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Thomas Schöpf has been the Sales Director at Plasser & Theurer since 1st January 2019. We have asked our new CSO for an interview.

Thomas Schöpf
CSO, Plasser & Theurer

Our aim is to be the leading supplier of systems for all track construction and maintenance in future. Our expanded customer support and our product innovations in the areas of PlasserSmartMaintenance and in particular of digitalisation of track maintenance will contribute to this.

You have been working here for about eight months now. What are your first impressions?
Many friends and even customers have congratulated me on my new job because Plasser & Theurer has an excellent reputation in Austria and also internationally. By now I know from personal experience that they are completely correct with this assessment. The existing know-how and the enthusiasm in this company are an incredible basis for future success.

What are the principles to which you will shape your division in future?
If I may answer your question with another question: Who pays our salaries at Plasser & Theurer?

The customers?
Absolutely correct! And that is the answer to your question. Our customers must be at the centre of what we do. The customers pay our salaries, and we have an obligation to them and their success. Our sales department must be close to the product and close to the customer. In future, we will sell our complete product portfolio (Machine Fleet Infrastructure) via one sales process and cooperate very closely with our partner companies abroad. It matters to me very much that in future we offer our customers the best customer support in addition to the best machine.

What are you thinking of specifically?
Closer to the customer: For this, we have defined five world regions as a first organisational step which will in future be led by regional managers. They are responsible for the sale of new machines as well as for customer support. The objective is clear: to offer the customer one contact for the complete portfolio.

Closer to the product: Our product management, which has also been newly set up, will ensure not only that we manufacture the best products, but also make our sales staff technically fit for sales and that we support the sales process energetically with experts worldwide.

Keyword Customer Support: Over the last few years, Plasser & Theurer has increased its offering in this area substantially. Do you see a need for further action here?
Yes, I do. You must not forget that our machines are in use for decades. Many have a working life of more than 30 years! This is something remarkable in our fast-moving times. It puts us, as the manufacturer, under an obligation to provide a customer support organisation which can support our machines over their complete life cycle, and this worldwide.

Plasser & Theurer already offers such a lot in this area: the worldwide service network together with partner companies, the spare parts supply from Linz and the service engineers. What additional options do you see for possible improvements?
Of course, we already have the structures in place; now we need to optimise them. For example, the service network: As one of my first activities, I visited some of our service sites and I now know that we must expand these. Together with our partner companies, we will develop regional service hubs with an infrastructure which ensures optimum local support. Regarding the supply of spare parts: We have carried out an ABC analysis and have come to the conclusion that the 500 most important parts must be available within two days in future. And finally our service engineers: In future, we will allocate our staff according to their qualifications to three levels, and this will ensure that we can provide the service engineer with the optimum qualification for each job. To expand our pool of professionals, we are currently training eleven new staff at PMC (international training centre in Leverkusen, Germany). Moreover, we are currently drawing up a best practice documentation which will help us to utilise regional expertise worldwide. This will again increase the quality standard of our service engineers.

Plasser & Theurer has recently started to offer the general overhaul of tamping units at a fixed price. What is the situation with similar service programmes for complete machines?
We will roll out a service package with VEDO this year which comprises all services required to return a machine to top condition within the scope of the first general overhaul. The machine audits required to determine the condition of a machine will be actively promoted by us. It will certainly be of interest to our customers that these audits will be carried out free of charge for the first two machines of a fleet.

Is the second-hand machine market of interest to Plasser & Theurer?
We say that we want to support the machines over their complete life cycle, and therefore second-hand use is of course of interest to us. We are currently analysing the market, but can see already that we can offer useful services as an agent due to our knowledge of potential purchasers. In addition, we are expanding our global offering for retrofitting and upgrades. These contributions increase the value of second-hand machines.

Mr Schöpf, a general question at the end. Plasser & Theurer has been the leading manufacturer of track maintenance machines worldwide for decades. Will this change in future?
Definitely! We will extend this position, our aim is to be the leading supplier of systems for all track construction and maintenance operations in future. Our expanded customer support and our product innovations in the areas of PlasserSmartMaintenance and in particular of digitalisation of track maintenance will contribute to this.

Thank you for your time.