Swabians are Very Precise

Interview with Wolfram Barth, Managing Director of BARTH Präzisionstechnik GmbH

BARTH Präzisionstechnik VIDoc Model24
For BARTH, the basis of success lies in precision

For over 50 years, BARTH Präzisionstechnik GmbH has been processing metal. This Swabian family business has stood for the highest standards of quality and precision since its founding, to provide customers with competitive advantages in the market. Even though the market has changed and long-term planning is difficult, BARTH remains committed to its values.

Wirtschaftsforum: Mr. Barth, you represent the 3rd generation of the family; three generations that stand for the manufacture of high-precision parts. What has changed in recent years?

Wolfram Barth: My grandfather founded the company in 1970, transforming an agricultural business into a metalworking company, which over time engaged in the processing of hard-to-machine, heat-resistant materials, mainly for the automotive industry. To advance readiness for mass production, a subsidiary was established in Romania in 1993. While Binzwangen saw itself as the Center of Competence for the ramp-up and focused on lower-volume machine and industrial components, Romania was the Center of Competence for production.

Wolfram Barth, Managing Director of BARTH Präzisionstechnik GmbH
Wolfram Barth, Managing Director of BARTH Präzisionstechnik GmbH

Wirtschaftsforum: How have both locations developed in the recent past?

Wolfram Barth: For a long time very dynamic, with a high degree of respect and the knowledge of which location can do what best. When discussions about the end of the combustion engine came up in 2017, we had to rethink. The automotive share at the Binzwangen site fell from 70 to 20% today, the site in Romania was sold.

BARTH Precision Engineering Manufacturing
At Barth, people enjoy their work; some employees have been with the company for 40 years
BARTH Precision Technology Manufacturing
Modern technologies such as digital workstations are standard; tablets are also used in production

Wirtschaftsforum: What does the setup look like today?

Wolfram Barth: In Binzwangen, we employ 85 people, with a turnover of around ten million EUR annually, which is generated across Europe, primarily in the DACH region. In the automotive sector, we focus on drive-independent parts. Besides, we manufacture complex parts from general mechanical engineering and increasingly concentrate on the energy technology segment, which deals with metal parts for electrolyzers. We are involved here in large infrastructure hydrogen projects. Another pillar is the topic of BIM, construction digitalization. Together with a partner, we produce a game changer for digitalization in the construction industry, which enables precise measurement and documentation in conjunction with a smartphone. The device allows for a completely new way of working and drastically simplifies workflows, while maintaining the legal certainty of the measurement results. We are developing the necessary hardware and have the complete supply chain in Binzwangen up to the calibrated product ready for delivery.

Wirtschaftsforum: BARTH has always remained true to its core competence but has also faced market changes with flexibility and foresight. What are the current challenges?

Wolfram Barth: For us, the focus is on the topic of construction digitalization and the area of hydrogen parts; these developments drive us. High electricity prices and general planning uncertainty make our work difficult. Global crises affect the business; for example, deliveries from China are delayed due to the Houthi rebels. In the past, the order books were full six months in advance; today, it is four to six weeks. Nonetheless, we envision positioning ourselves as a top service provider for the European industry.

BARTH Precision Engineering Machine Components
Classic Barth products are high-precision metal parts such as housings, rings, flanges, shafts, and covers
BARTH Precision Technology Mechanical Components
BARTH Precision Technology Mechanical Parts

Wirtschaftsforum: Where does BARTH stand in the market, and what are the company's strengths to expand its market position?

Wolfram Barth: We set benchmarks in the supplier sector for electrolyzers for the production of hydrogen, so in a very specific niche. It is a market with excellent future prospects. In addition to product quality, maximum precision, and flexibility, we see our company culture as our greatest strength. As a family business, we work together on an equal footing; we treat each other with respect and maintain a hands-on mentality with flat hierarchies. I myself enjoy working on a machine and want to maintain that understanding.

Wirtschaftsforum: What does the future look like?

Wolfram Barth: Despite all uncertainties, we want to successfully lead the business into the future, increase sales in the energy technology sector to 40%, and focus more on decarbonization in existing processes. We can and will contribute our part to Green Steel in the metal processing chain. Among other things, the construction of an electrolyzer in combination with 350 kW of photovoltaic is planned. At the same time, we face many obstacles. We are a perfectly healthy company, have invested over 2.5 million EUR this year to become a supplier of energy technology – because we believe in it and although there were no frame contracts. It would be nice if subsidy funds were distributed more purposefully at the government level. Decisions on billions are made at the governmental level. When we as a medium-sized company apply for millions in funding, it is made difficult for us by clerks until the market has overtaken us or we give up.