Mr. Burg, our customers want to get to know not only Jochen Burg the CEO, but also you as a person. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I started my career at SMS back in 2008 and have since worked with several of our locations and business units. In particular, my last position as Head of the Global Service Business was formative for me, because for our customers the biggest challenges are not in the construction of plants, but rather in their operation. We intend to sharpen our focus on this going forward.

As regards my personal life, I live with my wife and two children near Mönchengladbach. One of my interests is to participate in triathlons. What I particularly like about this is the challenges of training and that I am completely accountable for my own performance. Although it is an individual sport, there is also a great sense of community with your teammates and other participants. We triathletes are a big family. We suffer and we win together.

What is your internal mission as new CEO of SMS?

The past few years have been challenging for us with the pandemic and the international upheavals and disruptions in the supply chain. We have given everything for our customers, but our own profitability has suffered. Together with my management colleagues, we will make SMS even more competitive and keep an eye on the quality of our results.

Your appointment coincides with the 150th anniversary of SMS. What does this mean for you and the company?

The anniversary has made us all aware of what a strong company SMS is and that qualities such as innovative strength, courage, creativity, teamwork, and customer orientation have made us great.

The staff celebrations at all of our locations worldwide have also shown that we share a common culture within the SMS family. We have identified Act, Share, Care, Innovate, and Succeed as our corporate values, which have always been an integral part of the success and growth of our family business. They represent a promise to our customers and to our employees, and they are what make us stand out as a company.

We apply these values not only in our daily work at SMS, but also externally in our dealings with our customers and partners. From an internal perspective, the value of “Succeed” is the result of delivering successful technologies and services, sharing knowledge and perspectives, taking care of customers and colleagues, and working on innovations. From the customer’s point of view, “Succeed” is, above all, the promise that the focus for us is on the joint success of a project.

ACT. We take ownership and are empowered
SHARE. We value teamwork and global cooperation
CARE. We build our culture on diversity and integrity
INNOVATE. We drive excellence and sustainable innovation
SUCCEED. We understand our customers and create value for them.
What are your goals behind your new responsibilities as CEO?

The management team led by Burkhard Dahmen has set the course for a successful future and, in recent years, strengthened our customer orientation by implementing a regional structure. Our core business and strength as a leading plant builder for the metals industry will not change. 

At the same time, we want to become our customers’ performance partner – not just in terms of the plant performance, but also in terms of a sustainable overall performance. We strive to increase our customers’ profitability and thus grow as a company. In order to be a strong partner for our customers, we also have to focus on our own profitability, which allows us to invest in new technologies and services. The business model we follow enables us to share in the profits of successful projects with our customers. At the same time, we share the risks. It is like being part of a triathlon team: we suffer and we win together. 

Why should our customers enter into such a performance partnership with us?

Our customers are facing an increasingly complex environment arising from global overcapacities, increased demands on quality and lead times, rising energy prices, changes in the world of work, and the all-encompassing topic of decarbonization.

At the same time, technologies are developing at a rapid pace: only a few years ago at Big River Steel, we set the benchmark for digitalization in the metals industry. Today, we are talking about the widespread use of artificial intelligence. Those who apply these new technologies have a considerable competitive advantage. We can help our customers to overcome these challenges, minimize their risks, and take advantage of opportunities. Based on our intelligent, integrated services, we offer performance partnerships that help them focus on their core business. Whatthis actually entails is for the customers to define, and for SMS to subsequently support.

Why is SMS particularly suited for this?

We are full liners, in a multiple sense. As a plant supplier, we cover the entire process chain from the raw material to the finished product. That means we understand both the plant and equipment and the metallurgical processes. This horizontal integration enables us to exploit hidden potential, which often lies in the transition between different process steps. At the same time, we are also experts in automation, digitalization, and services. The challenge lies not in developing a particularly smart individual solution,but in mastering the interfaces between machines, software, processes, and, most importantly, people. Our ambition is to provide holistic solutions. Thanks to our expertise, we take responsibility and minimize the risks for our customers by providing performance-based services. Consequently, our success goes hand in hand with our customers’ success. Of course, the focus on services is a way to push our own performance and drive our growth.

One proof of concept here is Big River Steel. We supplied them with the plant technology, complete with digital solutions, and we are assuming responsibility for a wide range of services too. Big River Steel has defined metallurgical process expertise as its core business, and outsourced remaining elements to partners like us. This approach has made them one of the most profitable steel producers in the world.

You mentioned the subject of decarbonization. What role do green metals play for SMS?

The fight against climate change is a global task for all humankind and therefore already a central topic for SMS and our customers. We are the pioneers here with our two major reference projects at H2 GreenSteel and thyssenkrupp Steel in Europe. Not only that, we are also currently pursuing green metals projects in India as well as in North and South America.

We have made #turningmetalsgreen our vision and, as a technology company, are taking on a pivotal role in enabling this. Metals are, in two respects, central to the transformation of the economy on the path towards sustainability. On the one hand, because of the large carbon footprint of these industries, we need to decarbonize the production chains quickly and efficiently. To this end, we are continuously developing the necessary technologies and enabling the appropriate solutions. On the other hand, steel, aluminum, and copper play a central role, for example in sustainable energy production or electromobility. Looking ahead, it will also be a matter of bringing these metals back into the loop at the end of the product lifecycle with the highest degree of purity. That is why the circular economy is the second pillar of our green metals strategy.

Mr. Burg, as we wrap up, talk us through your first steps as CEO. What is on your agenda in concrete terms?

For me, one of the important tasks of a CEO is to ask the right questions. It is an advantage that I am already familiar with all of our locations and structures. Nevertheless, I will be constantly taking a critical look at my own performance and the overall performance of SMS. I plan to travel a lot to introduce myself to customers, listen to them, and exchange ideas with them. Burkhard Dahmen will accompany me in the first few months in order to ensure a seamless transition in our ongoing projects.

In the next weeks, we will open the SMS Campus in Mönchengladbach. The Campus will make it easier to collaborate on projects, breaking down barriers between areas and boosting our creativity. That will be good for us and, I am sure, will benefit our customers too.

The new SMS Campus
(Building by Hartmann Architekten BDA)
The SMS Campus offers 1,500 modern workplaces in an open office concept.
(Building by Hartmann Architekten BDA)
The plaza is a place for collaboration and exchange.
(Building by Hartmann Architekten BDA)
A well-known location with a new address: Am SMS Campus 1
(Building by Hartmann Architekten BDA)