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In control: Michel Rybkin

Across the Jordanian capital of Amman and in other cities around the arid, Middle Eastern country, millions of people rely on water pumped hundreds of kilometres through the desert from the Disi aquifer.

Michel Rybkin, CEO of Pleuger Industries

The transportation of this critical resource through an extensive pipe network relies on the work and expertise of Pleuger Industries – a Hamburg-based manufacturer and supplier of submersible motors, pumps, thrusters and related services.

The Pleuger team ensures that the pumping system from the aquifer’s 55 wells performs reliably and retains water for many years of intense use. At the helm sits Michel Rybkin, who has been CEO since 2018.

That was the year Flacks Group completed the purchase of Pleuger from its former parent company, giving Pleuger the opportunity to rebuild the reputation it had 90 years before, when it was involved in the construction of the intricate subway systems of Berlin and Moscow.

“Before we acquired it, Pleuger was part of a large, stock exchange listed American industrial company that had a lot of other products, so its brand got diluted,” Michel says. “What we did is reposition it as an independent, world-class company again.”

Michel’s belief was that this newfound independence would allow Pleuger to improve its products and services in ways it could not before. “We are now facing the customer directly, so we have better communication, and we can focus more closely on their needs,” he says.

“We can provide specialised, customised engineering solutions based on each client’s specifications.” Part of Michel’s master plan has been to improve Pleuger’s aftermarket services, so that clients in need of repairs or upgrades can deal directly with engineers deployed from the Hamburg headquarters or from the company’s subsidiaries in places as diverse as Orléans, Moscow, Miami and Singapore.

“Our engineers fly over directly or we have local people on the ground. We’re quick because we don’t go through any third party,” he says. “We’re in control.” The comfort of having satisfied customers has afforded the company space to innovate.

We can provide specialised, customised engineering solutions based on each client’s specifications.

Whereas some players in the industrial pump industry produce low-cost products that do not last long and ultimately become waste, Pleuger aims to set the global standard for the longevity and environmental sustainability of pumps.

Proud to be Pleuger

Before acquiring Pleuger and becoming CEO, Michel worked in finance and specialised in emerging markets, where many of Pleuger’s customers are based.

“I already understood the mechanics of those countries, not just from a production point of view, but also from a financial point of view. What are the risks? How do you handle those risks? How credible are the orders we’re getting? I was able to analyse these topics and that made Pleuger a natural fit for my skill set,” Michel says.

But a perfectly matched skill set would be useless without the trust of the hundreds of employees who just got a new boss. “When you buy a company, but the staff are not motivated or coming along with you, you have a problem because all that expertise is in Hamburg. I need their brains,” Michel says.

He decided to prove his credibility by assuring his staff that they were the company’s greatest asset. He held town hall meetings where concerns were discussed frankly, and he dished out much-deserved bonuses. No-one lost their job or got demoted as a result of the acquisition.

“Many of them had been working for Pleuger for more than 30 years, but they were a small part of a much larger organisation and didn’t always feel valued,” Michel says. “In the process of making Pleuger independent, we also tried to give the workforce a sense of pride and, through this, we earned their trust.”

This pride is what fuels his plans to expand within the water, mining, and oil and gas sectors to continually improve delivery times, force new partnerships and open new offices in Asia, Australia, the US and Latin America.

“We’ve hired at least 35 new people in Hamburg alone, and we’re getting invited to large tenders of multinationals that we haven’t been invited to before,” he says. Michel recalls team members coming up to him and saying: “We’re so happy you are the new owners. We feel proud to be Pleuger again.”

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