Interview with Thais Schleiffer, General Manager at Wöhner Brazil

Let's talk about Brazil. Why is the country a good choice for a production site? What is the most important argument? 
Until 1990, the Brazilian market was closed to imports. That is why technical partnerships with European companies were established – and local production was carried out under license. To this day, import duties are still quite high. Therefore, it still makes sense to produce in the country, even though a lot has changed in the last decades. 

When people think of Brazil, they first think of jungles and megacities like Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo. How can we imagine the site from Wöhner's point of view?
Our site is located in Boituva, a city with about 50,000 residents, which lies about 100 kilometres west of São Paulo. Our production facilities, warehouses and offices are located here and take up about 5,000 square metres. More than 40 people are employed at the site and make an important contribution to Wöhner's product portfolio. 

What were the main hurdles to overcome when Wöhner first set up at the site?  
When Wöhner took over Holec in 2018, it meant above all the change from a local to a multinational company. In that context, there were a lot of changes – and on several levels: the general way of thinking and approaching things, the concrete management requirements and also the complexity of the business. 

The main products manufactured here are switches. What makes their production so special? 
The switch-disconnector is an important safety component in power distribution systems and is suitable for a lot of applications. Quality is the most important factor here in order to guarantee performance at all times during the commissioning of systems.

Which three tips do you have for users of the new switch family? Why should users choose the new CAPUS® product family? 
The CAPUS® range is a very mature product line that has been manufactured and used in Brazil for many years. We also produce under brand names for other multinational companies. This means that we hold a full 50 per cent of the local market. Customers appreciate the quality and reliability of the products. Because reliability is what it's all about with switch-disconnectors – as well as the widest possible range of accessories. Of course, it hurts neither that the solutions also look good – a clear distinguishing feature of Wöhner products.

Boituva is not only a production site, but also a site for development. What is typical about the work on new products? What is the most exciting aspect about it?
The topic of product development is especially close to my heart. We develop products from scratch, and from my point of view, that's what makes it exciting and what's attractive about engineering. Of course, we also need employees who know the company well and have the relevant know-how that is needed in the R&D area. 

What personal significance does the competence centre in Brazil have for you, what opportunities do you see in it? 
Innovations and investment in more efficient product technologies enable us to survive in the market in the long term. For example, we want to more than double our turnover in the next few years. Due to our 40 years of experience in the production of switch-disconnectors and our brilliant engineering team, the establishment of a competence centre for such products is only a natural step for the Wöhner Group. Besides China and the USA, Brazil is Wöhner's latest R&D resource outside of Germany. This allows us to develop even smarter solutions for individual needs – for Brazil, but also for the international markets.
In the future, we want to produce even more items here in Brazil to serve as a reliable source of pioneering solutions for potential customers worldwide. 

The topic of production depth – how do you secure your supply chains? 
We are very vertically positioned, so that we have control over the entire production process from raw materials to the final product. This not only gives us a certain degree of security, but also allows us to respond particularly strongly to customer-specific requirements and offer corresponding solutions.

In its corporate philosophy, Wöhner paints a clear picture of what is meant by partnership in the company. So how do you deal with your service providers, suppliers and partners in the supply chain? 
We have always seen our suppliers and service providers as true partners and still do to this day. Basically, it is about dealing with each other in a respectful manner that always has the joint creation of value in mind. Only if we all work hand in hand can we be successful in the long term. 

A final question on a trending issue right now: Do you act differently as a woman? If so, where do you deviate from the methods of your male colleagues? 
The mechanical and electrical engineering industry is definitely a male-dominated environment. But that does not mean that women do not have a chance here. In our case, my colleagues provided me with comprehensive support, so that I was very quickly aware of the products and their areas of application. This kind of culture corresponds perfectly with Wöhner's corporate philosophy.

Wöhner GmbH & Co. KG
Elektrotechnische Systeme
Mönchrödener Str. 10
96472 Rödental



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