-3 days in some cases.

We spent a lot of time learning about Cloud computing and are already in the process of redesigning our IT infrastructure. Companies such as Google employ more than 700 security engineers—that´s simply not something the IT department of a mid-size company can afford. It´s just important to select the right professional services, since that is what makes Cloud computing more secure than anything we could design internally. We focus on what we do best—for everything else we choose the best companies in the market.

The entire corporate group now enjoys a new, digital work environment that allows us to digitally cooperate with our customers even across companies utilizing innovative tools. With our new leadership culture that incorporates networking, transparency, participation and agility we lead by example—and are consequently right in the middle of the transformation process.

Thank you so much for your time, Martin!

Read the first part of our interview with Martin Becker, CEO of KNF.

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About the Author: Willms Buhse

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Dr. Willms Buhse, CEO und Gründer von doubleYUU, bringt mit Digital Leadership die Innovationen des Silicon Valley in die Büros der deutschen Führungsetagen. Die Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel und viele Top-Manager zählen zu seinen Kunden. Er hält Vorträge in Harvard, am Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) und an deutschen Elite-Universitäten in Berlin, München oder Hamburg. Dr. Willms Buhse gilt über deutsche Grenzen hinaus als Vordenker der digitalen Elite. Wie kein Zweiter versteht er es, Ideen und Impulse aus der digitalen Welt auf die Realität deutscher Unternehmen zu übertragen.