A promising business model - Interview with Armin Herdegen, Trodat

Trodat, the world market leader for self-inking stamps, is currently using new product developments to show how digitalisation and sustainability can be combined when producing stamps. Managing Director Armin Herdegen took over the helm of trodat Vertriebs GmbH Deutschland and trodat Benelux B.V. in 2015. He shows how new business areas can be created by clearly focusing on core competencies and sustainability.

Mr Herdegen, what do you think makes trodat so special?

Armin Herdegen: Besides a wealth of special features, its special product quality. When I’m travelling and see our original first- or second-generation trodat Printy still being used in hotels or in shops, that is to say after twenty years or more of daily use, then that speaks for itself. With our enormous vertical range of manufacture – from injection moulding to mechanical and plant engineering – we manage to manufacture products of the highest reliability and durability. What’s more, as a traditional family business with roots in Upper Austria, sustainability is part of our DNA.

With the "Your Things Stamp", you give people the chance to personalise their own things. How did this idea come about?

A. H.: Our colleagues developed a new textile ink in the colour lab that is very skin-friendly and is far more durable than was previously conceivable. We then purchased a new iron-on non-woven fabric and labels that can easily withstand being put in a dishwasher. The rest of the idea comes from our own lives: many of us have children. The mixing up of lunch boxes, schoolbags and clothes is a daily problem for us, as it is for all parents. Since manufacturers of children’s clothing sew unprinted labels into clothes for parents to write on, the step to the “Your Things Stamp” was a quite obvious one to take. 

In 2017, you issued a sustainability report for the first time ever. What does the topic of sustainability mean for trodat and how do you integrate the issue of sustainability into your business process?

A. H.: The sustainability report is basically only a summary of countless individual measures and our basic attitude towards our use of resources. In essence, our first priority is to keep our CO2 footprint as small as possible. We rely 100% on green electricity, heat our buildings with a heat recovery system and reduce waste water and production waste in our manufacturing processes. Almost half of our purchasing volume is covered by regional suppliers.

Where do you see the stamp industry in 5 years’ time?

A. H.: There will always be a market for stamping applications, but our standard business will shrink. We are countering this with new ideas and uses. The classic stamp maker is increasingly becoming an “individualisation specialist” on the flat board laser. Our colleagues at trotec also offer countless inspirations; you just have to put the ideas into action. 

Digitalisation is a topic that every company has to get to grips with today. What does this mean for the stamp industry and how is trodat dealing with the digital transformation?

A. H.: We are clearly assuming that there will be a reduction in the use of stamps in the classic office environment – anything else would be naive. In addition, the retail trade is also going through immense changes on account of the digital transformation. It’s important that you define for yourself the products you want to put to the market, the problem solvers you want to offer in the future. Trodat's core competence lies in the industrial production and assembly of high-quality plastic products, whereas the core competence of our customers (the stamp makers) is the individualisation of our components in lot size one. If products in our industry are geared towards these core competences, then we will continue to successfully provide stimulus for retailers in the future. 

In order to sell your stamps to the end customer, you work closely with specialist retailers. What does such cooperation look like? Could you give us some examples?

A. H.: Stamps, especially customised ones, are a special feature for retailers and are supposedly more difficult to handle due to the customisation service. For many years now, we have been offering specialist retailers a perfect system solution with our own software solution uTypia and specialised stamp-producing companies. We see it as our job to explain marking and labelling with the aid of stamps to the end consumer and, at the same time, to give retailers our maximum support when handling orders. Our claim "geht auch einfach” (you can do it the easy way, too) should be evident to everyone. 

Due to COVID-19, this year's Insights-X will take place in digital form for the very first time. How are you looking forward to Insights-X Online 2020?

A. H.: I hope that a lot of market participants will visit such a special marketplace, try things out and enter into a dialogue with the manufacturers. These are truly special times and we should meet these challenges in a creative and positive way and be open for new inspirations. More than ever, we all and our industry need to work together to develop smart and appealing products for our consumers and rouse their interest in them. 

Thank you for this interview, Mr Herdergen.

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