Change management in a family business with a 230-year history


In June of 2017 MP participants from Moldova and Ukraine who were guests at the research education centre trAIDe GmbH/RWTH Aachen for manager training visited the medium-sized family business Brohl Wellpappe GmbH & Co. KG in Mayen. Founded over 230 years ago, the business is now owned by the family’s seventh generation. The company produces corrugated and solid board packaging for various applications, from simple, non-printed transport boxes to complex multi-sectioned displays printed and painted in multiple colours on the inside and outside and their assembly. Nearly everyone has seen the company's products somewhere, as they are used in many places we encounter in everyday life – e.g. as displays in supermarkets advertising branded products or as packaging for various foods in stores.

Maximilian Boltersdorf, the managing director, and Christoph Kirsch, the head of the production and logistics division, offered detailed insight into the fields of activity and the company's figures. The participants were especially interested in how the transfer from one generation to the next is handled in a business that has been in family hands for such a long time. The owners had ratified a “constitution” several years ago to specify exactly how family members can enter the business and become part of the company management.

Then the guests learned about how Brohl Wellpappe implements innovation and change management inside of the company. Because particularly in this industry, supply and price play a key role and can be adjusted by means of continuous process optimisation to stay competitive. Continuous improvement processes were firmly anchored in the company: They include management information systems, process definition and continuous improvement process (CIP). One of the important components is the “spaghetti” diagram which is used to visualise work processes and material flows, and the establishment of the 5S workplace organization method – an instrument for keeping workplaces and the surrounding environment safe, clean and organised. This name is based on 5 Japanese words starting with the letter S when transliterated, and are typically translated as “sort”, “set in order”, “shine”, “standardize”, and “sustain”. It is used to improve work processes and minimize accidents at work. All in all, the MP participants acquired a very good overview of how innovation and change management are implemented – not only in theory, but in practical terms at a productive German family-run business.

In the layering of the production facilities, the East-European executives experienced a production process at a cutting edge medium-sized business and saw how high quality can be assured with rapid product changes. Overall, the visit to Brohl Wellpappe proved very valuable because it offered the participants the opportunity to think over the processes at their own company and how to improve them.

By Jens Naussed trAIDe GmbH, Cologne