Vacuum Technology: A Visit to the Market Leader

Founded by Johannes Schmalz in 1910, the company of the same name has been family-run ever since – now in the third generation. When the electric shaver revolutionised the market after World War II, Schmalz GmbH gave up its razor blade business and focused on transport equipment for use in the agricultural and industrial sectors. Gradually, the firm developed into the leading manufacturer of vacuum technology for the most diverse industrial uses. In the meantime, many MP participants have got to know Schmalz as a particularly good example of a medium-sized enterprise in a rural region. The Mexican executives who visited Germany within the scope of their manager training focusing on the automotive sector had the opportunity to discuss their topics with the market leader. Schmalz also supplies the automotive industry with vacuum components and gripping systems.

The firm attaches great importance to sustainable corporate management: here economy, ecology and social commitment are in accord with each other. For instance, Schmalz invests roughly 8.5 per cent of its turnover in R&D each year and uses a variety of key performance indicators to record and track the degree of innovation. The firm is deeply committed to local and regional society and to its 1,300 employees worldwide. Furthermore, Schmalz pursues the goal of being a "positive energy enterprise": the self-generation of electricity and heating from renewable energy sources and consumption within the company are continuously balanced.

Dennis Kilb, Head of Industry Management Automobile, informed his guests about the firm’s current developments in the automobile sector. The topic of digitalisation of production and integration of Cloud platforms in production was right at the top of the priority list. Schmalz is a member of the IO Link Group, a consortium which develops and implements innovative machinery concepts, and the firm’s own solutions are also sought after. Schmalz works in close cooperation with its customers in the automobile industry. The digitalisation of production and the degree of automation that comes with it were an important future-related topic for the Mexican executives too.

During the tour of the production area, they were particularly impressed by the company’s currently high level of automation. The vocational training system for young specialist employees, their direct involvement in the business and learning on the job under instruction were also of great interest to them. At Schmalz, the production is organised in small teams, each with its own group and team leaders; these work teams are divided according to product groups. The Mexican guests learnt that the strongly structured work organisation enables a high degree of production efficiency as well as quick work processes.

All in all a good example of a medium-sized German enterprise from a rural region operating internationally, the MP participants summed it up. This visit provided them with new ideas for possible tools for work organisation in the production area as well as solutions for automation. And they described the firm’s system of initial and continued vocational training as well as the innovative approaches to improving employee satisfaction as exemplary.

By Almut Weigel
AHP International GmbH & Co. KG, Heidelberg