Change is something many people and organizations fear. But what should be more worrisome is what would happen without change.
While there are those in rubber-related industries who say sometimes the business is too slow to evolve, it is a good exercise to look back 10 or 20 years and see how different things are. From new markets to new technologies, to new ways of solving problems for customers, most will see evidence of massive change—some for the worse but much for the better.
The look of the work force also is becoming much different, with the Gen-X and Millennial generations making their way in the work world.
In many ways, the younger generations are the least fearful of change, having grown up in an era where everything changes at a lightning-fast pace. But the ability and willingness to embrace change, though, isn't necessarily reserved for those early in their careers.
Take Andreas Gerstenberger of ContiTech A.G. He spent 21 years working in parent company Continental A.G.'s tire operations.
After two decades with the German-based firm, the last thing he expected was to be leading the company's global industrial fluid conveyance unit in the U.S. He certainly didn't think he'd find the hose business exciting, but after spending close to a year learning the business, visiting operations and seeing the enthusiasm of the staff, to say he has been pleasantly surprised would be an understatement.
Continental is a prime example of a 140-year old company that is unafraid to reinvent itself. Once entirely focused on the tire and rubber sector, Conti then made acquisitions that molded it into one of the largest automotive OEM suppliers in the world, with most of it not focusing on rubber.
Then, when it determined the company was too heavily dependent on automotive, Conti began making moves to ensure its industrial business eventually will equal automotive. At a meeting of executives earlier this year, Gerstenberger said Conti on one hand was celebrating its most successful year ever, and on the other was listening to its CEO caution that if it kept doing business the way it did now, that would mean problems in the future.
Technology will continue to drive change. Just look at what is happening in the automotive industry, where the next generation of vehicles always seemed to be way off in the distant future. But with new developments being driven by non-automotive firms such as Google, the age of autonomous vehicles now seems just over the horizon.
When things are bad, everyone sees the need to change. That was true during the Great Recession, born largely out of the need to survive. When times are good, however, is when businesses need to be look closely at their operations and chart a new, bolder strategy designed to ensure future success.