IT’S THE PEOPLE AND THE SYSTEM.
A new era began at DESIGNA with Dr. Thomas Waibel. Within just a few years, the experienced manager from Vorarlberg in Austria, helped significantly strengthen the long-established German specialist for parking management systems. After 14 years with DESIGNA, the passionate technical manager is leaving the CEO role and joining the Supervisory Board.
Born in the Austrian town of Hohenems in 1957, Dr. Thomas Waibel learned early on how to conquer mountains and reach summits. It was his father, a registered doctor in Vorarlberg, who encouraged his interest in medical technology. Following this predetermined path of study, the prospective graduate engineer ended up at Graz University of Technology, where he also completed a PhD as part of his work at the Institute of Applied Systems Technology. The further career stages of Dr. Thomas Waibel, who graduated in 1989 were Ganter Electronic, OTAG Oberflächentechnik AG, Collini-Flühmann AG and, last but not least, Management Trust Holding AG, IPO Beteiligungs-Management AG and Axess AG.
From Graz to Kiel. 1200 kilometers north-north-west.
The then 48-year-old manager entered DESIGNA for the first time on 1 January 2006. He was in charge of development, production, all supply chain and administrative departments, as well as marketing and sales. The challenge ahead is to steer the company into successful waters in an ambitious competitive environment.
Dr. Josef Taus appointed him to the management of DESIGNA for an initial period of three years. In the end, the three years turned into fourteen, the position of managing director was followed by various roles as president, board member, supervisory board member and chairman of the board; and DESIGNA, which was quickly rejuvenated, has been sailing into success, achieving its national and international goals, for many years now. In the one and a half Waibel decades, the company’s sales figures have more than tripled, from an initial annual target of €30 million to currently around €100 million. A result of the successful work of the entire DESIGNA team.
“Technology has always accompanied me on my journey.”
You get engineers, you get managers and then you get people who understand the business issues and the technology side of things. Someone like Dr. Waibel, who would not look out of place carrying either a steel toolbox or a leather briefcase. Even if this is only used as a metaphor for the high practical relevance of this engineer among managers. He is only too happy to take advantage of the power of technology to design, develop and validate with his own team. His motto, “Try something new; you can always change it if you don’t like it”, points to his tireless creative strength. No fewer than eight patents underline the high demands Dr. Waibel places on himself. They include a safety system for automatic equipment cabinets and a brake sensor for modern vehicles. You have to have ideas. Thanks to his passion for technology, his penchant for research and the courage to create something new, Dr. Waibel knows how to inspire and enthuse others. And not just in-house. His understanding of the technical and economic concerns of business has always gained him considerable recognition from DESIGNA clients.
“Real industry innovation instead of just ‘Us too’!”
With the new series of x20 generation IN/OUT devices, GATES and PAY stations, DESIGNA is presenting a digital signage solution which, as Dr. Waibel points out, has already achieved a very positive response in the industry. The technology enables attractive communication with the car park customers in a targeted and sales-promoting manner as soon as they enter the car park. The parking machine device as a service-oriented communicator and starting point for adding value, made by DESIGNA.
Innovative developments are not based on a master plan.
When you talk about landing a big fish in Kiel, it usually refers to sea trout, cod and mackerel. Definitely not the office of the ‘Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’, where the contract for the largest ever airport renewal project, PARCS, was sealed on 28 November 2016. When asked by Dr. Waibel why they had decided in favor of a German company, the Americans replied: “It’s the people and the system.” Ewan Miller, the former Managing Director of DESIGNA UK and freelance consultant on the project, also recalls: “The entire project was a significant challenge for the company. Large projects always come with legal, technical and stakeholder risks. Initially nobody really expected to win that tender. But at the end, Dr. Waibel was the one who was committed, took the risk, formed the team with strong personalities and delivered the project. He balanced it out and maintained the team. DESIGNA got an impressive lighthouse based on a brave decision.” A project which will be successfully completed in 2020 and a new project milestone.
Parking solutions of the future are digital.
DESIGNA’s future path will be more digital than ever before. The “Industrial Transformation” is demanding full attention from its market participants, especially in manufacturing companies. Digitalization, the changes in customer needs and the drastic changes in mobility will require DESIGNA to have a strong will to change, predicts the outgoing Dr. Waibel.
In itself nothing new. Technology companies have always been subject to constant change, since the requirements of the customer and the possibilities of the technology are constantly changing. In the current context of digital business transformation and changes in the business environment, it has, however, a new dimension. Mobility is undergoing severe change as a result of the increasing traffic load in cities, a growing network of different transport concepts and providers and, last but not least, the strong political orientation towards the electric drive concept. The parking garage will no longer remain a place to “just” leave the car. It will have to evolve into a hub in an integrated mobility concept – with further transport means for long distances and urban means of transport such as bicycle, bus or e-mobile. With charging stations, service points and information centers. All this with a multi-story car park-based integrated solution for processing.
DR. WAIBEL BROUGHT SUCCESS TO THE COMPANY.
“Right from the start, Dr. Waibel focused on the introduction of the ABACUS parking system. Thanks to this decision, the financial situation at DESIGNA UK quickly returned to health. I was always impressed by Dr. Waibel’s calm and thoughtful approach as well as a sense of humor, which could help ease a tense situation. He always let us get on with our job of managing the subsidiaries, but at the same time he was supportive in the event of difficulty thanks to his technical and strategic abilities.
Our largest project was the New York airports project. Dr. Waibel once again showed his skill in bringing strong willed managers together to work as a team. The result has been successful installations at all four New York airports. On a more light-hearted note, I remember a meeting at the DESIGNA subsidiary in Tampere, Finland. That year, the distributor in Finland had had tremendous success with its newly implemented DESIGNA system. After a fascinating presentation, we experienced a real Finnish sauna which also entailed running and jumping into a freezing cold lake. This is the only time that Dr. Waibel really told us to jump in at the deep end.”
Ewan Millerehem. Managing Director DESIGNA UK
100,000 PARKING SPACES, ONE SYSTEM.
“We have been a DESIGNA business partner since 1988. During the period with Dr. Waibel at the helm, the good business connections grew into a special relationship of trust between our two companies. Our leading position as a parking facility operator with over 100,000 parking spaces throughout Germany is also based on the integration of parking management systems from Kiel. Under the aegis of Dr. Waibel, this has been continuously developed and optimized as an ongoing process. Together we also came up with the idea for the first fully automated secure truck parking facility. As part of an EU funding program, it was constructed at Autohof-Wörnitz near the A6 / A7 motorway junction.”
Walter BeckGeschäftsführer Würzburger Stadtverkehrs-GmbH
GERMANY’S MAIN TRANSPORT HUB RELIES ON DESIGNA.
“With Dr. Waibel as an experienced and competent project partner at DESIGNA, the largest and most highly frequented parking system in Europe was created at Frankfurt Airport. Installation of the new parking management system was carried out during ongoing operation of the site and is still considered a technical and logistical masterpiece eight years later.
During the entire process, which never ran into any problems, I got to know Dr. Waibel as a visionary realist and first point of call for digital systems. I have fond memories of discussing innovative aspects with him and the high demands we both placed on the solutions.”
Gerald KrebsSenior Vice President Parking & Mobility / Fraport AG