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Episode 2: Internationalisation


Text of the current episode:

Julia Ures: "Welcome and glad to have you with us today here at episode 2 of In Sight KTR, which deals with internationalization today. My guest today is here in this studio, in this virtual exhibition stand, which by the way is an analog exhibition stand that you have digitalized. Torben Maybaum, Head of Global Sales at KTR, has been with the company for 26 years. One would not believe that when they first see you. I think you started very young at KTR, originally as a trainee, and you have spent your entire career in sales and have really been with the company for so long. Why have you always remained loyal to KTR?"

Torben Maybaum: "Because there were no offers. No, jokes aside! We have always had a good community here, we have had a good working here, we had independent working here and I believe that we have grown through the community with the customer and have continuously made our way. This has connected us to all employees, from the very top, from the managing director, from the owner, to all other employees. That is a great teamwork and it was fun.”

Julia Ures: "Before we actually get to the questions of our viewers about internationalization: You were a goalkeeper for a long time. What can you bring to your work and to the company today from that time as a goalkeeper?”

Torben Maybaum: "I think the most important thing is team sport, which I can take with me for myself. I've always learned to stand on the court with 11 people, with some people next to the court and it's just part of being a big community, and not one person won, not three people won, 20 people won or even more and that's something that's part of the company today.“

Julia Ures: "In Sight KTR answers your questions that you submit, which you send by e-mail to Please continue to do so diligently. And of course we have received some questions for Torben Maybaum, which we would like to answer right now. For example, the first one on the subject of internationalization. Mr. Maybaum, what advantage does it have for customers and also for KTR that the company has established branches at 24 locations around the world?“

Torben Maybaum: "I think what KTR has always been about is the fact that we are close to our customers. We focus on the customer and not just any process, not just any other topic, but what is profitable for us is the customer, the customer's wish, the customer's requirements and since we are a global company, we do not manage to do this from our headquarters. We are global because our customers are global. The requirements have become global. The world is no longer as it was 20 years ago, where a lot of effort is made from some locations, but the requirements come from the countries and we can only meet them if we are on site.“

Julia Ures: "Now there are linguistic differences, if you look at 24 countries all over the world, of course there are also cultural differences. How do you manage to combine interests and values to such an extent that you can all pull together?“

Torben Maybaum: "I think the big plus of KTR in this respect is the fact that we have local general managers who also originate from the country. It is not that we have placed someone locally who comes from KTR Rheine, but really always someone who understands the customers locally, who embodies the mentality, who understands the requirements and then transports them to Rheine accordingly".

Julia Ures: "Now, if you are watching us, you will find us here in this virtual booth, this is the environment in which we are here today and have come together for In Sight KTR. This is an analog booth that has also been digitalized. We stream the whole thing here or record it in Rheine. If you look at the other locations, what are the cultural differences, the biggest cultural differences, when you compare Rheine with the other locations?”

Torben Maybaum: "Sometimes very extreme. So I know Rheine, for me Rheine is normal. For others, Rheine is not normal. There are also differences in mentality between North and South within Germany, I would say. Now when I see a Chinese who works completely differently than a European. When I take an Indian, who is almost closer to our mentality, but still there are very, very different demands on the individual in the country. We cannot represent these requirements from here.

To give a concrete example: simply the way of communication. We are used to speaking relatively openly, to addressing problems, to expressing requirements. You won't find that in every country. There are people who communicate much more via facial expressions than via gestures, than via verbal information. So speaking alone is very different, apart from the language".

Julia Ures: "You sent us questions, you gave us, so to speak, the homework for In Sight KTR and thus also the questions to Torben Maybaum, which he does not know by the way, which he hears for the first time when I ask him here. And the next question you asked is: 'KTR is an acknowledged family business. Would you say that this claim can be applied to the entire group and can also be implemented and lived in practice?'".

Torben Maybaum: "Yeah, well, I've been around for 26 years now. You have to be honest, in 1994 it was something different than today. At that time, we knew every employee personally, almost even through the world. That is no longer possible today. The idea of knowing everyone is no longer completely feasible.

Nevertheless, when family is a priority, it is something that our owner exemplifies and that is carried through by the employees. We reach out through communication, we talk a lot together, everyone has their own opportunities to develop. I believe that everyone who wants to become something here and is involved has the opportunity for development and I believe that we can still call ourselves a family business. Even though we are now relatively large and have sales of a quarter of a billion euros.“

Julia Ures: "If you are already talking about size, the next question follows: Are KTR products actually also manufactured in other countries?”

Torben Maybaum: "Yes, KTR currently produces at seven different locations outside Germany. We have larger production facilities in China, India, USA. We have smaller production facilities in Brazil, Taiwan, Russia and we have one still in Schloß Holte. We've worked out the whole concept in such a way that we can withstand the local pressure and we've set up production facilities there that meet the local requirements, in terms of pricing, in terms of flexibility, in terms of the whole supply chain, that they meet the requirements.“

Julia Ures: "If you hear different noises in the background, it is because we are here and we are recording for you, where people are working, where not only the two of us are sitting here and answering your questions, but also where people are working around us, because we are here on the premises of KTR and of course there are one or two noises that are part of it.

Mr. Maybaum, we can't avoid talking about the topic of corona. The pandemic has shown how fragile the global economy and also supply chains can be. Especially at the beginning of the pandemic, many industries were faced with major problems. How have the last months been affecting KTR?“

Torben Maybaum: "These were very interesting months. At the beginning we were asked directly by our customers whether we could stand up to the supply chain. Of course, this request went straight through to purchasing, through to production and we looked at countries where we were seeing problems at that moment. The first country we talked about was Italy, the second country was India, because there were some more extreme problems regarding the pandemic. We managed to handle that through close communication, through good stocking. KTR has always been known for having a high flexibility and also a few more parts in stock to satisfy our customers. When this was ensured, we could also reassure our customers that KTR will be able to withstand this phase. At no time was there a major accumulation of troubles that would stop the supply chain. We can proudly say today that this took work, but it turned out successfully".

Julia Ures: "One question that has been received is impressively simple and charmingly simple. Are actually all KTR products in the world available at the same price?".

Torben Maybaum: "No, this is relatively simple and also quickly explained. We have a cooler production in China and if I sell a part in China, I can of course sell it more easily than if I sell it in Germany. Here I have to transport it here, there are handling costs on it, there are freight costs on it, customs duties on it, it is much more expensive. There is an interesting example in the US right now. Because Trump has raised the customs duties, a cooler that would have to go from China to the USA has become extremely expensive."

Julia Ures: "You are already addressing this, there are many things to consider, especially in the international area, which all play into it, and then ultimately into the pricing. Some SMEs are reacting to the tense situation in the pandemic by considering or preparing to relocate more parts of the value chain back to Germany - in other words, to bring them back. Does KTR also have such considerations?“

Torben Maybaum: "No, we do not currently consider this. We have a concept that allows us to manufacture almost all parts globally. That means that if a problem should arise in CHina, let's take China as an example, that there would be a production stop, we could switch it around and transport it to Rheine. This affects the majority of the parts we sell. Not everything, but I would say more than 98%. So our supply chain is relatively secure, because we have a diverse setup.“

Julia Ures: Another question, you have just concluded, the prices are different and of course the production conditions and other conditions you have to deal with in different countries can vary a lot. The next question: Do KTR products also have different quality levels with partly lower performance levels?”

Torben Maybaum: "By sitting here today, I can justifiably say no. There is a uniform level. 20 years ago, I would probably have answered the question differently, but I would say approximately 10 years ago we set up a quality level called "NBK". This quality level embodies a 'made by KTR global' and the point here is that if an American wants to produce something he has never done before, a product group, then he has to present this product group here in Rheine once. We check the quality and if it corresponds to what we stand for in Rheine, he may continue to produce it. If the quality is different, he is not allowed to produce it until he has received approval.

The issue has simply arisen that machines are no longer only produced in India for the local market, and in China as well, but it is quite possible that an Indian machine is in Germany and then we don't want to go there and check and complain that the clutch doesn't work because it is a second quality clutch. So the quality standard at KTR is absolutely given by a global QM system.“

Julia Ures: "In the corporate context, we have been dealing for a relatively long time now with the fact that job titles are also expressed in English, i.e. internationally. With you it is the Head of Global Sales. One question, what exactly lies behind this title? How can one imagine your typical working day?“

Torben Maybaum: "I believe there is no such thing as a typical day, that's the beauty of the job. I have a fantastic team in Rheine. The sales managers DACH, one European and one Asian. The colleagues here on site do a great job with the subsidiaries. We support them from here, we coordinate strategies with them here. The things that fall into my direct area are simply the coordination with the colleagues, but also our larger production sites, such as China, India, Brazil, USA, are in direct support. Then we have a Key Account Management department, which is also part of my function, and one must not forget that we still have many people here in Rheine, so there are many, many arrangements to be made in order to support the local people in providing them with the best possible working conditions.”

Julia Ures: "Another question that has reached us: There are certainly advantages for the company as a result of internationalization, but what would you, Mr. Maybaum, name as central benefits?”

Torben Maybaum: "Because our companies are globally positioned, we can also present customers with global manufacturing capabilities. That means first of all that we communicate in the local language, we can withstand the cost pressure because we have a local presence and we produce locally. We also have a global supply chain that is impressive. We always strive to be fast and flexible when it comes to our customers, and this is also reflected in the countries we operate in. So we are able to meet the local competitive pressure due to the globalization of KTR.”

Julia Ures: " Ultimately, the customer benefits from the international positioning. Can you give an example of the many advantages this brings for the customer?“

Torben Maybaum: "Yes, we met a construction equipment manufacturer last week, who by the way are out here driving outside with our clutches, so we hear them all the time. As long as they're driving, that's good. This customer has gotten bigger and bigger. Originally a construction machinery manufacturer in central Germany, he has now become part of a group. The group is global and has global requirements when it comes to parts and we can, in the overall context, because we work exactly the same, offer it a presence, offer it pricing, offer it delivery times that are in line with what people are looking for there. And there is a distinction to be made between whether it is an international company, which is managed from a headquarters, or whether it is an international company, which is managed decentrally. Especially for those that are managed centrally, from a headquarters, such aspects are extremely important.“

Julia Ures: "When it comes to the further expansion of KTR, we have talked about it, currently 24 locations. Which country do you find particularly exciting and why?”

Torben Maybaum: "This is a very difficult question. On the one hand, we have opened KTR Denmark this year. This happened in the second quarter of this year, despite Corona. As an anecdote one can perhaps say here that the colleague was not even on site in Rheine yet. Normally, every general manager is trained and familiarized with the products, familiarized with the processes, but that is super difficult at the moment. At the beginning, a Dane wasn't even allowed to travel here.“

Julia Ures: "In other words, in their case, everything was done via Zoom Meetings or other versions that are available to connect via video conference."

Torben Maybaum: "Everything that could be done online, we did online. At some point you have to be careful not to overwhelm people, but we tried to hand it over in measured doses. It works very well. Corona makes it possible, it pushed this process a bit. When you talk about the future now and say who are the next possible candidates, it is incredibly difficult to commit to one country. Among other things, we are currently working on the Middle East area. That would be a topic that we are currently working on more. There are also always the odd considerations in other areas. This has to do with many factors, whether you settle there or not. In addition to a good idea, you also need the potential, the people who do the work locally. A very complex topic, you can't answer so categorically.".

Julia Ures: "Slowly we are approaching the 20 minute mark and have already answered quite a few of your questions. Mr. Maybaum, if we now summarize, how has Corona actually changed the sales department in the past months?“

Torben Maybaum: "Yes, we were, I would say, confronted with a completely new set of circumstances in March, we no longer found our way to our customers as we used to. A lot of attempts were made online and over the phone, but at the very beginning this was a challenge for our customers and for us, maybe even overwhelming".

Julia Ures: "That was very new, wasn't it?"

Torben Maybaum: "This was really all very new and we've had a lot of online meetings and we really have evenings -, it's a completely different kind of work when you look at the screen all day long. It was quite difficult for us. It's also tough to get the projects done because you've decentralized the people. The people were in the home office. Maybe the purchaser was there, the technician was no longer there or the technician was there and the purchaser was no longer there. In the past you had to convince both them of the KTR product together around the table. The ways have changed.

But I think Corona just promoted this way, pushed it and I think we were already on the way to adapting to the Google generation. The life outside will change, the profile of the purchasers will change, the technician will change, the way to approach KTR will change completely and we already started to work on this topic in November last year. In many areas we are approaching things a little differently now. I am not saying that what was good in the past will be bad tomorrow. But I believe very strongly that we will see an adjustment of our working methods. To what extent, that will become apparent in the phase after Corona, but even now we realize that we have to break new ground in order to continue to convince our customers that KTR has a good product".

Julia Ures: "Torben Maybaum, thank you very much for answering these questions, none of which you actually knew before, and that's it for us today. 20 minutes in episode 2 at InSight KTR. We are very much looking forward to your questions for the next episodes. You are welcome to send us an e-mail to and then we will of course answer your questions here, gladly your questions that relate to the background of the company, to the everyday life in the company and of course to the people behind the products. Thank you very much for listening, for watching, for your interest and until next time. Bye!"

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