‘One size fits all’ does not exist with us

Interview with Harald Späth

As Vice President Global Sales Heavy Duty & Industrial, Harald Späth has to meet a wide range of expectations. In an interview he reveals how he manages to integrate all of these, discusses current trends and indicates where he sees potential for growth.

Mr. Späth, you have already had several management roles at MANN+HUMMEL. What‘s the difference between those previous positions and your current position?

There is tremendous range in the area of Heavy Duty & Industrial (HD&I) and that‘s exciting. We have reorganized the original equipment business unit. It comprises the automotive and industrial filtration business. Here we have combined the commercial vehicle and industrial business in the so-called HD&I segment. The industrial area is very heterogeneous. In a global market environment, we operate in a wide variety of industries and work with customers who only have local operations as well as customers who are global players. The applications are broadly diversified including railway, marine, machine tools, compressors, industrial engines, and also agricultural and construction machines or even special applications such as dust filters for industrial smoke detectors or garbage trucks for the protection of workers and the environment. However, in the commercial vehicle business the processes are comparable to the passenger car business and although we have to deal with a lower number of customers, these customers have a global presence. We want to understand all our customers, meet their requirements and hence offer them the best possible service.

Professional profile

Harald Späth studied mechanical engineering and industrial engineering. He joined MANN+HUMMEL in 1995 and his positions included seven years as Vice President Global Sales and Project Management for the passenger car sector. After his position as Managing Director of MANN+HUMMEL in England he took on responsibility for global sales for the industrial filter business at that time. In September 2017 he was appointed Vice President Global Sales for the restructured area of Heavy Duty & Industrial.

What are the advantages of the restructuring in the HD&I sector?

I can best explain that with an example: In relation to filtration technology, when a vehicle drives on the street, meaning on-road, this is comparable to when a vehicle drives three meters away from the road meaning off-road. In both cases there is a requirement for all kind of air and liquid filtration. Naturally there are differences, for example, in terms of volume demands. In the industrial filter business these are usually lower. Accordingly, completely developed standard products find application. For our truck customers, on the other hand, we mainly offer customized solutions. But the great thing is that due to interconnections in the new area we are perfectly able to combine viewpoints, market requirements and our experience. This allows us to benefit from synergies and as a result become quicker. That is an important advantage for the customers.


"We are currently working intensively on how we can make our products more intelligent."

Harald Späth, Vice President Global Sales Heavy Duty & Industrial

How can this advantage actually be exploited?

There is a very good example. In the automotive area many manufacturers have been working for some time with so-called platform strategies. These concepts have now found their way to the areas of construction and agricultural machines. Here we can draw on sound expertise and efficiently support customers with their strategies, in the ideal case from early on in the development process.

And how can commercial vehicle customers benefit from industrial know-how?

If we can successfully define our standard products so that they are also suitable for their applications, commercial vehicle manufacturers will also benefit. We have economies of scale and the products are available at short notice. In the field of commercial vehicles there are also applications which are very suitable for standard products. In particular, a dedicated development process is not economically viable for niche applications. When the technology is comparable, we can ideally exploit synergies because we have integrated the responsibilities in a single team. But one thing is important for me here: despite this, we must not lump everything together. There is no ‘One size fits all’ with us and something which works for one customer may be the wrong solution for the other customer.

What competition do we have in the HD&I sector?

We are operating in a highly competitive market environment. There are competitors with a global presence such as ourselves. But there are only a few who are able to serve all the markets and with the kind of wide product range we have at our disposal. Based on our vision of ‘Leadership in Filtration’ we want to offer innovative and competitive filtration solutions with a corresponding added value to our customers.

Where do you see opportunities for growth?

We see clear potential for growth in all areas. This includes on-road, off-road and also industrial applications. There are many varied applications for our products at a global level in all markets and market segments. We currently also take regional drivers of growth into account. China, for example, is currently introducing new emission control legislation, the so-called China 6. This will necessitate the development of new engines and accordingly the requirements for many components will increase. The expectations with regard to filtration will also correspondingly increase. Drawing on our experience and comparable products from other markets we can efficiently support our customers and grow together with them – in Asia, in America and also in Europe.

What are the challenges dealing with different regions?

Naturally, we cannot implement a global strategy and think that something which is successful in Europe will automatically be successful in America and Asia. Each market has its own challenges. We must always consider the respective competitive environment and local legislation and align our strategy to the region or the respective country. To lump everything together in Asia would also be a mistake. This is because India cannot be compared to either Japan or China.

Which general trends do you see in the HD&I sector?

Our customers are very interested in alternative drives. They also have to react to current topics such as the air pollution in cities by considering the use of clean drive technologies. Commercial vehicle manufacturers have started to present vehicles with an electric drive and also the first agricultural machines with an electric drive have been presented. We are developing new products to take these trends into account. At the International Motor Show in Hannover in 2018 we will present coolant fluid particle filters, venting units for high-voltage battery systems, and cathode air cleaners for fuel cells.

What role does digitalization have to play?

A very big one! Digitalization in all forms is a trend. For example, let‘s take the area of agricultural machines with autonomous driving and control systems. We are currently working intensively on how we can make our products more intelligent to allow them to communicate with other products in future. With the smart device called Senzit we launched a retrofit solution last year. This digital product measures amongst others the condition of the air cleaner and predicts when the element will have to be replaced. The next step will be to develop smart products such as this for original equipment manufacturers in the HD&I area. Here we will also involve external specialists to consider together how the  filtration product of tomorrow will look like and develop a corresponding business model. We are currently conducting detailed market research and are engaged in discussions with all our customers to understand the direction in which they are thinking. This is very exciting because customers are also undecided about how to proceed. There is a lot here which is uncharted territory. And we are confronted with completely new questions such as how to handle the data which is collected.

But you are also prepared to enter uncharted territory with new products such as the fine dust eater …

Absolutely! Fine dust pollution is a big problem and with our filtration products we can also make a positive contribution here. In all the areas of on-road, off-road and industrial applications we can offer new solutions to reduce fine dust levels. That also includes our brake dust particle filter. This product has sparked a high level of interest with on-road and also off-road customers. But I am also convinced that we can further develop our existing range of products with intelligent solutions.

Which solutions are you thinking of?

WAVELOCK is such a product. This product has already received an innovation award from John Deere, a leading manufacturer in the area of agricultural machines. For this concept we further developed a spin-on filter which has been in series for many years. Now we no longer attach the filter to the engine block via a thread, but instead use a bayonet lock. The system has a really simple function: Using the bayonet connection, tools are no longer needed to remove and install the filter. Another key feature is that we pre-fill the oil filter with oil so that during the filter change a part of the oil is also changed. This removes the need for an oil change. And it just takes 30 seconds. A second example is the new VarioPleat air cleaner concept. Thanks to production technology which is unique in the world, filter pleats can be produced to different heights to enable the ideal exploitation of the available installation space. These examples impressively illustrate how excellent engineering expertise can be used to introduce new ideas into so-called mature products.

Thanks a lot for the interview.