2015 - questions and opportunities13th of January 2015 Article by Markus Asch
Markus Asch, deputy chairman of the management board at cleaning equipment manufacturer Kärcher and president of EUnited Cleaning, writes his latest blog for the ECJ website. He looks back at business in 2014, and speculates about the opportunities for the industry in 2015.
In contrast to many optimistic forecasts for 2014 - including my own - the past year turned out to be much more challenging than expected. Back in January of 2014, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted a growth rate of at least 3.7 per cent. In October, this prediction was reduced to 3.3 per cent - the final figures for 2014 will, presumably, be even lower.
Numerous negative developments posed significant challenges to world economy which, of course, left its marks on our industry, too.
Unsteady prices on the international currency markets and geopolitical crises are just two factors that had a negative impact on the economy. Deficit financing is another factor - all of this has led to precariousness and a buying resistance. Looking at the geographical markets, we realise that the function of a growth engine has migrated from the emerging countries, especially the BRICS, back to the mature economies in the US and Western Europe.
Now - what can we expect from 2015? Presumably all those factors that had an effect on our business in 2014 will prevail throughout the coming year. There is still no solution to the public debt in sight and we simply have to cope with the consequences.
Additionally, we all witness that the geopolitical crises are yet far from being resolved. On the other hand, especially in the world‘s biggest economy, the US, signs for growth are becoming brighter - which may result in positive effects throughout the world.
With respect to our industry, growth can be derived from three factors. The first is general growth of the economy, which can be expected despite all risks. Secondly we can rely on innovative products and solutions that will not only ease the job of cleaning but will at the same time lead to better cleaning results.
Innovative solutions will also make it more cost-effective to use machines in comparison to manual cleaning. This will open up new opportunities to all of us. However, thirdly, the adoption of Information Technology - IT - into our business holds the promise of becoming a game-changer.
This is where the keyword Fleet-Management comes into play. Many questions like utilisation rate, maintenance status, operational readiness, the whereabouts of single machines - before now unanswered - can be addressed. The answers to these questions can give completely new prospects to building service contractors and their customers as well as to all public and private institutions who use a large amount of cleaning equipment.
Taking all that into account, it is with mixed emotions that I envision the coming year - but clearly the positive feelings prevail.