3 Continents – 3 Locations - 12 Years
Interview Robert Faeller - CEO Schnitzer Group USA, Inc.
Robert Faeller has been working with Schnitzer Group since 2010. The trained Mold & Die maker started at our Kornwestheim location after he successfully graduated as a mechanical engineer. In 2014, he took the challenge to join our Schnitzer Consulting Shanghai location, to gain international experience. After two years, he was already appointed as the Local Director Shanghai. Spending 5 years in China, he continued his career path and growth in North America. In the position as CEO of Schnitzer Group USA Inc. in Charlotte (NC), he has been committed to further expanding successfully the US location and to strengthening its personnel.
1. You started your career in Germany, relocated to China and now you are based in North America. What was your motivation to work on 3 continents and with different cultures?
It has always been my goal to work abroad, as it runs in my family. The offer from China was a perfect timing in my career path, which also resonated my personal life goal. I didn't want to miss out the opportunity to further develop the still young Shanghai location, the Asian market, besides leaving my professional footprint behind. Four years later I was given the chance by Peter Schnitzer to become CEO North America, which I am very grateful for.
2. How did you come across Schnitzer Group at that time?
After graduating from my Mold & Die maker apprenticeship, I joined the technical college in the city of Augsburg (the capital of the world 😊 ). A Schnitzer Group job offer was posted at the bulletin board of the technical college. The position offered in project management caught my attention, since I was looking for an international work and life environment. Due to my professional education in Mold & Die making in combination with my engineering degree, it was a perfect match with the job requirement posted.
3. The Schnitzer Group has many experts in a wide variety of fields. Where is your specific knowledge?
I would consider myself an expert in the areas of tool management, injection molding process and maintenance. Furthermore, in areas of surface finishing plastic parts and additional value-added processes. Related technologies such as die casting, forming, welding and assembly of components are also part of my core competencies.
4. Business in Germany, China and in the US - how does it all come together?
First, the culture and language differences, were the first challenges, especially in China. Nevertheless, one should not neglect the cultural difference between Germany and the USA. New tools are still manufactured a lot in Asia for cost reasons. So, we were mainly involved in the design processes and tool manufacturing of the molds. These tools are usually re-located to the final production sites in the USA or Europe. When receiving mold in the U.S, our main job is to support sampling, optimization and production readiness. Knowledge and skills of the different cultures and markets help me in my daily business, especially in communicating and understanding the problems that arise.
5. Which service is primarily requested from the Schnitzer Group USA?
Currently we work in different areas such as tool management, maintenance & service management of tools, machines and production lines. In addition, also risk management in general and further in spare parts management, as many machines and production lines won´t source locally. We also accompany positions in ramp-up and interim management. We offer the above-described services not only in the USA, also in Mexico and Canada.
6. The Schnitzer Group SYSTEMIC Upgrade - how does this pay off for your customers?
Our clients have a "one face to the customer" contact person. Nevertheless, they enjoy full access to the Schnitzer team of experts, worldwide. We act independently, transparently and solution oriented. Through the "Schnitzer Group Spirit", #workingwithfriends (campus organization), the most diverse Schnitzer teams integrate quickly and easily into new project topics and situations. After 30 years, our global network is still constantly growing and paying off for our customers. The focus of our projects is always a systemic approach. We call this approach SYSTEMIC Upgrade. Our customers experience this as an effective added value in the collaboration.
7. What was your international highlight?
In China, my happiness was of a private nature. I met my wonderful wife, who was also an expat in Shanghai. My highlight from the USA time was not so long ago. At Christmas 2021 my family could finally visit me in the US after the Covid-19 crisis. From a business perspective, I have been very successful in developing business and customer relationships in the USA over the last 3 years. We achieved a strong growth of 150%, which makes me extremely proud and validates our business model.
8. Which experiences can't be taken away from you?
I am able to get to know different cultures and personalities and to learn their ways of acting and thinking. It is the virtue of listening, openness and tolerance towards other people and situations. In short - intercultural practical knowledge! These experiences are essential when dealing with a global business environment.
9. What do you appreciate most about the Schnitzer Group?
I really appreciate managing the company as CEO and taking personal responsibility for my tasks and projects. There is a flat hierarchy at the Schnitzer Group, which allows a great deal of creative freedom in many areas and thus also promotes personal development. Furthermore, living and working in an international environment is very appealing to me, as the Schnitzer Group is spread over three continents. Global company - with a family spirit.
10. What is your business goal for the next few years in the USA?
I have the goal of further growth of business, taking into account all the interrelationships with acquisition, gaining new customers, etc. Consolidation of the US location and expansion of the internal Schnitzer Group organization with global networking.
Ulrike Schnitzer, May 2023