Building on a family legacy for a sustainable future

Rebecca Gibson asks Jan-Christian Hashagen how he is steering signage provider Marahrens through the pandemic towards a more sustainable future in his new role as managing director

Building on a family legacy for a sustainable future

Marahrens

Marahrens used high-quality materials to create the sign for The Lime and Coconut onboard Royal Caribbean International’s Odyssey of the Seas

Founded by Heinrich Marahrens in his parents’ living room in Germany in 1949, Marahrens has grown from its humble beginnings as a producer of small, engraved signs to an international signage business. Since 1982, it has been managed by Marahrens’ daughter, Janina Marahrens-Hashagen, who successfully expanded into new markets. Now, her son Jan-Christian Hashagen has taken the helm.   

“It’s a great honour to build on the legacy of both my mother and grandfather,” says Hashagen. “For more than 70 years, Marahrens has been dedicated to continually supporting our clients and delivering high-quality, innovative products that will fulfil their needs and exceed their expectations. This remains my top priority.” 

Hashagen believes the family ethos is the biggest driver of Marahrens’ success.  

“My family has always been directly involved in running the company and we’re personally invested in delivering the best possible products and services,” he explains. “Many of our team members have been with us for decades, so they’re highly knowledgeable and skilled, and they’ve built strong long-standing relationships with clients. Our clients can rely on us to offer the same high-quality service every time, as well as continuous support throughout the life cycle of their vessels.”  

Clients also rely on Marahrens’ desire to innovate. “We always question the status quo, hire new employees with innovative ideas, and we’re not afraid of taking calculated risks when it comes to experimenting with new materials and production methods, or entering new markets,” says Hashagen. “This entrepreneurial spirit enables us to overcome challenges and deliver outstanding products that meet our clients’ ever-evolving needs.” 

Since March 2020, Marahrens has been tested by the Covid-19 pandemic. “We’ve never experienced so much uncertainty with projects and, like everyone, we struggled with all the health and safety guidance and travel restrictions changing continuously,” says Hashagen. “However, we planned as much as possible, stayed agile and flexible, and worked hard to ensure we could finalise a good number of projects while keeping our team and clients safe.”  

Marahrens digitised many of its existing manual processes. “We’d already done some digitalisation pre-pandemic, but with most employees and clients working remotely and some still working onsite, we had to quickly find new ways to share information and collaborate effectively,” explains Hashagen. “For example, we created 3D virtual models of our signs so our clients could view them from every angle. We also launched an app to digitise the project handover process and used video calls to assist clients remotely.”  

While Hashagen acknowledges that some digitised processes have boosted Marahrens’ productivity and efficiency, he plans to take a hybrid approach to operations in future. “Digital technologies are great for some things, but sometimes it’s better to do things the traditional way,” he says.  

Reorganising the business for the post-pandemic world is a key priority. “We want to offer the types of products, processes and services that will fulfill our clients’ needs and ensure we’re operating in various locations worldwide so we can easily provide local support,” says Hashagen. “We already have teams in Asia, Germany, Finland and the USA, but we want to expand our network around the globe.” 

Sustainability is also high on Hashagen’s agenda. “Protecting the environment should be an immediate concern for everyone and we’re making lots of small improvements to reduce our carbon footprint wherever we can,” he says. “For example, we’re reducing paper use, making our car fleet greener, and most of our packaging is now made from certified wood. Every little change makes a difference and together these incremental improvements will help us operate more sustainably.”  

Hashagen’s longer-term goal is to make Marahrens’ products, manufacturing methods and installation processes greener. 

“Until recently, we’ve been forced to make a trade-off between environmental sustainability and durability when designing and manufacturing products but now we’re able to use various recycled or natural materials,” says Hashagen. “Our safety signage, for example, can be printed on fully recycled acrylic and we’re working on signage made of a bioplastic derived from fermented plant starch. Plus, we’re evaluating the possibilities of PVC-free vinyl and other sustainable materials. 

“Despite the rough seas we’re in now, I’m confident that we’re looking forward to a much greener and brighter future.”

This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2021 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. 

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Rebecca Gibson
By Rebecca Gibson
01 December 2021

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