There is no other meeting that reveals more about the spirit of Phoenix Contact than the long legendary constructors’ round. Once a week, dedicated developers and accomplished product meet expert and knowledgeable top managers – critical follow-up questions and an inspiring dialog at eye level included.
Actually, he seems quite cool and confident, but his slightly trembling fingers do give away a little that Timo Balzereit is excited. No wonder, because even an experienced product manager doesn’t have such an appearance every day. Today, he is presenting a brand-new product from the field of relay technology that is still in the design and patent phase. And the round in which he presents is a legend. Soberly, it is simply called the “constructors’ round”. But in reality, it is a unique gathering of decision-makers and developers who have been setting the course for Phoenix Contact’s technological success here for decades. And thus conduct a dialog with a radiance that goes far beyond the actual product.
This Thursday morning, Dirk Görlitzer invited us to the exclusive round. The COO of Phoenix Contact is also Head of the Business Area ICE, thus the top representative of the decades-long success story of the terminal technology. “Actually, the top managers here are further educated by the product managers,” he reveals with a wink. “It’s often like a tutorial in technology for senior management.” However, as the following minutes reveal, the top managers in the business areas are also proven experts in technology. “In the constructors’ round, there is an open exchange between experts, some of whom have extreme technical depth,” confirms Dirk Görlitzer.
Here, the senior sets the framework. Whenever he can, Klaus Eisert is there. It’s his round table, so to speak, which he initiated decades ago. The passionate engineer, who prefers to describe himself as a designer, likes to take on the role of the critical customer in this round. This Thursday, too, he asks questions, has details explained to him by Timo Balzereit. The tone is relaxed, the product manager is questioned sympathetically. This may also be due to the fact that the relay expert from Bad Pyrmont is very well prepared and can always counter the numerous details that are asked from the group with the appropriate information. “But sometimes that also works differently,” Dirk Görlitzer reveals afterwards. “PowerPoint managers with snappy slides but no detailed knowledge go down mercilessly in these rounds.”
In the decades of its existence, the constructors’ round, initiated by Klaus Eisert himself, has gained such a special reputation because the interaction with each other is characterized by mutual respect and exchange at eye level. There is no room for hierarchy in this group; it is competence that counts. Klaus Eisert has succeeded in bringing a special spirit to this round. “Thursday morning is really culture-forming for Phoenix Contact. Because innovation doesn’t just come from the development departments, it originates along the entire value-added chain for us. This round is the melting pot of Phoenix Contact, this is where competencies and passions come together, where people wrestle, argue, laugh, but also challenge, where improvements are discovered and ultimately far-reaching decisions are made.”
“The expectation I’ve experienced in this round over the last few years is that a General Manager or Business Area manager is also expected to know his products and their production down to the last detail.” In addition to technical details of the products, raw material costs, the production of tools and manufacturing equipment, profitability considerations and sales expectations, as well as customer expectations all play a key role. If there are still gaps along the entire value-added chain, they are discovered in this round. “Anyone who participates here over a period of years gains an enormous amount of knowledge about our product portfolio across all business areas.”
A terminal learns to fly
The current COO started as a product manager at Phoenix Contact 28 years ago, has been in the constructors’ round many times, and can easily put himself in Timo Balzereit’s shoes. He describes a small anecdote: “Mr. Eisert once took newly developed terminals of which I had thought that the metal parts would not fall out. He simply threw them out of the office window. And the parts did fall out. Well, that saved us the time-consuming vibration tests.”
This fate is spared the patterns that wander through the round on this Thursday morning. On the contrary, the hour flies by. On his way out, Timo Balzereit briefly reveals the thoughts that were going through his head: “We’ve been here before with this topic and had to do some more research on a few points. I was still nervous, after all, the best minds from Phoenix Contact are sitting here. But it went well, the right questions were asked. The biggest compliment was that Mr. Görlitzer is already taking the technology on his next trip abroad and wants to present it. And of course it is something very special when Klaus Eisert is there and you can exchange ideas with him in dialog.”