Welcoming Christophe at at the beginning of his mandate, we asked him a few questions to get to know him better and hear about his priorities and the key areas of focus for FEM and the Materials Handling industry that will be in the spotlight going forward!
You are FEM’s new President. Congratulations! What inspired you to take up this position?
I am proud to have been elected for a second term, after holding the position previously for the period 2016 -1018, with unanimous acceptance from FEM’s members. It is a great honour to be charged with representing our industries once again. The role comes with challenges as the regulatory environment has never been so stringent towards our industry. In addition to this, the organisation is under financial pressure due to a difficult economic climate at a same time when more work is required because of the growing regulatory requirements.
How long have you and your company been an active member of FEM? What drove you to become member?
I personally began working with FEM back in 2003 through involvement in the French Association Member of FEM. When I moved to Germany, it was a logical move to increase participation at the EU level, taking the role of Vice-President of FEM in 2014, then as President in 2016. What drove the Company and me personally to become a member is what continues to drive us today: the necessity to promote advocacy work towards EU institutions and policymakers, and the importance of being a recognised and valued industry.
How does FEM help your company to achieve its goals and mission?
FEM provides four kinds of services, all extensively used: 1. Advocacy work on legislation and normalisation: it is more important than ever to cope with the “tsunami” of regulations that we are facing. On our agenda is digitilsation with the Data Act, energy with the new Battery Regulation, automation with the AI Act and the increased pressure on third party certification to name just a few. 2. Statistics: for some product groups, FEM provides detailed statistics about the markets and their evolution. 3. Sounding board for EU policymakers: when it comes to supply chain and Materials Handling Industries, EU stakeholders view FEM as a relevant partner. To provide a concrete example, in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, FEM brought to the attention of the authorities the necessity to postpone a couple of deadlines for the application of the new Regulation on exhaust emissions from non-road mobile machinery. This alone saved more than €100m in costs for our companies including my own which was a huge benefit. 4. Finally, FEM provides a platform of exchange for stakeholders and industry members, or industry related members. This is used extensively, for example, for dialogue with warehouse builders or users of our equipment.
What do you see as the biggest challnege and opportunity for the materials handling industry in Europe today?
Let us mention the opportunities first! 1. Material Handling Industries benefit from increased visibility: The COVID-19 pandemic has shed some light on less known activities, like food retailers. But very quickly the broad audience realised that, without our Materials Handling Industries, food retailers, e-commerce or other “system relevant” activities would simply stand still! This was a fantastic eye opener for many! Also, the supply of vaccines was made possible thanks to our industries! 2. Material Handling Industries are front runners in the use of advanced technologies, be it automation or artificial intelligence or new energies such as hydrogen or Li-Ion, our companies are extensively using those technologies. 3. Material Handling industries are also pretty advanced when it comes to Circular Economy. Our industries have taken initiatives, over the past years, which are contributing to achieving Europe’s sustainability objectives. One can mention the enhanced use of rental versus buying, or best-inc class remanufacturing capabilities which ensure a second or even a third life of our assets.
We also face a number of challenges, such as: – Finding the right skills, especially in critical domains. – Facing the current wave of regulations that stems from EU institutions. – Preserving the competitiveness of our industries on the global markets in an environment were inflation and supply chain shortages make our life more difficult.
How can FEM help to address these challenges?
FEM is well recognised as the go-to-partner to discuss key issues with EU policymakers. FEM, positioned at the core of the industry, can leverage experts from companies but also utilise Orgalim Partnership’s specialists for horizontal topics. This gives FEM a unique competence to organise the dialogue with EU authorities in a constructive way. No other organisation is in a better position to defend our industries. Also, when it comes to attracting talents, FEM, for example, organised in 2017 a student contest, the “Smart logistic Challenge”. With 571 qualified registrations from 26 European countries, emanating primarily from Engineering and Business but also IT and Social Sciences, it was a good start. One out of three were female candidates. This shows the value generated by pulling resources and working for the collective interest of the industry.
As President, what are the key areas that you would like to tackle during your mandate? What are your priorities?
During my presidency, I would like to continue to communicate on the importance of our industry for Europe’s future and highlight our work, priorities and actions through key themes such as; – Skills and attracting the younger generation and retaining talent – Circular Economy – Energy – Digitalisation – Automation – Diversity and inclusion
Tackling issues and strengthening advocacy activities under these topics will shape FEM’s focus over the coming year.
At the end of your mandate, if you could have one achievement, what would you like it to be?
A strengthened FEM to cope with future challenges and recognised by EU policymakers as a key partner for Materials Handling Industries.