When Kampmann started some four years ago systematically developing its “Hotel air conditioning” section, market leadership was wishful thinking as well as a major impetus for Martin Giese and Sascha Klimansky, both responsible for the project.
The fact that they achieved their major objective and almost “by the way” conquered yet another market, is almost a sensation. They tell us here how it all came about. Our interview takes place at the "Looken Inn", a four-star hotel in Lingen’s town centre opened in 2016 – and, of course, equipped with Kampmann air conditioning. We take a seat in the lobby and order a cup of coffee. Our prepared questions soon become superfluous as we end up having a lively conversation in which Martin Giese and Sascha Klimansky come over as being a seriously humorous team. No wonder: both started their apprenticeships with Kampmann back in 1993 on the same day and came together again after pursuing different career paths to conquer the hotel market. Both needed to make coffee as a typical trainee job. The jointly brewed "beverage" did not meet colleagues’ expectations so it was probably the last coffee that the young Giese and Klimansky made during their apprenticeship – time for more important things. Their cooperation and the one or other’s unconventional approach are still decisive factors for the success of the Kampmann hotel team.
Mr Giese, can you enter a hotel without immediately checking out the air conditioning?
Martin Giese: No way. That's what we call the "Kampmann illness", namely immediately looking around as soon as you enter a public building, and not just hotels. Do they have one of our entrance mats? What air conditioning have they fitted? It’s literally in our blood.
Sascha Klimansky: So much so that our wives get really annoyed. We head out for a pleasant shop and the husband has nothing better to do than look for the Kampmann logo in the entrance matting and check whose door air curtains have been installed.
Do you still know which Kampmann products were installed here in the Looken Inn?
Giese: Obviously! Venkon fan coils are installed in the bedrooms and here in the lobby (Martin Giese points under the ceiling), but KaCool D ceiling cassettes were also used in the breakfast area.
Klimansky: And not forgetting the entrance matting!
The Looken Inn is a very small project for Kampmann. Lingen air conditioning technology has now gone international and is now installed in some of the world’s best hotels, such as the "Schloss Elmau Retreat", where the last G7 summit was held. It is thanks to you both that this is the case. When did you start specialising in hotels?
Giese: (he thinks) Hm - probably four years ago now ...
Not longer? Are you sure?
Giese: Kampmann has been installed in hotels for much longer. But that was then often hit or miss. Simply the fact that our field sale team had contact with the relevant consulting engineers and heating contractors. Back then, Kampmann was mainly associated with trench heating and not as much with fan coils.
Klimansky: And it was through trench heaters that we got into hotels. Floor-to-ceiling glazing is primarily used in the lobby areas in front of which Katherm are then installed. And so every now and then we were able to sell a few fan coils. But it was never the case that we equipped 200 or 250 bedrooms with Venkon fan coils like we do now.
And a targeted business then emerged from these random orders. How did this come about?
Giese: It all started with a conversation with our Sales Director Stefan Reisch. Before we specialised in hotels, I looked after retail chains at Kampmann – markets like Lidl, Aldi, Rewe and so on. These are projects that you approach very conceptually. And so together we considered whether you can transfer this integrated approach to hotels too. We then carried out some market analysis, prepared ourselves and then attended the Hotel Forum in Munich in 2012 where absolutely no one knew us. We had a small folding stand, brochures, business cards – and by the end of the trade fair we had entered the hotel sector!
Klimansky: However, it took a while, we needed time to understand this highly complex construct "hotel construction". And we were lucky that the management placed their trust in us – we were both a risky investment. After all, there was already a market for hotel air conditioning, a saturated market at that. And it was a huge challenge to gain market share at all. It was extremely difficult firstly to understand just how this market works, what connections and networks there are and then to get in there.
How did you manage that?
Klimansky: Udo Scheyk, our Head of Customer Management, advised us: You have to turn it into a brand! The rest comes later. So we set to work developing the brand. How do we need to position ourselves? What gap do we need to fill?
Giese: We were always in the “trench heater” drawer with consulting engineers but not in the “fan coil” drawer. It was a major task to persuade consulting engineers and architects that we can also supply system solutions – from rooms, to chillers, central ventilation units, higher-level BMS control – and could do so well. But that was not enough. We also needed a USP to draw them in. And that was that we have the quietest unit on the market. But you can tell that story better, Sascha!
Klimansky: I’d be happy to! It's not that easy to sell a product produced in Germany that certainly does not fall into the low-price bracket. And that was where our ultra-low noise emissions came into their own. "Quieter would be off," was our advertising slogan at the time. However, the problem is actually a very different one: normally Kampmann adheres to a three-stage sales concept. But this clearly defined order does not work in the hotel sector. You have the owner of the property, investor, consulting engineer, architect, general contractor, possibly a franchisee… a multi-layered mesh that differs from project to project. First and foremost, you have to adjust your sales approach to this.
Giese: By chance, we then heard that a "Hotel Competence Centre” was to be built in Oberschleissheim near Munich. We then got in contact with the Managing Director on site, Mr Peter, and met him a short time later in Munich. We got on brilliantly with each other and decided to cooperate. Of course, at the time it could not be foreseen how quickly the Hotel Competence Centre would grow. Today, there are eleven different fully functioning hotel rooms there, a permanent exhibition and the ‘culinary’ world – a popular gathering place for anyone who wants to understand hotel construction in detail. And Kampmann is also in here. And that is also an important piece of the puzzle. That and trade fairs and networks: some are important and relevant, others not so. But we had to find everything out, and learn from our mistakes.
In specific terms, describe your working day?
Giese: Stressful – but also fulfilling!
Klimansky: When you think – we have more flying miles on the clock than kilometres in a car. That's saying a lot.
Giese: Having said that, in a nutshell: our work is a mixture of intense networking and traditional key account work. Strategic considerations with a new acquisition, preparations for the initial meeting, consultation and negotiation and, of course, maintaining the relationship with the customer. It takes a lot of tact and intuition – you can’t go in too aggressively! But Kampmann is a family company and its values also help us in our conversations with customers: in other words, openness, honesty, commitment. These values quickly help you to establish a relationship with a customer on a personal level. And that is also totally authentic from our point of view.
Klimansky: This is a costly, time-consuming process and a comprehensive overall concept. We’re often still at it in the evening and sometimes at weekends too. For instance at conventions or also at our Kampus training seminars where I often give a talk with colleagues and partners about hotel technology.
But now you are the market leader. Are you surprised at how quickly that has happened/
Giese: Not surprised – we have always believed in ourselves!
Klimansky: Obviously! (both laugh)
Giese: But seriously: we had real luck having the confidence of the management and also a fantastic team of people. It really is a strong team effort. Internal Sales, External Sales, Project Managers, Design and Development...we would never have made it without this team.
Klimansky: And, of course, above all we have a great product. Or much more than just one product. Kampmann isn't about offering different units that you can either buy or not – it’s much more about our advisory expertise and problem-solving strength. Hardly any product that leaves our factory is a standard product – almost everything is custom made, individually tailored to the respective project and integrated into an overall solution.
How does the air conditioning of hotels differ from other buildings?
Klimansky: The exciting thing about hotels is that they include simply every technology that you could imagine in a building. The industry essentially starts with the hotel bedrooms. That’s understandable. This is where the guests spend most time, where they need to feel at home and sleep in peace. And the most important point here is the interior climate. The air conditioning system needs to run when the guest needs peace and quiet i.e. when he’s sleeping. This is a crucial factor for a happy hotel guest.
You know yourself as a hotel guest: you check in, enter the room and either open the window or turn up the heating – which naturally doesn’t make sense in terms of energy conservation. Why is this so? And what is Kampmann's answer to this question?
Giese: Very good buzz word! That was our focus. But wait here just for a little while. I’ll be back in a moment.
Giese stands up, briefly speaks to someone at the front desk staff and returns.
Giese: Come with me! They’ll let us take a look at a couple of rooms.
We go with the member of staff up in a lift to the second floor. The Looken Inn only opened in the autumn of 2016. The hotel smells like a new car. We first enter a standard room. Outside it is just above zero degrees, whereas in the room it is pleasantly warm.
Klimansky: We use the key card to enter the room and have thereby signalled our presence to the building services system. It used to be the case that all power was switched off in a room when the guest was out. So when the guest entered, the room had to be completely heated or cooled and so the system needed to run flat out. It works differently today: if the room is booked, but the guest is not in the room, then the room is in what is called ‘Pre-comfort’ status. When the guest uses his card to enter the room, the room switches to ‘Comfort’ status. This means that the air conditioning system only needs to slightly adjust the temperature to provide a comfortable temperature in the room. And using EC technology enables us to limit the maximum speed of the fan coil and run it mostly in the mid-range. So when a guest enters the room, there is already a pleasant temperature that quickly becomes a perfect temperature – and does so with minimal noise emissions. To make the guest’s comfort perfect, I’d now like to look at the air flow. Let’s do so from the bed, which is where the guest spends most of the time. We absolutely want to avoid draughts. And we have a perfect example here.
Klimansky points upwards, where the fan coil’s air outlet is located right above the bed.
Usually you can avoid this kind of situation, as the air should not fall onto the bed. But it wasn’t possible to solve it structurally in any other way in this room. The air is discharged here directly above the bed. So the geometry of the air grille is very important. We have optimum opportunities to test various grilles in our Research & Development Centre. Let move onto another room where we will be able to see the classic installation situation.
The hotel member of staff opens the next door. We enter a suite.
Do you want to know what I call luxury? I know it’s a bit difficult from a data protection perspective. But when you spend a lot of time in hotels, you have your own personal favourites – man is a habitual animal. And were I to stay in a hotel where my preferred interior climate was stored in my booking software – that would be fantastic. And that’s sure to happen in the future.
We have a brief look around and return to the lobby. Four years from the start of the project to market leadership - an impressive performance. We produced more Venkon fan coils in 2016 in Lingen than ever before. The fact that Mr Giese and Klimansky, as Kampmann’s market ambassadors, have succeeded in also penetrating a cruise ship market is more than the icing on the cake.
How did you manage to secure the contract for the supply of over 20,000 air conditioning units for the cabins of cruise ships, without ever having produced a unit for a cruise ship before?
Klimansky: With a bit of luck and lots of enthusiasm and commitment.
Giese: Many factors came together. When we had the opportunity to develop a new business field, we looked at each other to consider whether it fits our remit and whether it is feasible at all. The answer was simple: What are cruise ships? Floating hotels!
Klimansky: Floating hotels with many rooms! (grins)
But the fact is that Kampmann previously had no experience with the air conditioning of cruise ships and clearly moved aside the established providers with these newly developed products. So again: how did you manage that?
Giese: As I said many factors came together. It was interesting that the impetus came from one of our good networking contacts who also supplies cruise ships as well as “normal” hotels. We had the good fortune or the skill to get to know the right people at the right time. Our regional proximity and our experience clearly played into our hands. But in the end it was also due to the fact that we "got on well", as they say.
Klimansky: But it certainly was a feat of strength! We had to be really committed and work so hard to get a foot in the door. The demands on the unit are completely different to those placed on units “on land”. But once again here, the Kampmann team did a great job: Fantastic interplay between almost all departments! We would have lost it without that.
Is it not just an adapted Venkon fan coil?
Klimansky: In God’s name, no! Without wanting to go into too much detail, a ship's cabin is technically completely differently to a normal hotel room. The ship and thus also the cabin is constantly in motion. The ship travels to the Tropics and then on to the Arctic. In heavy seas, passengers might need to spend the whole day in their cabins. The installation is completely different. So... the fan coil we developed for ship’s cabins is a completely new product development.
Giese: Once again our Research & Development Centre and its team did fantastic work. And so again we needed a massive leap of faith on the part of the Management, which had to release the funding for this new project. It was far from clear at this point that this investment would lead to the largest order in the company's history.
Now you spend a lot of time travelling the world with your job. How many nights sleep do you spend in hotels every year?
Klimansky: Personally, I would say that about 50 nights per year. Two days every other week. Around that. Martin possibly spends a little more.
Giese: Yes, I spend a few more nights away ...
Klimansky: So you see how often we are away from home. We couldn’t do this job as dads if we didn’t have the support of our families. And almost as important as this is the fact that Kampmann, as a family-owned business, also understands this situation.
And when you’re out on the road: do you make sure that the hotel is equipped with Kampmann technology?
Klimansky: Now we do. But at the start, we consciously booked different hotels. Almost to get an overview of the market.
Giese: Back then we almost took apart hotel rooms. Not like rock stars. But simply opened up the suspended ceiling and looked in to see how the technology in the room worked.
Klimansky: From a sales perspective, the hotel in which you are staying can be crucial. For example, if we are meeting the operator of a hotel chain in Vienna, then we should at all costs stay in one of his hotels. Because the question always arises about the hotel you are staying in.
Hotel market conquered. The shipping industry penetrated. Time to rest on this success and to manage what you have achieved?
Giese: That would be nice! We have to say that this entire project has taken a lot out of us. We didn’t have the grey hairs you now see on our heads four years ago ...
Klimansky: … which, of course, is not due to the fact that we have become older …
Giese: … no way! (Laughter) We were actually asked recently whether we would consider aircraft now ...
Klimansky: We definitely won’t be resting – it’s just not in our make-up.
Giese: No, there’s no rest for us – we owe that to our current customers.
ABOUT THE PERSON: SASCHA KLIMANSKY Sascha Klimansky first completed an apprenticeship as a technical draughtsman at Kampmann, then studied Supply Engineering, wrote his thesis and began working for a large Cologne-based consulting engineering firm. He subsequently worked as a project engineer before returning to Lingen and joining Kampmann.
ABOUT THE PERSON: MARTIN GIESE: Martin Giese also completed a commercial apprenticeship with Kampmann. After working in Internal Sales, he moved to field sales based in Bielefeld, to “sow his wild oats”, in his words. He returned to Lingen in 2001 and looked after the Retail Chains division, a Kampmann Key Account, as Department Manager and then later as Sales Manager.
Photos: Panorama Suite @ The Westin Hamburg