SESOTEC – PACKAGING FOR TODAY
Sesotec provides sensor-based detection and sorting solutions and services in the centre of Germany, Bavaria. The business works with global entities in the food, plastic, and recycling industries. It’s an industry sector that is becoming ever-more important. We learn about Sesotec’s transformation from an equipment manufacturer to a service provider.
“Obviously we have a growing population that needs food, so this is driving our business in the food industry. In the plastics and recycling industries, due to the increasing environmental awareness of customers and consumers, people are more in favour of recycled products,” says Marc Setzen, the firm’s Managing Director. “So those two trends, alongside food safety, are driving our business and with the increased demand for a circular economy we’re positioned well.”
Sesotec is positioned to take advantage of this positive market environment as an older and more established company that still has some new tricks up its sleeves.
“What is unique about us is that on the one hand, we’re a 40-year-old company, but we act like a start-up due to our size so we can provide customer-specific solutions tailored to their needs,” Setzen explains. “We’re doing it in a modular way with just-in-time delivery as quickly as any start-up solution.”
While Sesotec is perfectly positioned to ride the zeitgeist, for Setzen this isn’t just about money.
“We are a company whose purpose is that we want to do our part in making the world better,” he says simply. “Being particular with that, food waste is an ethical problem, but on the other hand, it’s not just ethical it’s a business problem. Food waste is just as unproductive as machine downtime.”
Fortunately, this is one of those rare occasions where ethical and business concerns come together.
“In the end, there are purely financial benefits as well,” Setzen says. “The ethical and financial concerns drive each other.”
An Emotional Connection
However, although Sesotec is well positioned for the challenges facing the food, plastics and recycling sectors right now, they are still in a challenging market.
“Our machine is not tackling any emotional feeling on the customer side. No customer says, ‘I always wanted an x-ray on a production site’,” Setzen concedes. “So you can’t sell the product itself you have to create a different narrative and market the benefits you’re offering.”
It’s a challenge that’s symptomatic of the way marketing is changing across the entire industry.
“Back in the old days, it was about selling technology. You would explain the technology to the customer and it was a pure technical sale,” Setzen tells us. “Now you don’t sell technology, you sell a solution to a problem and this requires your entire marketing approach to be more about value selling and indirect marketing.”
It’s an environment that has driven Sesotec to completely rethink their approach to the market.
“We’re currently changing our slogan and the big picture we provide about what we’re doing,” Setzen explains. “Our company culture focused with an emphasis on three value drivers- collaboration, simplification and innovation. This is something we implement in every employee’s brain. Collaboration is integral to how we deal with one another internally as well as how we interact with suppliers and customers. This is something we see is appreciated by customers and suppliers. If you talk about Generation Y, they want to be part of something, and we provide that. Simplification is how to make complex things easier. How do we make customers’ lives easier? They don’t buy our machines because they want the machine, they need the solution. We help them make it as easy and as simple as possible.”
The final ingredient, innovation, is one that is never far away from Sesotec’s thoughts.
“Innovation is something that normally goes without saying for us,” Setzen says. “But after 40 years it’s important to challenge the status quo continuously.”
Future Leaders, Future Workers
Of course, continuously challenging the status quo is not the work of one generation, and Sesotec invests heavily in ensuring there is a constant flow of new talent into the company.
“One big challenge all companies are facing is that we really need experienced workers. Getting experts on the engineering side, even in manufacturing is quite difficult these days,” Setzen admits. “It’s not getting easier to find those people particularly where we are located.”
Despite Sesotec’s relatively small size, the company has over 30 apprentices.
“Where we need skilled workers, we have our own apprenticeship programmes, train people over three years and 99.9% of those will be employed afterwards,” Setzen says. “With universities besides the normal things companies will do with students, we’re using them within running projects. We use them in development projects because its more interesting for them and it’s good for us as well because it gives us a better view of the candidate.”
As well as bringing in new talent, Sesotec works to support the talent they already have. The company has seen candidates starting out working in the mechanical arena then find they’re suitable for more so Sesotec supports them in their studies.
“They’re partially working in the company, partially at the university and we support such a programme. It’s win-win for both of us,” explains Setzen. “But the important thing is in the past you invested in talent for future leaders, now you invest in talent to have better workers as well.”
Home is Where the Heart is
Looking forward, Sesotec is planning to grow and become more visible, while continuing its current transformation.
Setzen tells us, “We’re in the transition from a machine supplier to a solution provider, and through all this that has been something where we’re evolving. We already have some good offerings on the table. We will be quite busy over the course of the next year with elements like artificial intelligence introduced to our machines. Part of that transformation is that it will enable us to stay in the geographic area where we are currently based.
This is important to Setzen, as Sesotec’s location in the heart of the Bavarian forest is, he feels, a crucial part of the company’s identity.
“We started as an owner-funded company. It started in the Bavarian forest simply because the founders were here, but the majority of our workers have an average of 20 years with the company,” he says. “If this is your heritage you don’t change it overnight. For the people living here within a small radius of the facility. So this is a given, but we developed that weakness into a strength. This is a big brand promise. The workers have fully identified themselves with the company and the challenges we have.”