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 the Graz University of Technology, where he also completed a Ph.D. 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’!”
Understanding and optimizing his clients’ business models were always more important to the DESIGNA boss than keeping an eye out for possible innovations from competitors. A two-inch larger monitor does not actually solve the problems of a parking facility operator. However, a server that operates 24/7, with minimum staff requirements and efficient maintenance, does. It was this demand from customers which led to the development of the DESIGNA CLOUD system twelve years ago and with it a business model that can also be continued today. The success of the CLOUD is based on listening. When explaining his approach to trendsetting concepts, Dr. Waibel says: “In the first year, the customers tell me all about their operational and technical concerns. One year later the question of new functions arises. And in the third year, their primary vision is to expand the business further.” The new DESIGNA series of devices with touch screens was also based on customer requirements. The future of intelligent parking will continue to challenge DESIGNA. The use of data will enable the next innovative leap forward, and CLOUD-based solutions are a prerequisite.
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 in 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.
The business model of the future will insist on flexibility based on software components. Platform thinking will gain in importance. Software-as-a-service will enable tailored and flexible configurations for individual customer requirements. In a competitive environment that is becoming more and more ambitious, DESIGNA's management team, which includes the experienced top managers Robert Monsberger and Gotthard Mayringer, will increasingly focus on a digital-based innovation course. For several years now, they have been consistently driving forward DESIGNA's strategic orientation in the management team alongside Dr. Waibel. As a result, the existing cooperation with ilogs in Klagenfurt, also a member of the Access Control Group, which specializes in software, will be intensified.
DESIGNA would like to thank Dr. Thomas Waibel for his sustained and successful teamwork. Dipl.-Ing. Dr. techn. Thomas Waibel goes as he came: With clear visions. "After 14 years of responsibility, it is an upright feeling to know that the company with its experienced management colleagues and competent team is still on course in a rapidly changing environment. At the same time, the upcoming challenges of digitalization will cause further changes," says Dr. Thomas Waibel.
Thinking differently. Acting differently. Finding a different way to succeed. Our clear, visionary standards have been helping DESIGNA to develop innovative products and services in the parking management sector for over 65 years. Founded in 1951 in Kiel/Northern Germany, today, DESIGNA’s parking systems are used across the globe, from Germany, France and Italy, to Australia and the UK, to the United States. More than 16,000 systems have been installed so far, with two more added every day. Our innovative integrated equipment and software solutions make efficient parking management extremely easy on all media.
DESIGNA’s customers include hotels, hospitals and municipalities, as well as airports, shopping malls and private facility operators. DESIGNA’s story is one of continuing success and growth.