Thought Leaders 2022: Rafael Koenig

Weidmuller Pty Ltd

Tuesday, 14 December, 2021

Thought Leaders 2022: Rafael Koenig

What opportunities do you predict for the growth of your industry in 2022?

Weidmüller Australia will celebrate its 50th anniversary in Australia in 2022. Today more than ever, longevity needs innovation, and we believe that there are tremendous opportunities to contribute to the electrical industry.

Our newly formed Klippon Engineering entity plays an active role to develop core strength in process industries and in particular green hydrogen. We also cannot ignore the fact that there is a reliance on traditional energy sources, and we are committed to providing the best possible technology solutions to assist the transition to new and renewable energies. Our Australian Renewable Energy Centre of Competence is driving innovation in solar, wind and utility-scale battery storage.

Considering Australia’s newly found commitment to net zero by 2050, we expect the renewable energy sector to grow rapidly and are ready to service the local market.

We also believe that there will be a revival of the need to locally manufacture and reduce the reliance on sourcing finished goods from abroad. The pandemic has accelerated this need and now is the time for Australian manufacturing to invest in smart manufacturing solutions and advanced cloud-based IIoT that significantly reduce the needed economy of scale when it comes to batch quantities and the like that have in the past driven our production overseas.

As one of the few companies in our field that has retained and expanded its production capabilities, we believe Weidmüller is ideally positioned to take advantage of a growing demand for locally made products.

What impacts have the pandemic lockdowns had on your industry, and how does this affect your business strategies for 2022?

In 2021 our industry, in general, experienced challenges related to materials and global transport issues. The shortage of computer chips combined with transport capacity shortages while experiencing a sharp increase in demand because of the bounce back after COVID, the industry has somewhat validated our long-term strategy of high availability and above-average investment in stock. Together with our distribution partners we have prioritised product availability and will continue to do so in 2022. Our close collaboration with academic institutions has helped us to build up the quality and competence of our workforce while the engagement with organisations such as the German Australian Chamber of Commerce (AHK) has enabled us to build networks with organisations that contribute to our ongoing progress in Australia.

What are your thoughts about remote working technologies, mandating vaccines and supporting staff?

Remote working is here to stay. While many of us shared an initial reluctance at the start of the pandemic, if a business was functioning when people worked from home, we soon found out that not only did the business remain functional but certain elements excelled. At Weidmüller we try to work together based on trust, and an extreme situation like the pandemic has shown that the investment we made in our company culture was repaid by our employees. So, in short, remote work is here to stay, and these days we leave it up to our line managers to discuss with each individual when to work from home or attend site.

We should not forget the colleagues who worked in production, the warehouse and the workshop and did have to come to the site. Their contribution was massive during the lockdowns, and we believe as a team we came out of the pandemic in better shape than going into it.

Public health advice to date states that vaccination is the most effective way to prevent the serious illness caused by COVID. While we have of course implemented measures such as mask-wearing, social distancing and optimised ventilation to help in managing the risk, we believe in a vaccination mandate. We take our duty of care for our employees seriously, and I believe it is impossible to protect unvaccinated employees effectively.

Is your company working on decarbonisation strategies or net-zero goals to mitigate the effects of climate change in 2022?

Renewable energy has become a core business sector for us. This is in particular pleasing as it allows us to be part of the needed energy transition and contribute to our social responsibilities while at the same time creating meaningful employment and business models. We see ourselves as part of an industry community that embraces and drives the needed energy transition rather than waiting for politics to catch up. At Weidmüller Australia we have a long track record in photovoltaic, which we are currently expanding to include solutions for wind turbine maintenance, battery management systems and hydrogen. So, when it comes to decarbonisation, we feel we are right at the centre of it!

Rafael Koenig is the Managing Director of Weidmüller Australia. He holds a degree in electrical engineering attained at the University of Paderborn, Germany and a master’s degree in Business and Technology from the University of NSW, Australia. Rafael has more than 25 years of experience in automation technology and innovation management in Australia and Germany.

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