Designa CEO Thomas Waibel met me at my hotel and we caravaned the two miles to Designa Headquarters. It, too, is impressive. The factory sits on a large campus, is ultra modern, although Thomas talks about his headquarters building as ‘old’ and the adjacent one the company just purchased for expansion as ‘new.’ I got the feeling that it was the difference between being 20 years old and 10 years old.
The “old” building is in the background. I was told that I didn’t need a ticket to get out of the parking lot, as there was a ‘truck’ entrance nearby with no gates. They use these for testing.
Thomas is an interesting man. He lives in Austria and commutes to Kiel, about 800 miles. He noted that he spent a lot of time on the road visiting his direct and partner sales operations around the world. “I spend very little time in the office. If I’m here, I am walking around, talking to people and learning what is going on. I do the same on the road.”
He came to Designa, or too its larger Austrian holding company, as a business consultant and recommended that Designa be reorganized. He stayed on to do the job and the rest is history. As we walked around his plant, he told me that they were shipping about 1000 lanes of parking a year world wide. He has 350 employees here in Kiel and in Designa locations throughout Europe, and in Australia, Africa and North America.
Thomas told me that the important thing in PARCS is the ‘system,’ not the individual components. He stressed that the components have to work, so that the system can collect the data they generate. “Parking is in the clouds,” he said. “Designa provides cloud based support for hundreds of car parks throughout Europe. Owners and operators can retrieve information about their facilities by smart phone, or on their laptops from anywhere there is an internet connection. If we need to fix a problem, we can do it from here.”
Waibel noted that while some components of his systems are purchased from suppliers, critical parts are manufactured in Kiel. “The dispenser mechanism is extremely important and complex. If it fails the entire systems fails. We assemble and test it here so we can control the quality. It makes a difference.”
I met with Thomas and his Marketing Director Nadine Lubbe. We discussed the North American market and how they wished to approach it. “Its not an easy place to enter,” noted Nadine. “You have to be committed, and we are.”
She, as did Sigune at Scheidt and Bachmann, noted the European commitment to Trade Shows but also expressed interest in promoting their unique installations worldwide thought other media.
Thomas’ wonderful assistant, Gabriella Brille, found me a hotel for my next stop, and I was off to Berlin.