In October 2017, NGK Spark Plug Europe (NGK) opened its new distribution centre in Germany.

Located in Duisburg, the facility boasts 21,000 square metres of storage space, 22,000 pallet bays and 44,000 storage sections fully equipped with intelligent automation systems.

Significant and strategic investment

It was a welcome addition to the NGK family, designed to handle the company’s growing portfolio of ignition technology.

“The new European distribution centre was absolutely necessary, thanks to the strong growth we have enjoyed over the past years,” says Damien Germès, Senior Vice-President for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

Damien Germès Senior Vice President EMEA of NGK Spark Plug Europe
Damien Germès Senior Vice President EMEA of NGK Spark Plug Europe

“The old distribution centre was simply too small and not adequate anymore. It is a very significant and strategic investment, not only for the business today, but for the ongoing growth that we forecast.”

NGK Spark Plug Europe supplies a wide range of glow plugs, spark plugs, lambda sensors, ignition coils and leads, exhaust gas temperature sensors and air flow meters.

Its new warehouse has more than 100 employees and is able to quickly and efficiently deliver the more than 5,000 products the company delivers each day.

Damien joined NGK in 2012 as Executive Director of the European Aftermarket business, before taking on his current role in 2014.

In April 2017, NGK’s Europe office became the regional headquarters for EMEA and Damien’s responsibility was extended to cover this region.

“We created a supervisory and an executive board at the same time to govern the region,” Damien says. “And I’m a member of both boards.”

NGK Spark Plug was first established in Japan in 1936 and has since expanded worldwide. Its EMEA region was formed with the aim of creating more unity among its subsidiaries.

“We put the regional headquarters in place for speedier decision making because, in the past, NGK Middle East and South Africa had separate reporting lines to Japan,” Damien says.

“It was a very long reporting line to global headquarters.”

Digital – A definite way to go

NGK has built a strong customer base in EMEA over the years and continues to support those customers through its online platform TekniWiki.

This portal provides technical information, installation videos and interactive e-learning applications on NGK and NTK products, and is available free of charge.

“We want to make the technical knowledge that we have accessible to anyone,” Damien says.

“We want to make the technical knowledge that we have accessible to anyone.”

He adds that it has generated a positive response. “The platform is very much appreciated by customers because there are few opportunities for live, face-to-face technical training.”

“There was a need for a more efficient, time-saving and less costly alternative for providing technical information and training.”

“At the same time, the need for training and support has been constantly rising due to the increased complexity of car maintenance. Digital was definitely the way to go.”

Prepare for change

NGK has embraced innovation and uses its strength in this area to support car manufacturers in their challenge to reduce carbon emissions.

“There seems to be a trend towards electric mobility now,” Damien says.

“At the same time, many issues are yet to be resolved to master this change in technology, such as access to clean energy or to rare materials to produce batteries for those electric cars.”

“Even if we see a change in the mid-term regarding technology, we believe that our products will remain relevant for a while.”

“To prepare for change, we will focus on sensor technology – this is a growing and important market.”

“To prepare for change, we will focus on sensor technology – this is a growing and important market.”

Further, NGK has been supporting car manufacturers with the downsizing of engines.

“To do this, we’ve got a technical centre which is equipped with the latest testing systems needed to adapt to all the requirements of the automobile industry,” Damien says.

Heading into the future, he says the company will focus on the sensor segments, launching new product lines and further growth opportunities.

“Overall, we are now looking at EMEA and some of the emerging markets that we have in our region – typically in the Middle East and Africa.”

“We have a strategic objective to grow our market share in those developing markets.”

Authenticity pays off

After working in executive-level roles for several years in the automotive industry, these are Damien’s words of wisdom.

“Stay true to yourself. That’s something I have learned over the past years. For me, the most important thing for an authentic manager is to show his/her values and to speak true."

"It is about being congruent, that is to say, the gap between what I am, what I say and what I do is as small as possible. If there is a coherence between what I really am, my convictions and what I post, I am convinced that people feel it and that it is a factor of commitment.”