What does the year ahead hold for industrial businesses? We asked Karin von Kienlin to tell us why, despite short-term challenges, she’s cautiously optimistic for 2022. Looking beyond the surprisingly stable economy of 2021, she sees good opportunities for businesses with the right strategy in place.

Read a transcript of the video below:

My name is Karin von Kienlin. I'm a partner in L.E.K.'s Munich office and I focus on growth strategy for industrial customers.

Essentially, industrial products includes anything that's produced for businesses. Our outlook for 2022 is cautiously optimistic I'd say, maybe with a little bit of apprehension. You may think that, you know, after being in the industry for a long time, you would have sussed it out, what it takes to be successful. But then what we find with our clients is that goalposts are continually moved and what moves them are typically big themes that affect different companies differently.

Number one, the pandemic. You know, after the second half of 2020, we kind of thought we got away with a blue eye, but it turns out that, you know, 2021 proved us wrong so the pandemic is still with us. We thought we'd you know, be over it much earlier than we actually have and it's still continuing. It's had a lot of short term and medium term effects, but it's still not quite clear what the long-term endemic effects of the pandemic will be and they are really quite fundamental in terms of how we protect ourselves, our teammates, our companies, our clients and so on. It's also about how we work, how we travel and it ends up being a big question on how the wealth is really just redistributed amongst the different stakeholders in society. And there will be winners and there will be losers and I think it's paramount to limit the damage and really look at the opportunities of this and that's what we have our clients with.

So number two is digitization and what companies should do about that. It's been a theme that's been around for a long time. It's really about the whole value chain, reducing paper-based communication and creating quite a lot of efficiency and effectiveness with it and saving cost but it's also very importantly around engaging with customers and exploiting data in ways that are really innovative and will lead to better service propositions than before.

And the third big topic of course is sustainability. So everybody talks about sustainability at the moment, and it's fascinating how different companies in different areas have very varied challenges and ways of thinking about it. I think what unites them all is that they need to find a way of making their offerings more sustainable and, you know, that can sort of start with where do you source? How do you produce? How much energies do you consume? What emissions do you have? But also, what do you produce and is it reusable? Is it recyclable? Will it be an environmental pollutant or not? And there are different ways of measuring sustainability or the lack thereof and the jury is still out on what's the most appropriate one and how you compare different sustainability approaches.

Clearly consumers are having enough of it so they really want companies to become more sustainable and not pollute the environment and not produce too much carbon. The legislators are onto it as well. And it really is a call to action for the companies to define their own way of dealing with it, rather than leave it late and be told what to do. And so there's quite a lot of controversy, you know, how serious is this really for our company or our sector? What are the best ways of dealing with it? And then lastly, what do we actually do? And what are the goals and how do we make sure we actually achieve them?

But as we said at the beginning, I think despite all the sort of short-term insecurities, there are a number of really big things that companies will have to work at that provide quite a lot of opportunity if you get it right. And so that is really where quite a lot of the long-term strategic focus needs to be and where we can help. So the bottom line is we're not out of the woods yet.

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