Succession and status quo
LOBA, based in Ditzingen near Stuttgart / Germany, has been actively preparing for Michael Fischer’s succession for four years now: In 2018, long-standing partner WAKOL increased its holding in LOBA to become the majority shareholder, making LOBA part of the international ARDEX Group. Under these new arrangements, LOBA is on a positive course for the future, and the three companies are working together closely to maximize their synergies and potential. In summer 2021, Alfred Melka and Mario Probst, who previously headed up Technology and Sales & Marketing respectively, joined the executive management team. Michael Fischer explains: “All the changes we made have now come to fruition: LOBA’s annual sales have grown consistently over the past five years.” In 2021, the global player, which manufactures its entire range of finishes, oils, waxes, cleaning and care products exclusively at its Ditzingen site near Stuttgart in Germany, achieved sales of around €30 million and consolidated global sales of over €40 million.
In addition, LOBA has its sights set on sound, organic growth for the company. “Our sustainable growth strategy is designed to increase market share in our core business, especially in Europe, North America, South America and China. But we also supply customers with renovation and finish systems for elastic and mineral surfaces, and plan to break into some new market segments,” explains Mario Probst. LOBA already exports to over 60 countries worldwide, but continues to expand its international presence by gaining a foothold in these regions through its own subsidiaries and through joint ventures with WAKOL.
Strategic direction: three divisions
Last year, the management team decided to split the company’s activities into three clear areas: industrial coatings, manual finishing and renovation, and consumer cleaning and care products. These three divisions support and extend the life cycle of floors – from finishing newly laid parquet or elastic flooring, through value-preserving cleaning and care, to renovation. In the industrial segment, LOBA’s near-term activities will focus on its subsidiary in China, its joint ventures in Poland and North America, and its sales partnerships in the Netherlands, Italy and the German-speaking countries. The entire product line for the DIY market is currently being updated and revamped.
Investing in the future
To meet rising global demand for its products, LOBA is investing heavily in its headquarters: the planning application for the new R&D center is now approved and the construction work is out for tender. On an area of around 3,500 m2, the three-story building that will take shape on the western section of the Ditzingen site in 2023 is destined to house Product Development, Application Engineering with indoor and outdoor testing areas, Production Logistics, and spacious storage facilities. The €8.5 million construction project is the biggest single investment in the company’s history. By using sustainable building materials for the new complex, LOBA is aiming for a Gold Certificate from the German Sustainable Buildings Council (DGNB).
Changes are also afoot in Production, which has been remodeled to enable modernization and make room for increased capacity. The production area in the existing Technical building now has the space for additional filling machines. In parallel, LOBA has introduced digital production to optimize and future-proof its production planning, order processing, and quality assurance.
Product and customer focus
LOBA plans to take its focus on customer requirements to the next level. This mainly concerns Product Development, all of which is based at its headquarters in Ditzingen. Going forward, the department’s top priority is to work closely with business partners to understand their requirements and transform them into tailored solutions. “Innovative technologies and sustainable solutions, including the use of renewable raw materials, will play an ever-greater role at LOBA,” says Alfred Melka. All new development will be based on sustainable principles. In the spirit of the firm’s tradition, it’s all about extending the life cycle of floors by developing innovative, environmentally friendly products that are safe, easy and reliable to use, and that are also designed to work as a system.
Customer service optimization is also high on LOBA’s agenda. This year saw the launch of the new website. Customers can now take advantage of a quantity calculator, a product filter and lots of online offers, including a comprehensive Downloads section with marketing tools for parquet and flooring installers. The products themselves also have a new look, with a clearer layout on container labels for easier selection. In addition to the previous information, the labels now show stress levels and the range of use.
The second half of the centenary year
To celebrate its centenary, LOBA is running a whole raft of activities for its customers in Germany and around the world. The company shipped out parquet strips for customers to decorate, and the decorated strips will form part of an art installation in the new R&D building. And, since the summer party for staff in July 2022, visitors to the Ditzingen reception building can enjoy the visual story of LOBA’s company milestones. Even more celebrations are planned with and at the premises of international partners, for example as part of trade fair attendances and customer training. In its fall promotion, LOBA gave away prizes of its very own LOBA Beer, and the international centenary competition (visit https://www.loba.de/100/en/#competition) runs until the end of the year.