Friedrich PICARD GmbH & Co. KG: 100 years of business behind it, the next 100 years in its sights. The wholesaler of roller bearings and linear motion technology is celebrating its centennial year.
A family business from the beginning, wholesale company PICARD developed from a medium-sized enterprise based in Bochum, Germany, to a hidden champion of the roller bearing and linear technology industry.
Founded in 1922, PICARD not only offers it’s customers a product range of 50,000 items, but reliable and flexible logistics solutions, dedicated one-on-one customer advice, and customs clearance services.
Managing Director, HansMartin Reinhardt, spoke about his early days in the business, the sector’s challenges, the benefits of digitalisation, and looking toward the future together with employees of 36 different nationalities.
This is what was said during a conversation with him:
Hello, Mr Reinhardt. First of all, congratulations on the company’s centennial anniversary. As the Managing Director of PICARD, you’re certainly not a newcomer to the company. How long have you been with PICARD?
Thanks very much. That’s true. I found my way to PICARD a long time ago — back in 1984 — when I started my training with the company. Whilst working here, I completed a 5-year course in business administration and marketing on a parttime basis. Since 2009, I’ve been the Managing Director of PICARD.
In your experience, what do you think it takes to become the Managing Director at a hidden champion like PICARD?
I don’t think there’s a universal recipe for success. During my training, I learnt, above all, the importance of efficient collaboration and goal-oriented company management. When I became Managing Director, I continued with this approach, because I think it’s what makes PICARD special. We unite and try to solve problems together — which is how a family-run business can grow into a leading industry specialist.
That’s nice to hear. You mentioned that PICARD is a family business. Can you tell us more about that?
PICARD is now a third-generation family business. People and teamwork are our central priorities. Understanding customer and employee needs as well as working together to find solutions is very important, especially in our industry.
What drives PICARD’S success?
Definitely the people. I feel we put our corporate values into practice here. We purposefully try to create spaces in which our employees can express and develop their talents. I think we succeeded pretty well at that.
Speaking of the special people in your company’s operations, how do things look in terms of new talent and training?
Training at all levels is essential, especially in our industry. After all, the next generation is, of course, the future of a company. We take on trainees every year, always keeping an eye out for individuals who are ambitious and dynamic. At the same time, we have lots to learn from our young people and their perspectives.
How do you think the industry is changing right now?
Roller bearing wholesalers like us must intensively rethink their trading structures because end-users today often have better know-how than the dealers. To manage and adapt to this change of roles successfully, we have to redefine our industry-specific identities. This includes managing the dealers’ core competencies, as well as the identity of the specialised trade.
Your centennial anniversary slogan is 100 YEARS – 100 IDEAS AHEAD. What exactly does it mean?
It means that, even after 100 years, we’re only at the beginning of our growth as a company. We’re currently in an era of drastic change, with digital transformation and unprecedented market transparency. If we don’t continue to innovate, we will at some point cease to exist. With that being said, we aim to be in the marketplace for another 100 years.
What are some of the goals you have for your company?
Our long-term aim is to become an indispensable link between the manufacturers and the specialised technical trade. Securing our supply of goods and sustainably meeting our roller bearing requirements are also two of our main goals. As you can see, there is still plenty to do.
Let’s talk briefly about the COVID years. What impact has the COVID pandemic had on your operations, in particular with respect to digitalisation?
Especially in remote-transaction businesses like ours, digitalisation has been a real asset. Online distribution channels are now very important and improve our business enormously. Our goal is to digitally map even more business processes. In other words, a lot has been happening.
What about remote work and the home office? Have there been changes there, as well?
Oh, yes. We’ve learnt a lot in these areas and aligned ourselves with universal, inter-industry standards. We’ve made some things possible that were perhaps not that prevalent before. On the other hand, we’ve been experiencing a certain lack of ongoing social connection with our home-office colleagues. After these many months of being distanced from each other, we all need to come together a bit again. We also see this as one of our key tasks for the future: to maintain our team culture, even without daily direct contact, and to be able to create a common space of action and collaboration.
You just mentioned your company’s employee culture. Your team comes from 36 different countries and advises clients in 19 languages. Is that also a key to taking the company further in the future?
Yes. We have nearly 300 employees from 36 nations, who altogether speak 24 languages, 19 of which are spoken in sales. In return, we improve our customer experience in sales and thus also in the course of direct customer contact. I think this is a key to success for any trading company: the willingness to open up to all cultures and languages in order to create a common denominator. It is precisely this cultural diversity, that generates a lot of potential for the future. This will help us to become an indispensable logistics provider for roller bearings across Europe and perhaps even around the world. So, here’s to the next 100 years!