Dr Frank Stahl, Country Manager, Schulke, Poland
Schulke Poland’s General Manager wants the affiliate: “to be recognized as a high quality “one stop shop” for hygiene and disinfection. He also comments: “Poland is quite advanced in terms of hygiene quality. As a company we strive to support hospitals in establishing the most robust, efficient and economic hygiene routines and we provide them with the products to ensure a world-class hygiene status.
The Schulke group is celebrating its 125th birthday this year. How important is this heritage for the success of Schulke in Poland?
Microbiology is at the heart of the company and this is where the 125 years of heritage pay off. The company was founded in Hamburg Germany and at that time there was a cholera epidemic. Schulke came up with a disinfectant that helped fight against it and this is how Schulke’s story began.
Schulke is engaged in two different businesses. The first is the hygiene business, supplying formulated products to healthcare institutions and the pharmaceutical industry (cleaning and disinfection of surfaces, instruments, hands, skin and wounds), and the second is supplying preservatives for personal care (crèmes, lotions, shampoos, etc.) and for industrial applications(e.g. diesel fuel and oil). Even though these two businesses are radically different, what they have in common is expertise in microbiology and the pursuit of controlling micro-organisms to avoid harm.
Given the importance of international expansion for Schulke, how strategic has the Polish affiliate become?
Poland has been a great market for Schulke ever since Schulke decided to focus on international expansion several years ago. Six years ago, Schulke acquired the Polish distributor of its hygiene products and this is how Schulke Polska became one of the company’s most important and fastest growing affiliates.
Schulke Polska is currently in a transition phase after the previous owners of the acquired distributor left the company last year. I am leading this transition and running the operations, looking for new business opportunities and market segments to enter. As of today the affiliate is a sales and marketing organization, as we do not have production facilities in Poland yet. Bottom line, we perceive Poland as a hub for the CEE region.
How would you assess the cultural differences between Germany and Poland?
Sometimes it is actually difficult to witness these differences. Of course there are some, but they are many times irrelevant to affect the business. Our Polish employees are extremely motivated, well-educated and it has been an absolute pleasure to collaborate with them. This is the reason why we have managed to achieve double digit growth for many years in Poland.
Poland is strong economically and with such a high level pool of talents, it is difficult to understand why some companies do not invest in this country. Of course there are tight regulations and market challenges to assess, but every country has its set of barriers.
The company specializes in prevention of nosocomial infections, which are a real burden for hospitals. Could you tell us more about the unique advantages of Schulke’s main products?
Fighting nosocomial infections requires the entire hospital to adhere strictly to hygiene regimes such as hand disinfection. The World Health Organization (WHO) entertains huge programs to increase compliance in hand disinfection and schulke is also a supplier of hand disinfection. However, it is not about individual products but to establish hygiene routines and to use the right product in the most efficient way. Schulke supports its customers to optimize hygiene procedures and, of course, we also provide the products but the added value comes from a comprehensive understanding of hygiene in a healthcare environment.
Our flagship product is Octenisept® for wound disinfection. It is well established in the professional (after surgery) and OTC markets. The great thing about this product is that even if you spray it on a wound it does not hurt or itch, while disinfecting perfectly. Truly this is our product of choice and when you go hiking, biking or with your children to the playground, you should have a bottle of octenisept handy, just in case.
How would you rate hospital hygiene quality in Poland?
Poland is quite advanced in terms of hygiene quality. As a company we strive to support hospitals in establishing the most robust, efficient and economic hygiene routines and we provide them with the products to ensure a worldclass hygiene status.
Poland is a quality-aware market with very strict laws and regulations. Poland has been inspired by Western Europe and since the country’s access to the EU standards have kept improving and hospitals as well, both public and private.
Schulke deals with a wide range of customers from hospitals and dental clinics to beauty salons and pharma/cosmetic industries. How do you adapt your product offering to such a wide range of customers?
For hospitals it is indispensable to have a broad offering because they are managing a high level of complexity in terms of suppliers. As a company we need to be recognized as a high quality “one stop shop” for hygiene and disinfection. This goes from small to large surface disinfection, pre-operative skin prep, wound treatment, hand disinfection and instrument processing. In a way our broad offering makes us very strong as we are able to fulfill all the hygiene needs of our customers. For the OTC market, IMS data shows that we are one of the fastest growing OTC companies in Poland and this is mainly due to our product octenisept in wound disinfection. The same product used by professionals in hospitals is also available for any citizen to treat minor wounds. Our ability to transition from one type of consumer to another is key to our success.
How competitive is the landscape for hygiene and disinfection products in Poland?
It is a very competitive market and it keeps building year on year, especially because over time it has become easier for strong international players to expand their offerings and become very active in international markets. Price is an issue, especially with tenders, so it is necessary to focus on quality and great services to differentiate ourselves from the competition.
Alfred Grün, Managing Director, Schülke & Mayr Austria said that: “Schülke’s real advantages include the research and development of the business over the last century, as well as the very high standard of quality the company still follows.” Could you share with us how Schulke Poland has been capitalizing on these advantages?
Schulke has a solid track record of innovations in the field, for instance, the antimicrobial active octenidine included in several of our products such as octenisept, octeniderm , octenisan and so on. This demonstrates how deeply rooted we are in the field of hygiene since 125 years. Over the years we have constantly come up with new products and this differentiation, as in every business, is one of the main reasons for our success. R&D is at the heart of schulke! Together with this emphasis on R&D goes very high quality standards for which schulke are also well known.
What can we expect from Schulke Poland in the next five years?
We are listening to our customers and we will broaden our portfolio to meet their needs. To give you one example, we are the market leader with octenisept for wound disinfection and to complement this product in wound treatment, we also launched octenilin wound gel and, most recently, a portfolio of wound dressings.
We have been one of the fastest growing and most well recognized companies in Poland for many years and we clearly believe this tendency will continue.
Schulke is a mid-sized company striving to become bigger and it truly has the resources and business acumen to do so. International growth is gaining more momentum and for instance last year we made an acquisition in Germany to strengthen our instrument processing offering, which now translates into a new project in Poland as we wish to become a stronger players in that area. Our goal is to become a truly global player with a broad production footprint in many countries.
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