Wheels and castors manufacturer proroll keeps its finger on the pulse of time

For Stefan Fornahl, the path to the future begins in the past. When the managing partner of the Proroll company talks about his way of working and his recipe for the future, you sometimes feel transported back to the "good old days". "I want to treat everyone as equals, whether customer, supplier or employee," says Fornahl, before talking about partnership, reliability and "fair and correct dealings". Age-old values that have "certainly been forgotten", perhaps even "sacrificed" in some companies. "But my experience shows that this is the best way to go."

Fornahl, 51, a trained wholesale and export merchant, comes across as someone who is constantly on the go. "I'm more of a salesman type," he says about himself. And: "For me, standing still is a step backwards." In just 30 years, he has turned a small roll dealer in Remscheid, where his father joined as a restructuring partner in 1986, into a medium-sized company with almost 30 employees made. In 1999, the company moved to Hückeswagen, where today it is Castors and Office chair components and distributes them throughout Europe.

Of course, something like this is only possible if you always keep your finger on the pulse. First Stefan Fornahl expanded the pure trade with an own production, later the office chair components were added. And time and again, customers brought new challenges to the company. "In the past, the main thing was that it rolled," recalls Fornahl. Today, the requirements are much higher.

For a suitcase manufacturer, Proroll developed an optical unique roleto round off the individual design of the cases. For a producer of Hairdressing accessories a role, which is particularly easy to remove and clean. "The customer approached us at some point and said that the hairdressers were always complaining that the hair got caught in the rollers." So they found a solution. And when the regulations for harmful plasticizers in plastic rollers were changed a good five years ago, Proroll already had a solution ready - since then almost affectionately known as "Organic roll". "The business with individual products has developed strongly," says Stefan Fornahl. The company's current reel catalogue includes around twice as many products as it did ten years ago.

But that alone is not enough, as Marketing Manager Dirk Adler knows. "Many of our products are similar to those of our competitors," he says. "We have to come up with more to inspire our customers." Service, innovation, variability he also counts. "And sometimes we have to think for our customers, too." Adler likes the American perspective of asking for "value" rather than "cheap." "The question is, after all, what do I get for my money," he says. "And with us, that's a product that's actually been thought about."

And that from the very beginning to delivery. "We visit our suppliers several times a year, including those in China," says Stefan Fornahl. "They are our partners." He also keeps an eye on the delivery and transport routes. And of course the working conditions at the headquarters in Hückeswagen. The company has just installed a photovoltaic system to use only its own electricity, at least during the day (Fornahl: "At night we charge the forklifts, there's not enough for that yet."). The company's own QA system looks for weak points in the work processes in order to eliminate sources of error. And in order to be able to communicate better within the team, Proroll has been working with a Munich coach for years. He trains the employees in the so-called Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument, or HBDI for short. This is a model that assumes that a person's thinking style can be mapped in four quadrants and is also used in the management and development departments of large corporations. In this way, frictional losses can be minimized during discussions.

Stefan Fornahl and Dirk Adler are convinced that customers feel and appreciate this effort. "There are customers who order from us without knowing the price," says Fornahl. "They know we're not going to push them." And what's almost a bigger compliment, "A lot of them also say they just like calling us." Because the employees are friendly, he says. And their statements authoritative. "We have grown through trust," Stefan Fornahl is convinced. Another age-old value that makes the company fit for the future.

Text: Sven Schlickowey
for Remscheider General-Anzeiger / The Bergisch Economy
Photo: Roland Keusch

Photovoltaic system at proroll already covers the company's electricity needs