Customer Dialog Drives Sustainable Product Innovations

By Yvonne Benkert (MAN SE), MAN SE
12:37 PM, July 18, 2013

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MAN, Standards, Stakeholder

Stakeholders present companies with very different challenges. The MAN Group responds by inviting stakeholders to communicate their expectations and opinions. To this end, MAN conducts systemized surveys every year and discusses specific issues with selected stakeholders. As customers represent a very important stakeholder group for MAN and also have a major influence on whether efficient products are used, they are central to our corporate responsibility activities. In 2012 we further intensified our dialog with customers at the two leading trade fairs for our industry: IAA Commercial Vehicles and the SMM maritime trade fair.

As a global player in the field of transport-related engineering, MAN faces a variety of very different expectations from its stakeholders. Taking these into account builds trust and acceptance. The Company is therefore guided by the expectations and opinions of those stakeholders with whom it maintains a close relationship: customers and employees; suppliers and other business partners; analysts and investors; science and government; municipalities and NGOs. They give MAN important input for its corporate responsibility (CR) strategy, helping identify opportunities and risks, align products with customer needs, and harmonize business processes with the interests of society.

MAN conducts an intensive dialog with its stakeholders to exchange information and ideas and proactively learn about their requirements and expectations. Here the Company uses a variety of channels – from stakeholder and customer surveys to a presence at international trade fairs and joint research projects with universities.

The MAN Group

The MAN Group, headquartered in Munich, Germany, is one of Europe’s top commercial vehicle, engine, and mechanical engineering companies. As a producer of trucks, buses, diesel engines, turbomachinery, and special gear units, in all our divisions we hold leading market positions. MAN’s core business activities shape pioneering transportation and energy solutions that are both ecological and economical and that also meet the needs of customers and society.
The MAN Group employs some 54,300 employees in more than 150 countries and includes the companies MAN Truck & Bus, MAN Latin America, MAN Diesel & Turbo, and Renk. In 2012 the Company reported revenue of approximately €15.8 billion.

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Yvonne Benkert

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2012 Stakeholder Survey

Since 2010 MAN has been conducting and continuously expanding an annual international web-based stakeholder survey that delivers detailed insights into stakeholder expectations. Responses in 2012 showed that the more successful MAN’s CR activities are, the higher stakeholder expectations become. Of the approximately 600 stakeholders selected, around 40 percent took part in the survey. One-third of the participants were from Germany, followed by China (19%) and India (9%).

In 2012 stakeholders again indicated that resource conservation and climate change are the two greatest challenges facing MAN. They rated climate change 6 percent higher than in the previous year (see graphic). Stakeholders’ awareness of diversity and equal opportunity issues has shown a strong increase – they are therefore considered the third-largest challenge for MAN. The issue of globalization was rated about the same as in the previous year. According to the stakeholders, the subject of urbanization and megacities is also relevant to MAN, because in its role as a supplier of transportation solutions, the Company can make a major contribution here.

Source: MAN 2012 Stakeholder Survey. The arrows indicate how the issue was rated in comparison to the previous year.
Source: MAN 2012 Stakeholder Survey. The arrows indicate how the issue was rated in comparison to the previous year.

The vast majority of the stakeholders rated MAN’s overall CR performance between adequate and above average. The Company received especially good marks for the fields of product responsibility, environmental protection, and corporate governance. Participants said they would like the Company to show more initiative in terms of social responsibility and corporate citizenship as well as human rights and responsibility toward its employees. However, more than three-quarters of the stakeholders found that MAN’s approach to sustainable business practices is credible.

"The ratings given by our stakeholders are a valuable instrument that allow us to regularly adapt our CR activities to shifting challenges,” says Jochen Schumm, Chief Human Resources Officer of MAN SE and MAN Truck & Bus. The results of the annual surveys feed into MAN’s existing materiality analysis, from which the CR Roadmap takes its lead. The Roadmap not only includes concrete targets extending to 2015, but also shows what MAN has achieved in the past year and what the Company is working on at present.

Customer dialog at international trade fairs

Customers form a large and important stakeholder group for MAN. They decide which trucks make up vehicle fleets, which turbines are used to generate power, and which engines propel ships. At trade fairs, the Company informs customers about the products and solutions it is offering in these fields – and explains which ones are particularly efficient and environmentally compatible. The employees who represent MAN at these events learn through face-to-face conversations and from written questionnaires what requirements and challenges their customers are facing.

World premieres at IAA Commercial Vehicles fair

Held every two years in Hanover, Germany, the IAA Commercial Vehicles fair is the most important innovation and trend forum for commercial vehicle manufacturers. In 2012 MAN presented a total of 12 innovations from the truck, bus, engine, and service sectors. The crowd-puller and most-photographed vehicle at this key fair was the Concept S prototype truck. The streamlined semitrailer combination – featuring an especially aerodynamic semitrailer manufactured by Krone – has the same load volume as a conventional truck but an extremely low drag coefficient at the level of a passenger car. This leads to a drop in fuel consumption of up to 25 percent and thus to a corresponding reduction in CO2 emissions. Zero local emissions and particularly quiet operation in all-electric mode are characteristics of the MAN Metropolis truck. Its lithium-ion battery is simply plugged into an electric socket for recharging. A car diesel engine serves as a range extender, providing security for longer distances.

MAN also premiered its new, Euro VI-compliant TG family of trucks as well as its NEOPLAN Jetliner buses and MAN Lion’s Coach EfficientLine at the trade fair. These vehicles also drew tens of thousands of visitors to the Company’s stand who were interested in solutions that promise significant improvements in efficiency.

Customer survey at 2012 IAA Commercial Vehicles fair

More than 70 percent of our customers call for environmentally compatible and resource-efficient solutions. They are also willing to pay more for such products. This was shown in a survey of 276 truck customers and 79 bus customers conducted at the IAA Commercial Vehicles fair in September 2012. In addition, 97 percent of participants believed that MAN is responding to climate change responsibly and developing appropriate solutions.

Growing demand for low-emission marine engines

In 2012 MAN Diesel & Turbo presented its products at SMM (shipbuilding, machinery, and marine technology), the world’s largest maritime trade fair, which was held in Hamburg, Germany. At this event, too, customer interest was focused on boosting efficiency – not least because starting in 2013, all newly built ships must meet the criteria of the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI). This states how many grams of CO2 a ship may emit per ton of cargo and nautical mile. MAN’s emission-reducing innovations already meet these requirements today. These include the G-type two-stroke engines, which by decreasing the speed of a vessel – an approach known as “slow streaming” – cut the ship’s fuel consumption.

A dual-fuel large-bore diesel engine was the highlight on the MAN stand at the SMM fair, where it was displayed as part of a 14-meter-long drivetrain consisting of engine, clutch, transmission, and propeller. The engine can be run on oil or natural gas. In gas mode it already meets the IMO’s Tier III emission standards, which will become mandatory for international maritime shipping in 2016. In certain coastal areas, the standards require an 80 percent reduction in emissions of oxides of nitrogen compared to 2000 levels. MAN Diesel & Turbo has developed an integrated gas strategy for its customers called “Bluefire,” bringing together gas technologies that represent efficient alternatives for energy production: gas engines for power plants, dual-fuel engines that can run on either gas or diesel in stationary and maritime applications, and industrial gas turbines.

Stricter emission standards and climbing fuel prices are leading customers to demand solutions that are more environmentally compatible and at the same time more economical. “Our dual-fuel and gas engines are optimally designed to meet these requirements,” emphasizes Dr. René Umlauft, Chief Executive Officer of MAN Diesel & Turbo and member of the MAN SE Executive Board. “We must, however, keep listening to our customers so we can understand what their needs will be in the future – this is the only way we can stay ahead of the game.”

Studying the future of urban mobility

Aiming to better understand future urban mobility requirements, Technische Universität München (TUM – Technical University of Munich) is currently working on a study commissioned by MAN called “What Cities Want.” The study is examining 15 cities on five continents – from Shanghai to London to Los Angeles – and analyzing global trends in urban traffic. Researchers are first defining the status quo of mobility, then studying how it will look in the future and what role the different modes of transportation will play. The goal is also to find out how the issues of climate change and noise emissions will impact on cities’ future mobility planning.

The study is being conducted against the backdrop of the megatrend urbanization, which is characterized by sharp population growth in cities. This is leading to new requirement profiles. Growing numbers of people are traveling within and between cities. Inhabitants must be supplied with food and consumer goods; the waste they generate must be removed. As MAN helps design infrastructure solutions in line with these trends, the Company will build on the key foundation provided by the joint study with TUM. “Only if we have an in-depth knowledge of future trends can we develop products today that will meet society’s needs tomorrow,” explains Dr. Kirsten Broecheler, who is heading up the project for MAN. The results of the study are expected in 2013.

Dialog with customers – for today and tomorrow

MAN’s stakeholder dialog on products has two objectives. The Company is aiming to make existing environmentally compatible technologies the preferred products of its customers. And MAN also wants to get to know its customers’ future environmental and efficiency requirements, so as to work with them to develop the right solutions. Ongoing dialog with customers lays the foundation for the Company’s success – today and tomorrow. In keeping with this priority, which is firmly anchored in MAN’s corporate culture, the Company became a participant to the UN Global Compact in December 2010. MAN thereby made a comprehensive commitment to support and implement all Ten Principles of the Global Compact.

This project description was originally presented in the Global Compact International Yearbook 2013.

About the Authors
Benkert, Yvonne

Yvonne Benkert is Head of Corporate Responsibility at MAN SE.


The MAN Group is one of Europe's leading manufacturers of commercial vehicles, engines and mechanical engineering equipment with annual revenue of approximately €16.5 billion and around 52.500 employees worldwide. MAN supplies trucks, buses, diesel engines and turbomachinery as well as turnkey power plants. MAN’s divisions hold leading positions in their respective markets. Munich-based MAN SE is one of the 30 leading companies in Germany's DAX equity index.

The MAN Group's strategy aims to create sustainable value in Commercial Vehicles and Power Engineering, its fast-growing business areas. The Industrial Governance management system is a part of this. It clearly distributes roles, centralizing the company's strategic management and strengthening the operational responsibility of its three subgroups: MAN Truck & Bus, MAN Diesel & Turbo and MAN Latin America. Each division must measure itself against its strongest competitor.

The MAN Group's Guiding Principles outline the scope for the responsible and sustainability-driven conduct of all MAN employees. Our Corporate Values of being reliable, innovative, dynamic and open play a key role in our success on both product markets and the capital markets as well as in attracting qualified employees and in social acceptance of all our business activities.

MAN has been around for over 250 years.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect CSR Manager's editorial policy.
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