Our ‘From Hamburg to the world’ blog series profiles members of the EEHH network, focussing on their international activities or their activities which are of great importance for the international energy sector. Schmidbauer is the German market leader for crane rental, special haulage and installations.
EEHH: Hello Minka, we first met at the IPF Offshore Wind Conference in the US and you have a fascinating and interesting biography. Please can you tell us about this and explain how you came to work for Schmidbauer?
Minka St. James: After studying and working in design and marketing in the United States, I returned to Germany with my family after 20 years overseas, subsequently developing my fascination for (crane) technology at Schmidbauer. I initially worked as Project Manager in the Heavy Lift Department for several years, dealing with equipment with a payload of over 300 tons. My remit primarily included the development of international business. I still conduct contract negotiations, because a certain business development attitude towards partnership and sustainability prevails when designing contracts. I’m also highly committed to using my international experience as a certified business mediator to represent the enormous diversity and innovative spirit that make Schmidbauer fit for the future.
EEHH: Schmidbauer is an expert in heavy loads and special haulage. Which services does it provide for the energy industry?
Minka St. James: The energy industry is one of Schmidbauer’s areas of activity that has enjoyed enormous growth and gained importance in recent years. Looking back, Schmidbauer was involved in projects to develop wind power in Germany from the very start. Our engineering and technical expertise supported both the onshore and offshore sector from the beginning. Over the years, we’ve accumulated valuable knowledge and our concepts and solutions are constantly being developed. Incidentally, we’ve also set a number of world records for lifting and moving loads with ever increasing weights, diameters and heights.
We’re aware of our social responsibility with regard to a reorientation of the energy supply. We’ve strategically aligned our commitment and investments in order to be play an active and meaningful role in the energy transition. We aim to use our experience and skills, which have grown over three generations not just locally, but also internationally, as an agile partner.
EEHH: Your job as Business Development Manager for Schmidbauer involves a lot of travel. Which markets play a particular role in the company’s globalisation strategy and why?
Minka St. James: Schmidbauer is looking to the future under the motto‚ ‘constantly different, tangibly more’. We’re celebrating our 90th anniversary this year and this guiding principle accurately reflects the heart of our fundamental philosophy.
Despite many conversations about the impending end of economic globalisation, I sense a growing international willingness for increased collaboration in my day-to-day work. Because we can’t resolve the most important issues of our generation on our own. Globally, we’re dealing with complex crisis management and now need intensive exchange and international efforts more than ever in order to secure the future of our world.
What is so challenging, yet special about this is the fact that there are unexpected opportunities that firstly require an enormous willingness to take risks, as well as flexibility, and secondly allow us to become significantly stronger and act more sustainably.
EEHH: Can you give us some examples of renewable energy/wind power projects that have already been or are currently being implemented?
Minka St. James: For two years, we’ve been providing intensive engineering support for the ‘Provence Grand Large’ project in France, where three floating prototypes are being installed approximately 19 kilometres off Marseille in the Mediterranean. As a team, we’re gaining lots of valuable experience and very much appreciate the close collaboration with our customer since the early planning phase.
We’re also always happy to work in Eemshaven in the Netherlands, where our expertise was recently required for the Kaskasi offshore wind farm.
The SuedOstLink, which will transport green electricity from the coast to southern Germany in future, is an important project for us. It involves unloading and storing the gigantic cable drums from France in the port of Regensburg, before delivering them to the network construction sites using the appropriate special haulage.
In Germany, we serve various offshore projects from the ports of Bremerhaven, Cuxhaven and Rostock, for example, and have set up wind turbines in almost every state. Our team has also lifted wind turbine components in Esbjerg, the major port city on the Danish North Sea coast. We were also actively involved with the Walney Extension offshore wind farm in Belfast for over a year. We’ve also worked in Scandinavia for several years, where we also install wind turbines.
Although as a service provider Schmidbauer ultimately uses technology, we’re constantly working to reduce our CO2 emissions as part of our sustainability strategy, by means of solar panels and modern, energy-saving building technology, for example. Wherever it’s sensible to do so, we take advantage of the obvious benefits of digitalisation in order to both reduce emissions and work more efficiently.
EEHH: What’s the biggest challenge of international business operations? And what’s your personal take on this?
Minka St. James: I don’t think there’s a single ‘biggest challenge’. Various issues and crises overlap and increasingly impact one another. These complex interactions are not easy to define and the dynamics between them are difficult to predict. Therefore, reliable partnerships – local and international – are more important than ever.
Essentially, the current staff shortages are definitely a major challenge for us. While delivery bottlenecks make it hard to develop robust plans. Despite the extreme uncertainty of current times, however, we must still provide urgent assistance in the form of smart solutions that will further accelerate the pace of change. This not only requires a great deal of hard work, but also courage and confidence, which are reinforced by trusting, transparent cooperation with bilateral partners. This means that to successfully implement projects despite the complex challenges of the current times, we need increased collaboration – right until the very end of the supply chain to which we belong as a provider of crane and transport services. For us as a company, it makes a significant difference to be involved in project planning at an early stage. This is the only way we have an opportunity to incorporate our expertise in our optimisation proposals from the outset, jointly develop solutions that have often not yet been considered and overcome potential obstacles in plenty of time. This allows us to jointly adopt a proactive approach in order to ensure that supply chains are more effective and efficient.
EEHH: Which future targets are you pursuing and how do you think we as EEHH can help you with this?
Minka St. James: Given the torrent of innovations in all application areas, we need to have the right equipment and systems for global restructuring, in order to actively incorporate our ‘empowering solutions’. We’re also determined to further develop and effectively implement our CSR strategy. Onshore and offshore will continue to be an important market for Schmidbauer in future. And Hamburg plays a central role in the global wind market.
With our office in Hamburg, represented by our 100-percent subsidiary, Fricke-Schmidbauer Schwerlast GmbH, we’re not only interested in wind energy, but also aim to assist the industry with sector coupling for green hydrogen.
The EEHH network’s many fascinating events provide excellent opportunities to share our professional experience. There’s always plenty of up-to-date information about renewable energies, which we’re happy to support, enhance and use.