News and things worth knowing

New ERP system for optimized processes

Mittelstand-Digital Zentrum Rheinland supports Krahnen GmbH with service modules

A separate system for purchasing. Another for accounting. Partly paper-based processes. And a warehouse management that is not yet fully digitized. It was clear to Krahnen GmbH that there was no consistent system support. When looking for the right merchandise management software, the manufacturer of industrial vacuum cleaners used the services of the Mittelstand Digital Zentrum Rheinland and developed a TARGET process via a process recording, in which the technical requirements for the new ERP system are clearly formulated.

It all started with a company consultation on the phone: Simon Alker, operations manager at Krahnen GmbH, introduced the Cologne-based medium-sized company, described problems and challenges and formulated goals and wishes. The digitization experts of the Mittelstand Digitale Zentrum Rheinland explained solutions and best practices from other companies as well as the methods with which the center supports small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in digitization.

Develop a common understanding of the process

"Then we recorded the entire company process," explains Martin Welsing, research associate at the WZL Aachen and AI trainer at the Mittelstand-Digital Zentrum Rheinland. During an on-site potential analysis, all process steps were recorded together with representatives of Krahnen GmbH, potentials were identified and visualized on a six meter long piece of paper. "In this phase, we consciously work with pen and paper," explains Welsing. "That promotes a common understanding of the process." Only then were the results plotted and digitized - as the basis for a second day of the workshop.

From the ACTUAL to the TARGET process

"After the ACTUAL process had been described in detail, the focus was on the TARGET process," Martin Welsing looks back. A work step that can be implemented particularly successfully if the preparatory work is right. "If I describe the problem precisely, the solution is no longer that difficult," says the digitization expert. "That's why we attach so much importance to a clear recording and description of the initial situation and problem situation."

Formulate requirements clearly

Together with those responsible and employees of the company, the team from Aachen looked for solutions for every potential: Where do interfaces between departments have to be created? How can more transparency be achieved? Which processes are to be automated? And how can personal knowledge be made accessible to everyone? At the end of two workshop days, the TARGET process was in place with all the requirements that Krahnen GmbH places on its future ERP system - and all the solutions that it expects.

The view from the outside

"With this basis, the company can acquire and integrate the merchandise management system that is optimally tailored to its needs," says Martin Welsing, who knows that many SMEs have problems describing the initial situation and requirements.

“Often the view from the outside is missing. This is very helpful for "uncovering" and optimizing entrenched work processes." A support that Simon Alker from Krahnen GmbH also appreciates very much: "The support of the Mittelstand-Digital Zentrum Rheinland was exactly what we needed, to find a new merchandise management system that meets our requirements.”

April 2022
Clever minds work here - that's us!

"I'm an intern here, but my opinion is heard and valued."

Raphael is doing his technical college entrance qualification at the vocational college in Leverkusen. He does the one-year student internship, which he also completes at the same time, at the Krahnen GmbH plant. The company has locations in Bergisch Gladbach and Cologne and manufactures industrial vacuum cleaners.

Although they also have something of a vacuum cleaner like the ones we use at home, the vacuum cleaners from cranes are used in potentially explosive areas. So they don't suck up fluff and dust, but, for example, petrol, kerosene, acids or alkalis. The company therefore ensures that people in other companies can work safely at their workplace.

Raphael discovered and found the internship at Krahnen through friends. He has been there for six months now and is getting to know all sorts of commercial areas. We met him at Krahnen.

What do you particularly enjoy about your internship?

In fact, it is the work itself that I particularly enjoy. I learn a lot of new things and learn a lot about the world of work. I haven't had a lot of experience with that yet, so that helps me a lot. The team here is really great. You always support each other. I'm an intern here, but my opinion is heard and valued.

What does your working day at Krahnen look like?

I arrive in the morning, boot up my PC, check my e-mails, do general fixed tasks that I have and otherwise I talk to colleagues and see what needs to be done for the day. There's always something to do here.

Do you have fixed areas in which you work?

I'm changing departments in the company. Of course, it depends on what needs to be done and where. But I can also help shape it. If I say now, for example, that I don't want to go into purchasing at all, then that will be accepted here and I can support in the area where I would like to get involved and what I personally find exciting.

Have you done internships before?

Yes, I did various other internships in manual trades beforehand.

What worries you most when it comes to your own career choice?

Of course, what I will or would like to do professionally in the end. For a long time it was unclear to me where I wanted to go. It's still not entirely clear to me at the moment. The internship now also helps me to find out again whether I want to work in the commercial area or not.

Doing internships in different areas definitely helps me personally with this decision. For example, in eighth grade we had careers exploration, where we looked at different jobs. It also helps me to get information on the internet. I find information days at school helpful, where not just one job is presented, but where many jobs are presented and you can get more information from the companies you are interested in.

In your opinion, what should change in career orientation? What would make it easier for you to start your professional life?

Sometimes I find it difficult because many employers expect us young people to have a lot of experience that we simply don't have. And I think it would be so much easier if we could all be more honest with each other. If it is enough to send an "honest" CV as it is. I don't like it when I have to present my resume as if I'm the best at everything just so that it looks interesting and doesn't end up in the trash.
I would find it so much easier if employer expectations were a little more realistic given what I can bring to the table as a young person at my age.

Ever thought about it?

"I would find it so much easier if employer expectations were a little more realistic, given what I can bring to the table as a young person at my age."

What have you learned about working life during your internship so far?

Above all, dealing with the various colleagues. And, of course, what it's like and what it feels like to work eight hours a day. You don't have a single task, so you finish it at home like you do at school and then do the next task. You always have tasks that continue. In general, you just get to know how things work in working life on a daily basis.

Did anything surprise you? For example, is something different than you imagined?

Well, I didn't have any really clear ideas beforehand. However, I was definitely surprised that, as an intern, I am heard and valued in what I do. I am also entrusted with important tasks. I hadn't really expected that. It's like that here, I'm entrusted with these tasks, I can always ask questions, I can always freely say what I think and mean.

Do you already have an idea of what to do after your internship here?

Then it's on to school. My plan at the moment is to do the general Abitur after the Fachabi and then I'll think about whether I'll study or start an apprenticeship. That's not entirely clear to me yet.

How do you perceive the way the people here at Krahnen treat each other?

So it's always respectful. You can also have fun together. It's a very family environment. That is also very important to me. Of course, there are sometimes disagreements and then it's about representing one's own point of view, but that's quickly clarified among each other.

What advice would you give to other young people?

Career orientation and career choice is not always easy. I think it's important to find something that you enjoy and enjoy yourself. Because when you have a job that you don't enjoy, you spend a lot of your time doing something that annoys you.
I would also advise being open-minded towards colleagues, new tasks and other things that professional life entails. I also think it's important to develop social skills, otherwise you won't get any further personally. It is also helpful to learn to become more and more independent. Because in working life you can't always be taken by the hand.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I do a lot of sports in my free time. That's a good balance for me. Since I only have school two days a week at the moment and am at work three days, the homework is manageable and I have enough free time. I also find social contacts super important, i.e. spending time with my friends.

What are your working hours like during your internship?

I work at the company Monday to Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and I am at school on Thursday and Friday.


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March 2022
Camera instead of doorbell cleaning

Krahnen is retiring the vacuum cleaner representative, putting him two steps ahead of the competition in the corona pandemic

The Krahnen company from the Rheinisch-Bergisch district only sells its industrial vacuum cleaners digitally - from a modern studio. There you will find all current events and find out all the important information for your extraction systems.

It's the typical image that comes to mind when you think of a vacuum cleaner company: the nice salesman who rings the doorbell to demonstrate his product and, at best, to bring it to the man or woman. Vacuum cleaner companies are considered experts when it comes to unexpected home visits. "We're not! We do not do that! We are very different,” says Simon Alker with determination. Alker is operations manager at the Krahnen company based in Cologne and Bergisch Gladbach.

The family business Krahnen produces and sells vacuum cleaners - but not the classic vacuum cleaner, but industrial vacuum cleaners, especially for the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. "The purely physical principle is still: I suck up something and put it in somewhere - i.e. I clean away dirt. But we do that for any kind of problematic media. It can be acids or bases, it can be active ingredients in medicines, it can be kerosene or petrol,” explains Simon Alker.

The vacuum cleaner salesman has had its day

For four years, the company has completely dispensed with sales in the field. A company for vacuum cleaners - without a representative who drives through the country? Can this work? Simon Alker says: "Yes! But the decision four years ago was not easy. You think to yourself: if I no longer have sales, I no longer have the heart of my company.”

In the early days of the company, the junior boss Guido Garnies toured Germany with the prototype of the first explosion-proof floor cleaning machine he designed himself in a station wagon to demonstrate his vacuum cleaner to the big chemical companies.

Nevertheless, together with operations manager Simon Alker, he switched sales completely to digital in 2018 - at the time when Corona was not yet known. Before the conversion, the Krahnen company had a whole sales team in the field, including a sales manager, who toured Germany and visited the companies - the classic door-to-door job. “When the sales manager left the company, we saw it as an opportunity. We said we'll do it differently now.

We no longer do on-site demonstrations. Anyway, we can't do cold calls for large chemical companies because you can't get to the factory premises without an appointment," says Simon Alker. In addition, it is difficult and expensive to transport a hundred products in a van through Germany. Hence the radical step at Krahnen: "We're going to do it digitally now!" A risk for the company, but a logical step given Krahnen's standing on the market. "We have always been pioneers in the industry," confirms Alker.

Online presentation via Zoom and Co.

For his presentations, Krahnen has set up a large training center of over 100 square meters in Bergisch Gladbach-Refrath, where all Krahnen products are available as demonstration devices. The vacuum cleaner is demonstrated to the customer via teams, Zoom and Co. and then discussed together as to what fits best. "When it comes to the disposal of problematic substances, everyone knows that you can buy it at the Krahnen," says Simon Alker.

Customers ask Krahnen about it, receive advice over the phone, send pictures of production or data sheets of the materials that need to be disposed of. “A factory fire brigade was a classic case recently. They have a container for hazardous substances and alkalis - there are a total of 35 different substances on the factory premises. And they have a corresponding pick-up container on which there is a defined place where our vacuum cleaner should go, which should then suck up the alkalis and acids. We then develop proposed solutions,” explains the operations manager.

The suggestions are then presented to the customer digitally: That works very well, says Alker: "But you also have to pick up the customer digitally, convey security and support them. That requires a certain instinct.” In the meantime, the company has set up a real studio with special microphones and a special camera in its showroom in Refrath, in order to perfect the experience for the customer.

Benefiting from the pandemic

Before the corona pandemic, a little persuasion was sometimes needed to convince customers, who were used to traditional on-site salespeople, of a digital presentation. "Frequently, after the video presentation, people said, 'Come by anyway'," says Simon Alker.

And then came the pandemic. And the Krahnen company was prepared: With digitization, the company had laid the foundations early enough to continue to reach customers. Of course, the target markets also played into the company's hands: A pharmaceutical or chemical company could not simply be sent into lockdown, so the target group of the products remained the same. In addition, digital communication has established itself and with it the customer's approval, says Alker: "Working from home has become normal and even my grandmother can now deal with teams.

Accordingly, our digital demonstrations are now very well received by customers!” The competition also recognizes this, says von Krahnen. Market competitors are now struggling with the problems that Krahnen solved four years ago with their digital operating channels. "They are now also oriented towards us and are becoming more digital."

The modern salesperson becomes a moderator
While the competition is working on digitization, Krahnen has now perfected it. This changes the sales task of the employees: “The strengths of sales people in the classic sense are interacting with people and also reading the reactions. Which of course is completely different with a camera. The focus is now much more on the product that we are presenting than on the human customer-salesperson component,” says Simon Alker.

That's why every employee at Krahnen - regardless of whether it's sales, technology or accounting - is 'dubbed' to vacuum the workshop once a month with a Krahnen vacuum cleaner: "Where do I put the hose, what do I do with the cable and the on/off switch is actually on the wrong side – you only notice a lot of things when you use the device yourself,” laughs Alker.

In the end, the product or explanatory videos that Krahnen produces for dealers or end customers also benefit from this. “It used to work like this in the classic demonstration: I hold my hand in front of the suction cup and it sucks in half my sleeve. And the customer is immediately enthusiastic about the power and wants the device! But I don't feel this power of the suction cup in an online presentation - instead, other aspects that the modern salesperson presents to the customer are now coming into focus.

For example, how easy it is to disassemble a vacuum cleaner to clean it or where you can store quality documents on the device,” explains Alker. Safety always comes first for Krahnen, because explosive substances are a matter of human lives. If the vacuum cleaner is in use and questions arise, Krahnen continues to accompany his customers digitally via video conferences in order to support the customer. We have a great responsibility, says Simon Alker: "That's why we don't have an online shop. Because security is not sold via an online shop.”

Support from the Smart Minds specialist initiative

The requirement profile at Krahnen has changed completely for its own employees – especially for employees in sales. The classic sales employee has had its day at Krahnen: "We need young people who grew up with digital media, who are tech-savvy and can interact with a camera," says the operations manager. Krahnen also benefits from the Smart Minds specialist campaign here.

Simon Alker emphasizes that the regional power of many small individuals can generate much more reach and attention: “As a medium-sized company, we are in competition with large, well-known companies when it comes to employee recruitment. The young people who are motivated often don't even know that Krahnen exists. Digital distribution like ours doesn't exist anywhere else. Of course, I also have to draw attention to this in order to reach potential young employees.”

Simon Alker hopes that the balancing act of technological innovation driver and modern innovation driver with regard to digitization will continue to work well at Krahnen. There is currently a generation change in the company and the associated search for workers - the biggest challenge of the pandemic, says operations manager Simon Alker. “Who knows what the future will bring, what steps we will have to take. But the past has shown that it often pays off to take a bold step and dare to do something.” As a result, Krahnen has successfully shaken off the vacuum cleaner representative image.

February 2021
GL contact technical article

The specialist for contaminated industrial floors

With its industrial vacuum cleaners, Krahnen is the market leader for cleaning technology in explosion-proof areas!

As soon as you enter the production halls, the viewer notices the stainless steel products that gleam in the neon light. Cleanliness and purity are the top priority here.

KRAHNEN when it comes to safety!

Not surprising - these are the daily topics of work at the agenda of the Krahnen company, the market leader for cleaning technology in potentially explosive areas. For more than 50 years, the Cologne-based company with a production facility in Bergisch Gladbach has been a reliable partner for customers in the chemical, pharmaceutical, food, petrochemical and explosives industries. The company has established itself over the last 25 years as an extraction specialist for all types of problematic media, whether liquid, solid or gaseous. Krahnen customers benefit from the selected quality of highly complex components, all of which are produced in Germany, from comprehensive services and from know-how recognized worldwide. "It is not uncommon for our company boss Guido Garnies to be asked about particularly problematic solutions, such as the cleaning of toxically contaminated industrial floors," reports Plant Manager Simon Alker. Last but not least, his work in various European standards committees is responsible for the extensive knowledge of the enterprising company boss. It almost goes without saying that I have the company audited and certified by a wide variety of institutions in order to guarantee the customer the greatest possible security.

Above all, Krahnen's clientele appreciates the advantages of the integrated overall solutions from a single source, the reliability of the 35 employees and the comprehensive services that guarantee customers comprehensive advice even after the purchase has been made. Another integral part of the company philosophy is the longevity of the products. There are a number of Krahnen vacuum cleaners that have been reliably serving customers for more than 25 years. It is inevitable that one or the other wear part breaks. No problem: Krahnen's well-assorted spare parts warehouse ensures that there are no unnecessary and therefore costly downtimes in the customer's production. Prompt delivery a matter of course. Last but not least, the responsible employees of the house attach great importance to sustained communication with the customer. "Only in constant exchange with customers and the market can we successfully meet the current challenges and offer "best in class" products that guarantee high profitability," says Alker, describing one of the recipes for success of the specialist for industrial vacuum cleaners from the Rhineland.