Success in Asia

The perfect match from the very beginning

Find out why ZwickRoell chooses the German Centres as its internationalisation partner in this interview with Dr Jan Stefan Roell.


Simply easy: The beginning with German Centre Singapore

In February 2023, ZwickRoell celebrated its anniversary in Singapore and looked back on 25 years of commitment in Asia. In 1998, Dr Jan Stefan Roell, owner of ZwickRoell, moved to Singapore with his family to establish and develop the ASEAN business from there. “The decision to set up a small company in Singapore was an important step in our internationalisation strategy. And in the beginning you don’t need much: a desk, a lawyer, an accountant, a bank – and the most important thing: the exchange with others who are in a similar situation but have been there for a few months or a few years and with whom you can exchange ideas over a Tiger Beer,” says Roell. The decision to set up the office in the German Centre Singapore was then a logical conclusion, because here Roell found exactly that: everything under one roof.

The decision to set up a small company in Singapore was an important step in our internationalisation strategy. And at the beginning you don’t need much: a desk, a lawyer, a tax advisor, a bank – and the most important thing: the exchange with others who are in a similar situation but have been there for a few months or a few years and with whom you can exchange ideas over a beer.

Dr. Jan Stefan Roell
Owner of ZwickRoell


Simply flexible: Growth in and with the German Centre

Over time and as its business has grown, ZwickRoell has moved several times to larger spaces in the German Centre. “I always had the support of the German Centre management. They took an interest in all the businesses in the building and always asked about our needs. We didn’t have a fax machine at the time, so we used the one from the German Centre. We needed a bigger office, so they made it possible and accompanied the expansion with their technicians. We always felt very comfortable there – and only left when we felt we needed our own property where we could implement our corporate design 100%,” says Roell.

Further development

Simply doing it: From Singapore into Asias markets

Today, ZwickRoell is represented with its regional headquarters in Singapore. In 2019, the ZwickRoell Xperience Centre for Asia Pacific opened. It comes with a test laboratory, the ZwickRoell Academy and a large exhibition area.

“Starting with the support of a German Centre, growing and then moving out is probably exactly how the co-initiator of the German Centres, Prof. Berthold Leibinger, head of Trumpf and president of the VDMA at the time, had imagined it,” Roell says. “I wrote a letter and thanked him for his initiative, from which I benefited greatly for my company. In fact, he replied because he found two things remarkable: That I thanked him and that at the end of the letter it didn’t say anything that he must now do.”

From Singapore, ZwickRoell has moved into other markets in Asia and today has its own companies/representatives in Malaysia, Vietnam, India, South Korea, China and Japan, as well as partners in other countries.

Keys to success

Driving solutions and collaborating with partners

The fact that ZwickRoell has been able to internationalise successfully is mainly due to two factors: firstly, an excellent understanding between the head office and the foreign company, and secondly, partners who understand what companies abroad need.

“I went to Singapore not as an employed managing director, but as the owner of the company. So the head office in Ulm could not simply ignore my problems, but had to deal with them,” says Roell. “This helped us as a company to go international in the right way and to develop a good understanding of the needs of local customers.

Roell uses an example to illustrate the importance of this discussion between head office and the foreign units: “We needed to identify spare parts for machines we were selling to our Asian customers. But we did not have the drawings of the machines on site. The first suggestion from head office was to send the drawings back and forth, but I did not think that was an intelligent solution. So a system was found to make the drawings available – to me in Singapore, but also to the other locations around the world.

Partners such as the German Centre are important because they take risks by contributing their experience, their know-how and their reliable networks. “In Singapore, we also had contact with the EDB, the Economic Development Board, very early on,” says Roell. “They gave us excellent support in the start-up and growth phase. They understood that if the companies in Singapore are doing well, then the city-state is doing well.

Wherever a German Centre existed, ZwickRoell entered a foreign market with a German Centre. This was the case in Indonesia, India and Mexico. The German Centre in Mexico is still home to ZwickRoell today.

“North America, the US, Canada and Mexico, are the most important growth markets for us. Then China. It is a huge market and above all a smart market, although we are a bit concerned about the political developments. And then of course the ASEAN region. Taken together, this is a huge market and we see a lot of potential to grow,” says Roell. If he could choose where there should be another German Centre, it would be in Nigeria, for example. “We have some opportunistic deals in Africa, but that is not enough to feed our employees. If there were a German Centre in Nigeria, for example, and we could make use of a good infrastructure that would make things easier for us, that would be very interesting for us,” says Roell.

In fact, it is now much easier to get information and start a business abroad thanks to the internet, digitalisation and networks. “For our 25th anniversary celebration in Singapore, I had the speech written by ChatGPT. I typed in six keywords and the result was quite impressive and suitable for this purpose.

But the German Centre has an unbeatable advantage: you can go there as a CEO and learn from others. That’s just great. Despite all the digitalisation, face-to-face contact is indispensable.

Worldwide innovations

About Zwick Roell

Today, ZwickRoell, based in Ulm, Germany, is the global innovation leader in materials testing. With over 1,800 employees, around 45% of whom work outside Germany, the company is represented in more than 50 countries with production facilities, subsidiaries and partners. Customers from more than 20 industries use ZwickRoell machines to perform more than 85 million tests per year on metals, plastics, paper, construction materials, textiles and many other materials. With total group sales of EUR 288 million in 2022, the company is one of the classic German medium-sized enterprises, with around 70% of its sales generated abroad – and this will continue to be the driving force in the future.

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