Coach and team captain
Mr. Linden, you have been CEO of PIA Automation Holding since the summer of 2017. What attracted you to the job?
There were two factors that were decisive: On the one hand, automation is a growth industry with enormous future potential, and secondly, PIA doesn’t have a huge, flagging corporate structure; it has the ideal size for a company. You can make changes that really make a difference with this company size and global presence. The challenge now is to strike the right balance in terms of our growth, and in the area of conflict between the holding company/synergies and independent companies.
Can you tell us a little about your last career positions?
My last job was as managing director for Schuler Pressen GmbH. Prior to that, I was CEO of the packaging machine manufacturer Mall + Herlan, so I have many years of management experience in the field of mechanical engineering, and as the CEO of the PIA Group I can now make good use of this.
What distinguishes a good CEO in your opinion?
A good CEO must be both coach and team captain, depending on what the team needs at that moment in time. He succeeds in pursuing a common goal with the team. He supports and protects his team. He is only partially prepared to compromise with dissenters. We must pull together: Working together and dealing with each other is paramount for achieving joint successes. I myself like to work with a lot of freedom. I don’t like to feel I’m working in a box. And to a certain extent, I also offer this freedom to my employees: We define a goal together, but each employee often decides for himself/herself just how that goal will be achieved. This creates an inspiring environment.
What advice do you have for young executives?
They must go abroad for a while. Our employees have it easy, because PIA offers this opportunity to everyone.
There are many machine and plant manufacturers. How does PIA differ from the others?
PIA can be described with the following words: passion, inspiration, ambition. And it’s exactly this combination that makes us special. Every project needs an innovative solution; but something good can only become special and unique with the right passion. Our individual locations and their expertise are also exceptional.
The PIA Group has nine sites with 1,250 employees. What measures do you take to make everyone “pull together”?
In the newly formed PIA Group, I can draw on a wealth of experience of more than 10,000 years from all our employees. However, since this experience is distributed over nine locations and many people, retrieving this know-how is not so easy. “OlymPIA 2020” was launched to make the best possible use of the synergies within the PIA Group. The aim of this project is to examine the processes of all sites and identify best practice examples to increase the efficiency of the entire group. One very important aspect of olymPIA 2020 is to create a sense of togetherness and consolidate it within the group. We are all PIA and what drives us all is the passion for automation. In other words, united by team, driven by passion.
Where will PIA be positioned after olymPIA?
The whole must be more than the sum of the parts and we should have achieved that by 2020. To this end, the strengths of each PIA site must be expanded. It will create a sense of identity and each site will see itself as part of the PIA Group. We’ll have a common vision of the future, which is the prerequisite for self-determined and independent action.
Competition for qualified employees is tough. How do you plan to find and keep the best minds?
We must appear attractive and make it clear to everyone that PIA is more than just a workplace. It’s important to us that our employees enjoy working at PIA and that they start their day with a smile. Specialist seminars, personality training and training courses are held in our PIA Academy to increase intercultural competence. PIA Life forms the basis for health and motivation through targeted actions. The flexibility of a company of our size and at the same time our global footprint both speak for us. The global footprint gives every employee the opportunity to work in a different PIA location. Under the keyword “stability”, the management must ensure that the company remains successful and thus a safe haven for our personnel.
What kind of people and departments will PIA need in the future?
That question is easy to answer: Every kind! In our team there are different tasks for which we need employees with motivation and passion. A real PIAthlete must possess passion, inspiration, and ambition. In short: PIA! In the wake of Industry 4.0, however, sectors such as mechatronics and software, meaning the handling of information, are becoming increasingly important.
What does PIA understand by “Industry 4.0”?
There is no clear definition for Industry 4.0. It’s more of a generic term for a lot of different technologies and applications. We at PIA focus fully on Big Data & Analytics, so it’s a matter of analyzing data to work our way from the descriptive and diagnostic situation to preventive measures.
E-mobility is a hot topic, now more than ever. What opportunities does this offer the PIA Group?
In principle, no one can say how quickly what kind of change will ultimately prevail. We do perceive, however, that every technological change is accompanied by major investment projects in the form of production and assembly facilities. This means that the volume of the market we can address is increased, and that in turn is a tremendous opportunity for us. In the case of e-mobility, we must exploit this as long as it exists.
Where do you see PIA in 10 years?
We want to develop PIA into an innovative and flexible organization that optimally adapts to changing situations. To be honest: PIA is already that today. As a corporate group with responsibility, however, we also want to contribute to society. This includes our employees, their families and the regions in which we operate.
Mr. Linden, thank you for the interesting conversation!
The interview was conducted by Manfred Hall.