Schubert Packaging Systems and Schubert Packaging Automation have moved to new headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina, in view of further improving their service to customers in the United States and Canada. At the same time, Schubert Packaging Systems is changing its name to Schubert North America. Schubert is thereby strengthening its commitment to North America, the region with the largest market segment in the Group. Fritz Kipfer, who is taking on overall responsibility for the new company, and Gerald Schubert, the company founder’s son, look back at how it all began.
As of October 1, 2015, Schubert’s activities in the United States and Canada are being coordinated from the Group’s new North American headquarters. Schubert Packaging Systems (SPS) in Dallas, Texas, and Schubert Packaging Automation (SPA) in Toronto, Canada, will be kept as service hubs and, in the case of SPA, also as a sales office for Canada. The new headquarters in the Eastern United States are closer to most customers, while the additional locations in Texas and Toronto ensure the best possible service for customers in the entire North American market. Charlotte has a very well developed infrastructure and the new location enables a better connection to both Germany and Canada.
Fritz Kipfer, who was previously Schubert’s Managing Director in Canada, is now heading up Schubert North America. Johannes Schubert, Gerald Schubert’s son and grandson of the company’s founder Gerhard Schubert, is supporting Fritz Kipfer. In addition, members from all of Schubert’s subsidiaries are on-site at the new headquarters, including Schubert-Pharma and Schubert’s IPS engineering unit.
Schubert has been active with sales and service in the US since 1998. “The reason why we established an office in Texas – quite far away from our customers – had to do with our family history,” explains Gerald Schubert. “My sister Petra married Alan Tilley, a Texan, who suggested to my father that he open an office for Schubert in the United States. Since he lived near Dallas, SPS was founded there. But ultimately, the long trips to our customers on the east coast became a burden for our employees.”
In 2006, the Toronto office was opened, with Fritz Kipfer at the helm, to better serve the Canadian market. Kipfer reports: “In the late nineties, Canada wasn’t even on Schubert’s radar – and Schubert wasn’t yet on mine. I had already left Switzerland for Canada and was working as an independent fireplace builder. I met Gerhard Schubert and his partner Sigi Geiger who were building a holiday home in Canada in 1998 and ordered a fireplace from me. We began talking and met up quite a few times. We celebrated Christmas of 2000 together in their new holiday home. Finally, we met by chance one evening in the only pub in the area and Gerhard Schubert approached me with a very interesting proposition: “I’ve been thinking. You should come work for me!” Since I hadn’t been happy working in the fireplace business for a while and wanted to go back to my roots in “robotics”, we quickly came to an agreement.”
Fritz Kipfer started working as an independent sales agent for Western Canada and the Northwestern United States – areas far away from all industries. “It was very hard in the beginning,” recalls Kipfer. “But Gerhard and Sigi kept telling me not to give up. Their confidence was very motivating and still today, it gives me a great feeling of security. The fact that I am now moving to Charlotte to take over responsibility for Schubert North America, is a result of this confidence.”
At the time, Kipfer had convinced the Schuberts on serving the Canadian market from a centralized Toronto location. And this was how, in April 2006, SPA, Schubert’s subsidiary for Canada, was founded in Toronto.
Gradually the team grew, and many nationalities were represented. Several employees from the early days are still working at SPA. “Everyone has their own approach to serving our customers,” says Kipfer. “A German sales representative like Daniel Traub goes to a customer appointment with a clear goal in mind, whereas Giorgio Calorio – who is of Italian origin – sometimes meets his customers over lunch. But all of them are successful in their own way.”
As it is in the United States, Schubert is successful in Canada thanks to its outstanding German quality and flexibility, as well as its well-conceived system layouts. In recent years, interest in Schubert has increased in North America as well as in emerging markets. Schubert currently generates close to 75 percent of its turnover in the confectionery, food and pet food sectors. But in both the United States and Canada, there are still companies who do not yet know Schubert. “Especially in smaller firms, for example in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries, we still see many opportunities,” explains Gerald Schubert. As well, many customers are active on both sides of the border. Through the centralized management, the same high level of service will be offered in both countries.
In the early years, Canadian and American customers had to travel to Crailsheim, Germany, for training. Due to travel restrictions following 9/11, a decision was made to set up a Schubert training center in the US. In 2012, the first training machine was moved to Schubert Packaging Systems in Dallas. Now the training center is moving to Charlotte, along with a second training machine. The new training center is a key component of Schubert’s service in the US and is now just a few hours away by car for many customers.
The infrastructure is also ideal to find highly qualified personnel. Schubert is currently developing its team for North America to address a broader range of customer requirements and to acquire new customers. “We’re looking for dynamic candidates who are willing to learn and who will be loyal to us over time,” explains Fritz Kipfer. “They should be motivated to grow with Schubert and should definitely be interested in the challenge, not only the paycheck. It’s important to us that they have their own ideas and good training. Since many of our processes are not fixed in stone, candidates shouldn’t be too process-oriented, but rather have flexible, independent personalities. If a candidate speaks German or at least understands the German culture, it would certainly be an advantage. But of course, we’re open to all nationalities.”
Today, with an annual turnover of approx. 50 million US dollars, North America represents the largest market segment for the Schubert Group. Schubert plans to double its current sales revenue to 100 million US dollars for the North American market within the next five years.
“With the new headquarters and new organization, Schubert is now able to better support its ambitious North American customers who are ready to meet increasing market challenges and who want to set themselves apart from their competitors,” says Gerald Schubert. “Schubert North America is ideally positioned to deliver an important tool for success to innovative companies in a wide variety of industries.”