Niklas Ruud exudes a refreshing sense of ease, as if a cool breeze had just swept through the room. It could be attributed to his Swedish upbringing or the adaptability and resilience he has gained over the past decade through his hard work and dedication in China.
Ruud arrived in China as a student in 2009, marking the beginning of an extraordinary journey. Four years after graduation, he had already ascended to the position of General Manager of CRH. He subsequently joined Konecranes, where he was rapidly promoted from General Manager of the Forklift Division to North Asia Business Manager. After accumulating valuable management experience in the production industry, he left the company in 2019 to establish his own management consulting firm.
In 2021, HellermannTyton invited Ruud to become General Manager of its China division. Ruud decided to grasp the opportunity and return to the ranks of multinational corporate management.
“I always challenge myself to step out of my comfort zone to force myself to grow and progress quickly.”
“In the production industry, things change quickly,” Ruud explains. “I always challenge myself to step out of my comfort zone to force myself to grow and progress quickly.”
HellermannTyton, which started as a manufacturer of cable ties and fixings in Germany in 1935, has expanded globally and now operates in 39 locations worldwide with 18 world-class manufacturing facilities worldwide.
In China, the company boasts a production area of 20,850 square meters and a workforce of almost 800 employees. As of 2022, HellermannTyton China generated an estimated annual revenue of around US$230 million.
After joining HellermannTyton, Ruud encountered a major industry crisis when the COVID-19 pandemic led to a rise in raw material prices, impacting the company’s production. He wasted no time in initiating operational reforms and restructuring.
“From the perspective of market demand, our manufacturing cycle is considered to be long, but we have a high product inventory, which suggests that we still have a significant potential market demand,” Ruud explains.
Ruud restructured the company using a wealth of management expertise. Drawing on his past experiences, he implemented a range of strategic measures, including localizing raw material supply and manufacturing raw materials in-house. He also leveraged the power of Lean Production Management and adopted the Lean approach into HellermannTyton.
“I am confident that we can transform the company into a more competitive organization that serves our customers better and generates sustained, healthy business growth.”
Ruud says by adopting the Lean methodology, the business can streamline operational processes, reduce delivery times, enhance quality and increase productivity. “Moreover, the Lean approach can foster a highly skilled and adaptable team capable of tackling any future challenges with ease.”
The entire rectification process took six months and has paved the way for the transformation. With new strategies set to be implemented across key areas such as order processing, production and logistics, HellermannTyton aims to shorten lead times and reduce operating costs.
Ruud sets high expectations for the company’s operational transformation.
“With our unwavering commitment to Lean management and localization strategy, I am confident that we can transform the company into a more competitive organization that serves our customers better and generates sustained, healthy business growth,” he says.
In addition to driving progress in company operations, Ruud firmly believes that Lean Production Management is a fundamental prerequisite for digitalization and intelligent manufacturing.
“Only by systematically ‘Leanizing’ processes can we move steadily and further in digitalization and intelligent manufacturing and gain more benefits from them,” he says. “As for localization strategy, it actually shares the same concept with Lean Management. It gives us greater flexibility and responsiveness. Localization means that the company can quickly respond to customer needs, improve customer satisfaction and bring significant cost savings to us.”
His leadership wisdom accumulated over many years in the manufacturing industry has led to this major reform. Since his time at former company Konecranes, Ruud has upheld the principle of prioritizing the development of human potential. At HellermannTyton, he still adheres to the importance of cultivating talent.
“In my opinion, talent is always the most critical factor,” he says. “Talent can create different achievements. Without talent, a company will not be able to operate even if it is mechanized and intelligent. The employees’ innovation ability will determine the company’s potential and plays an important role in the development of new products.”
“Without talent, a company will not be able to operate even if it is mechanized and intelligent.”
During the outbreak of the pandemic, the safety of employees became the top priority for the company. HellermannTyton strengthened its safety measures comprehensively, including providing high-quality masks to all personnel and checking the temperature of each person before entering the building.
“All of these measures have been implemented to ensure the safety of our employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the outbreak began, my focus has been on ensuring safe production and making every effort to maintain the company’s output,” he says.
Ruud has long understood the importance of putting people first.
He believes that outstanding talent can serve as an example for others to follow. Gradually, the entire company cultivates a positive atmosphere that promotes innovation and creative ability. The growth of a business relies on the creative thinking and pace of its talented individuals.
Ever since Ruud started living in China, he has internalized both Western and Chinese leadership wisdom. The combination of Swedish creativity and flexibility with Chinese social skills has enabled him to excel in the manufacturing industry.
“Sweden and China are both great countries with excellent people. The only difference may be that you will spend more time at work in China, and often have dinner with colleagues, customers or government officials to enhance relationships,” he says. “To be honest, I have become more open-minded and outgoing because of China’s social culture. Chinese cuisine is very delicious, and everyone is in a good mood during dinner.”
Working in China has also led him to adapt some of his management strategies. Specifically, he has learned to assess and implement appropriate measures based on specific issues that arise.
“I have come to understand that the most effective method of adjusting to a new work environment is by changing one’s own mindset.”
“I have come to understand that the most effective method of adjusting to a new work environment is by changing one’s own mindset,” he says. “It is essential to focus on improving one’s management skills and addressing any new requirements that arise.”
It is evident that Ruud exudes a fearless spirit, one he has possessed since he came to China more than a decade ago. But how does one maintain enthusiasm in a rapidly evolving industry?
“The key is to be a perpetual student of life,” he explains. “In our industry, technology progresses at a rapid pace. To keep up with the latest developments, I must engage with our employees and customers and stay abreast of the latest government policies. I take great pleasure in cultivating our employees while also imbibing new knowledge to keep the job interesting and stimulating.”
Ruud’s passion for life has earned him numerous honors, including being awarded the title of Friendship Envoy of Wuxi People and being recognized as Wuxi Xinwu District Outstanding Managing Director.
“Whenever I encounter obstacles, I never surrender, but rather exhaust all possibilities to achieve success.”
It is possible that all of these are connected to Ruud’s personal motto.
“I have always firmly believed in the adage where there’s a will, there’s a way. As such, whenever I encounter obstacles, I never surrender, but rather exhaust all possibilities to achieve success,” he says. “This is another reason why I maintain passion and work together with my team to propel the company to greater heights.”
With his objectives in focus, he remains steadfast on his journey through life.