Schwalbe brand tires are a household name for professional and recreational cyclists worldwide. Schwalbe understands that qualified advice and excellent service go hand in hand with product quality. The family business was founded in 1922 and is currently managed by the third family generation.

Company name:Ralf Bohle GmbH
Headquarters:Reichshof-Wehnrath (near Cologne)
EmployeesMore than 170
The logo of Schwalbe as a wall relief.

For many companies, digitalization is both an opportunity and a challenge. Schwalbe, the internationally renowned specialist brand for bicycle tires, is mastering this transformation through its own dedicated department. We spoke with Johannes Binner, the head of this specialist department.

Mr. Binner, what exactly is your job at Schwalbe?

I am Head of Digitalization at Schwalbe. That means I’m responsible for the entire digitalization process at our company. This involves building a completely new digital architecture and then taking on board all the new initiatives, for example in the direction of digital marketing. My responsibilities include driving forward those processes that have already been initiated and taking the whole concept of digitization to a new level.

So where do you fit within Schwalbe – are you part of the marketing team?

Schwalbe is currently undergoing a process of general transformation. Digitalization is so important to us that we have created a separate division for it. However, the overlaps with marketing are considerable.

With this in mind, have you also decided to restructure your digital asset management (DAM)?

We took specialist advice at the beginning of the process and identified a number of focal points. One core theme was our system architecture. So it’s not just about DAM as such – we considered this from the outset in interaction with our Product Information Management system (PIM), which was also completely relaunched. As a result, our systems are very well integrated.

Product images of Schwalbe bicycle tires in the Canto media library.

What were your expectations here? What problems was the new Digital Asset Management system designed to solve?

Following fundamental analysis, our first step was to try and identify individual “quick wins” where we could benefit very quickly and clearly from an improvement. With regard to our DAM project, the target came from marketing: we want to offer our business customers a better and more efficient service.

Digitizing processes quickly – that’s what many companies have been trying to do since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, if not before. But you started much earlier, right?

Exactly. For us, the situation after the outbreak of the pandemic was confirmation that we are on the right track here, while many others tried to jump on the bandwagon that we had already set in motion some time ago.
Road bikes with tires of the brand Schwalbe.

Was the introduction of Canto one of those quick wins for you, or a building block in a long-term strategy?

Both. The basic idea was that we wanted to modernize our very fragmented system architecture. The introduction of Canto was the basis for our initial restructuring, so that we could then scale up later as required.

What were your priorities when you launched Canto?

We were concerned with the rapid availability of important brand assets. We want to move away from all employees using their own tools or private cloud storage to send or store data. A DAM system only makes sense if everyone uses it. That’s why it was also very important to us that usage is as simple as possible for us and then, of course, for external users as well.

Another priority for us was to replace our old media database. This was very cumbersome, both in terms of performance and usability. Above all, it didn’t offer us any technical interfaces for integration into our infrastructure. Canto is now integrated into our website’s CMS via the PIM system.

How did your DAM project with Canto progress?

We decided in advance that we wanted a new PIM system. So we started looking for a DAM system that would work well with our existing PIM.

This quickly narrowed down the possible solutions and that’s how we came to Canto. Once the system interface had been defined, various systems were demonstrated to us and then, as a team, we decided on Canto relatively quickly.

Johannes Binner, Head of Digitalization at Schwalbe.

I can choose exactly which folders or assets from the backend should flow into a specific portal, while also keeping track of the overall picture. I think that's great.

Johannes BinnerHead of Digitalization, Schwalbe

Which departments at your business are now connected to Canto?

This would be mainly our marketing department, which essentially covers all workflows related to asset management. We started with our DAM system and its interface to PIM so we have been able to use that already. In the future, we will have about 2 to 4 administrators who will be in charge of asset management. We will then have approximately an additional 10 users in marketing, e.g. for social media, photos and videos, who will then also use the tool.

What types of media files do you process with Canto? Is it mainly photos or other types of media as well?

In principle, we use Canto for all kinds of media data. At the start, it was mainly images but we soon added product videos as well. We also work with both PDF and other Office documents and we plan to organize product data sheets with Canto in the future. This means that the data sheets I can download later from the website will then come directly from Canto.

What kind of work process does this look like for you? Do you receive product imagery or materials from external agencies or photographers, sort them, and then adopt them into the media library?

Yes, to put it simply, that’s exactly how it works. We had already thought about how we would handle this and how we would like to improve individual processes. The focus was on time-saving aspects such as better asset searches and the avoidance of duplicate files.

Schwalbe brand bicycle tires with different profiles.

We’re still in the development process, of course, but the firm goal is to have only usable files in the DAM system directly, which is why we currently select in advance which material is actually uploaded. In the long term, however, we’re also planning to allow external users to upload the files themselves after consultation; Canto offers just the right options for this.

Who takes care of maintenance of the system for you, is it only the marketing team?

Yes, exactly, we are responsible for that ourselves, and that’s the way we wanted it. We didn’t want to involve our IT department in this, as many other projects currently require their full attention. When we were looking for a suitable system, it was evident that we needed a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution that would not require us to take care of updates, hosting, etc. This aspect was important to us.

How has Canto changed your work? Are there any noticeable improvements?

We generally handle data in a more structured way, i.e. we think about how we use and handle assets and what we need them for. This means we have already reached an important stage where we are actively trying to avoid data waste.

I also like knowing that I don’t have to worry about the assets used on the website over and over again. They are simply integrated via Canto and assigned via the PIM. This way, we don’t have to handle them again in CMS.

A Canto portal from Schwalbe.

Could you give us some examples of exactly how this works?

The double or triple maintenance or certain correction loops that were required in the previous and fragmented environment are no longer necessary. For example, the reconciliation of databases between the main systems. In this respect, our processes have already improved significantly, so we really save a lot of time.

For example, we recently launched a portal for retailers and wholesalers that replaces our old media database. Following the start-up phase, we’re expecting better access figures. Canto is already being well used internally. With the right advertising, we’re sure that external traffic will increase as well, and that will take some of the pressure off the entire team, since we’re sure to receive fewer asset requests.

Do you have a personal favorite feature in Canto?

What I like most is how conveniently the portals can be configured. I can define filters and content with great accuracy and create a highly responsive system. That’s something I enjoy doing a lot. I can choose exactly which folders or assets from the backend should flow into a specific portal, while also keeping track of the overall picture. I think that’s great.

Thank you very much for the interview.