Alexander Dangel has been at Rolls-Royce Power Systems for over 25 years. Today, he heads up Strategic Purchasing and Supplier Management. He compares the situation now to that 25 years ago when the mtu Series 2000 and Series 4000 revolutionized the company. “At the time, many people here didn't believe these new engines would be a huge success. Now, many doubt the company will be as successful with fuel cells and other “Sustainable Solutions” as it's been with these engines.
“It would have taken a vivid imagination in 1996 to predict that, 25 years later, we would have sold over 100,000 engines in these series,” said Alexander Dangel. He says he himself could hardly have imagined that today, a quarter of a century later, over a million cylinder heads have been purchased for the Series 4000 alone. Alexander Dangel is also one of the architects behind the Series 2000 and Series 4000, having been sourcing parts for the engines from the very beginning. He was a mere 25 years old when he placed the first crankshaft order. The memories of the early years of these engines are still vivid.
Tenfold leap in purchasing volumes
What was then MTU Friedrichshafen was a small company that sold most of its engines to government agencies. Volumes were small, and price pressure was almost non-existent. From modest beginnings, MTU Friedrichshafen is now a major part of the Rolls-Royce Group, and Alexander Dangel buys not just a few hundred crankshafts a year, but many thousands. Purchasing volumes have increased more than tenfold from around 250 million German marks to over 1.5 billion euros.
“In a way, the situation back then is comparable to today,” said Dangel. “We all love the internal combustion engine, and new products like fuel cells, which we're developing, still seem a bit foreign to us,” explained the avid Tintin reader. That's exactly how our people felt 25 years ago. Hardly anyone at the time believed the company could change like that. Yet we did. And we'll do it again – of that I am sure,” he said.
Purchasing has gone global
Even so, he will certainly be a bit sad to be buying fewer crankshafts, bearings and pistons, as the internal combustion engine is likely to be replaced – at least in part – by other technologies. After all, he's been responsible for these three components for 25 years. “I've hung onto those items, not delegating them, whatever role I was in,” he smiled. One thing he has most certainly delegated, however, is local responsibility, and that's where Dangel sees the greatest difference in purchasing compared to 25 years ago. Today, purchasing is global, and parts from India, China or the US cannot be bought from a base in Friedrichshafen alone. That's why he has helped develop a global purchasing organization over the past few years, constantly expanding it and – perhaps most importantly – learning to let people do things locally. “I'm not the kind of boss who flies in to Asia to firefight better than the locals,” he stressed. While he traveled extensively until COVID struck, he says it was not to show locals how to do their work. Rather, he aims to give them the wherewithal they need to solve their own challenges themselves. And of one thing he is certain: Purchasing is above all about communication, and a Chinese person can communicate better with another Chinese person than he can.
Ultimately, however, he says it's communication that makes purchasing so exciting for him. Because that's what Dangel spends all day doing – with suppliers, and also with colleagues in the company, in order to procure the best parts for our 'birthday boys', the Series 2000 and Series 4000, and soon also for our new “Sustainable Solutions” products.