Charlton’s Expanding European Footprint

November 9, 2022


Charlton has had a presence in Europe for quite some time now, but because of Europe’s continuous evolution in the automotive and manufacturing sector, we have seen significant growth over the last 5 years. We interviewed some of our European Leadership to get their thoughts on the current and future state of the manufacturing industry.


Meet the interviewee’s:

Kevin Fromm has been with Charlton Group since March 2016. He is Vice President for the European division, and based in Chicago. Kevin spent 30 years working in automotive, heavy truck, construction, agriculture, material handling and power sports.

Franz Linner joined the Charlton Group in August 2018 as an Executive Technology Advisor, and is based in Germany. Prior to Charlton he was the SVP of Purchasing and Quality for a German OEM, with a focus on NAFTA.

Michael Weissing joined Charlton Group in December 2021, and is based in Germany. Michael has 25 years automotive industry experience, and has held various roles throughout his career. He was Commercial Director for BMW and Daimler/Mercedes-Benz worldwide. Technology Director for two R&D centers and application engineering in Europe, and Global Director of product management.

Michal Kociołek has been with Charlton Group since August 2019, based in Poland, and a background in mechanical engineering and automotive project management.

Giuseppe de Robertis, has been with Charlton Group since April 2019, based in Italy, and a background in Account Management in the automotive industry.

Robert P. Appenheimer has been with Charlton Group since October 2018, and based in Germany. Robert previously owned his own company for 20 years, and was Managing Director of a large European automotive interior supplier.

What trends are you seeing, and what can we expect for the future of manufacturing in Europe? 

Kevin Fromm said “Predictive maintenance has developed exponentially with the advent of IOT sensing. Real time monitoring allows for faster data collection and visibility, resulting in improved OEE, reduced downtime, optimized spare parts, reduced waste and lower cost of quality issues and inspections. Improved and accelerated merging of technology and people with the goal of optimizing efficiency while creating ideal workspace with highly specialized solutions. There is a growing and heavy focus on green production with the expectation of CO2 reduction/elimination, being driven from the OEMs down through the supply base. As the industry continues to transform, the need for outside services and implementation strategies will increase as plants work to establish best in class practices across a myriad of manufacturing deliverables.”

Michal Kociołek said “What I can see in the manufacturing market in Europe is development and implementation of new technologies, i.e. 3D metal printing, new coating methods, etc. Depending on the global situation we might see some of the core manufacturing capabilities (i.e. steel casting, tool manufacturing) coming back to Europe. Not necessarily to European Union countries, but nearby, and I would expect development of those countries.”

Giuseppe de Robertis said “There are two major trends in automotive manufacturing, the first one is just-in-time-production, which eliminates inventory and backlog within warehouses, and components are delivered a few days in advance of usage in production plants. The second trend is the need to have a global supplier with a local production, with the ability to supply in a shorter time, eventually absorbing changes quickly. The automotive industry is at the starting point of a revolution, moving from old fashion concepts of building a vehicle, to a completely connected and software based vehicle. We are seeing a dramatic increase in requests to support OEM’s on software, as well infrastructure cities. Vehicles have become smartphones with wheels.

Franz Linner said “The trends are to pull all registers for improvements: logistics’ with shorter lead-times, manufacturing using AI for e.g. predictive maintenance. But, the main challenge remains the same: business is people! Industry 4.0, Word 8, Windows 11 meets human 1.0. The war for talent will be more intense. Outside of the acceleration of technologies for e-mobility, the fragile supply chains are the challenge driven by shortages (e.g. semiconductors) the cost explosion for energy will cause disruption on the cost proposition and landed costs. Many of our clients are before dramatic changes caused by the technology change, and in some cases, the missing focus on new technology.”

Michael Weissing said “For me the biggest changes are the disruptive approach of EV’s, ICE (internal combustion engine) cars will no longer be registered in many countries starting in 2035. The traditional drive/powertrain industry, which is very strong in Germany, will change or disappear. This process started a few years ago and will continue. The second change is in supply chain. Deliveries by ship were cheap and predictable. Due to Covid, chip-shortage, and the war in Ukraine this established procedure is neither cheap, nor predictable. The supply chain will continue to change. Products are more produced for the regional market versus the current global sourcing procedure. CO2-footprint requirements are leading in this direction as well. For this, however, the production of green electricity is a basic requirement, which is a challenge. EV vehicles continue to replace the traditional powertrain industry. Hydrogen/fuel cell could be an alternative in the long term. The importance of AI in the manufacturing process will increase.”

Robert Appenheimer said “I do not see dramatic changes in manufacturing at the OEM’s, there is still a continued growth of automatisation. Growth in new services i.e. shared mobility, data-connectivity service, and aftermarket due to increase vehicle sales. On the other hand, we have currently huge impact due to the Russian war against Ukraine and high inflation risk.”

What sets Charlton apart from competitors, and what value do they bring for clients/customers?

Michal Kociołek said “What I find enjoyable working at Charlton is the wide range of disciplines that people are involved in, which leads to self-development in different areas. I enjoy presenting new, state of the art products to customers – and there are some groundbreaking products among Charlton clients. What sets Charlton apart from others, in my opinion, is the variety of clients and products that we can work on. For our clients and customers we bring dedication and hard work, even for the smallest potential.”

Giuseppe de Robertis  said “On my first day working for Charlton Group I received a really a warm welcome, this was a bit foreign to me after more than 20 years working for other companies.

 Within a couple months I understood what Charlton family means.  Unlike other companies, there is no internal competition, we all work together to be successful. With Charlton we have a huge portfolio, and in the last 4 years I have never got bored. For our clients we bring trust and years of established relationships with customers, along with an international mind set.”

Kevin From said “There is an outstanding mix of products and technologies that allow for a wide range of interests and execution. Day to day activity varies greatly and creates opportunities to work with teams all over the world. We handle a wide range of products and technologies on a day to day basis, and we are capable of providing experience from multiple product and technology fields to ensure our clients are getting solid opportunities to win business.

Franz Linner said “To be part of the Charlton family is very exciting. Working with so many different clients with various technologies, locations and heritage to manage is really a 24/7 engagement. At Charlton we have a deep understanding of the customer needs, access to the decision makers, and we are fast and competent with responses. It’s all about speed!

Michael Weissing said, “Sales is distinguished by the “third party” approach. Our position is slightly different than that of the direct employee of the client. The established connections in combination with the strong support inside the team sets us apart from the others. I have held various roles from Technology Director to Commercial Director. On this basis, I have wealth of experience that helps to best understand the needs and requirements of everyone involved.”

What products do you focus on, and what would you like to see us focus on?

Michal Kociołek said “My main focus are mechanical parts – both metal and plastic, as well as electronics (i.e. lighting). In my opinion, I would not lose focus on powertrain and chassis parts in the future. And by that I mean not only batteries, electric motors, high-voltage harness, but also, or even more than the previous ones, on the gearboxes, propeller shafts, combustion engine parts (as well), suspension components, etc. I find interior parts also very important for the future – seats, interior trims, plastic components, and on-board electronics.”

Giuseppe de Robertis said “My focus areas are engine aluminium casting parts, metal stamped parts, suspension component software, and middleware. We cover almost everything in the automotive field, we have already begun partnering with software and services companies, to follow the actual automotive trend.”

Kevin Fromm said “I focus on a large mix of products that are used across all automotive and heavy truck industries. I would like to see us continue to branch into new areas with focused teams to support the growth on behalf of our clients.”

Franz Linner said “Every client / customer has the same importance but different challenges. With our knowledge to guide critical clients regarding change in technology, localization and USP should be the focus of the future because we have the insides from our customers, other clients, and the permanent markets screening.”

Michael Weissing said “I’m involved and focused on IoT, security systems, mechatronics, interior design and aluminum/steel based parts e.g. for suspension system. A really broad range of different products. IoT, cloud services, connected vehicles etc. is becoming more important within the vehicle architecture and its data processing. The approach to get more into these is reasonable. Training is appreciated and is beneficial to be more successful and to be a proper counterpart for the customers. Components e.g. suspension systems, are still required, but innovation and competitiveness are key. Only state-of-the-art manufacturing and/or well thought-out cooperation lead to success. Clients who act in this way are valuable, and mutual success is achievable. Guiding clients through these current disruptive times. On the client side, there is often a great need, and sometimes a lack of knowledge.”


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