Our Drive: Precision

Interview with Joachim Himmelsbach, Managing Director and CTO of Erwin Junker Machinery Factory GmbH

Joachim Himmelsbach, Managing Director and CTO of Erwin Junker Machinery Factory GmbH
Joachim Himmelsbach, Managing Director and CTO of Erwin Junker Maschinenfabrik GmbH

Not only for companies in the automobile and tool industry, but the grinding machine manufacturer Erwin Junker Maschinenfabrik GmbH in Nordrach has also been the partner for precision for over 60 years. The family-owned company from the Black Forest is today an internationally positioned group and the world market leader in the field of CBN grinding. Managing Director and CTO Joachim Himmelsbach reports in an interview with Wirtschaftsforum about patented technologies and energy-saving drives.

Economic Forum: Mr. Himmelsbach, JUNKER celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2022. Let's start with a look back - how did the company develop?

Joachim Himmelsbach: The company was founded in 1962 by Erwin Junker. Its story began in a decommissioned grain mill. In the subsequent years, groundbreaking machine developments were repeatedly produced, and the company grew steadily. The technology center at our current location in Nordrach was opened in 1995. Actions were always taken with foresight. For example, succession was arranged as early as 2016, determining that the company would transition to a foundation after the founder's death. I have been with JUNKER for 31 years myself, started my apprenticeship here, and have been appointed managing director through various internal positions.

Economic Forum: How is the company positioned now?

Joachim Himmelsbach: JUNKER is now a group with 14 subsidiaries, including abroad. One of our subsidiaries is LTA Lufttechnik GmbH. It operates in the field of filtration. However, the group's focus is on grinding. We have 400 employees at our headquarters in Nordrach. Worldwide, JUNKER employs 1,200 people.

Erwin Junker Machinery Factory - Employees during assembly
Employees during assembly

Economic Forum: What does your product portfolio look like?

Joachim Himmelsbach: We are special machine builders in the field of grinding technology in all its forms and offer all kinds of applications. A new area is automation. According to customer requirements, we manufacture the complete machines and also offer the entire integration. We have a range of standard products, so-called platforms, which we customize according to customer requirements. The small machines are suitable for workpieces up to 150 mm, the large ones for up to 5,000 mm. As the life cycles for applications with customers are becoming shorter, we offer machines that can be easily retooled. JUNKER holds many patents. One of our most well-known products is the JUNKER QUICKPOINT machine, which we developed back in 1985. With the patented technology of the grinding process, we have a unique selling proposition in terms of high flexibility in connection with high-speed grinding. This is not otherwise available on the market.

Erwin Junker Machinery Factory High-Speed Grinding Machine JUMAT 2000
High-Speed Grinding Machine JUMAT 2000

Economic Forum: Who do you sell your products to?

Joachim Himmelsbach: The sale is direct to the customer, i.e., the user. For us, it is important that we understand their problems. Hence, our sales department maintains close contact with our customers' development departments. We supply various industries; many of our customers are in the automotive and supplier sector. Other industries include agriculture, energy – here the power generators –, aviation, and construction machinery, to name just a few. Today, our customers process 90 to 95% steel products, but also glass, rubber, ceramics or composite materials, such as in carbide-coated brake discs.

Economic Forum: How do you see the current market development?

Joachim Himmelsbach: The industry experienced significant downturns due to Corona. Supply chains were hard to maintain. There was a lot of uncertainty and delays due to supply chain problems. However, the market has recovered. Currently, the situation is good, as many car manufacturers are adapting to the new E-mobility. They and the suppliers, therefore, need new machines. Our prices, however, have increased. In Europe, there is acceptance for this, abroad, somewhat less so.

Economic Forum: The world is becoming more digital, surely for you as well. What role does digital transformation play for you?

Joachim Himmelsbach: It is important for us in two ways. Internally, in terms of process optimization from the offer to invoice issuance and delivery. Here, it's particularly about transparency for the customer. Externally, the theme is comprehensive automation. It enables both tracking and prevention in maintenance.

Erwin Junker Machinery Factory Machine Attachments
JUNKER supplies the suitable grinding machine for every workpiece

Economic Forum: The success story of JUNKER is now over 60 years old. In your opinion, what are the reasons for the company's long-term success?

Joachim Himmelsbach: One important success factor is that we do not sell machines, but solutions. That means we offer the entire package including the electrical connection to the customer's network with the upstream and downstream machines – into the entire hall network. For example, we also take care of the coolant solution and process integrations.

Economic Forum: The shortage of skilled workers is a widely discussed issue. What is the situation like at your company?

Joachim Himmelsbach: Like other companies, we have problems finding skilled workers, especially in Europe. The branches abroad, in the USA or China, are not affected. The JUNKER Group has always been committed to its employees, especially in promoting their health and well-being. And we are continuing to work on attractive models for employees.

Economic Forum: Another important issue is sustainability. What role does it play in your company?

Joachim Himmelsbach: We have been committed to sustainability for many years and have now received the EcoVadis certification for the third time in a row. We have a separate business unit that deals with retrofit and general overhauls, and offer our customers the opportunity to use their machines for a second life cycle to save resources. Another approach is saving energy. For the new machines, we rely on the most modern drive technologies that are energy and coolant saving. Compared to previous years, we can thus record drastic savings. In 2021, we received the environmental technology award from the state of Baden-Württemberg.

Erwin Junker Machinery Factory High-Performance Grinding Machine QUICKPOINT
Proven since 1985: The high-performance grinding machine QUICKPOINT
Erwin Junker Machinery Lean Selection
The Lean Selection speed grinds shaft-like parts and blanks for cutting tools particularly cost-efficiently

Economic Forum: Let's take another look into the future: What is your goal for the coming years?

Joachim Himmelsbach: Personally, it is important to me to find solutions that can satisfy our customers. That's why we always want to be two steps ahead of the competition. Our slogan is: “Partner for Precision”. This also underpins the idea that our product can provide an economic advantage to the customer, today and in the future.

Economic Forum: Is there anything you would wish for from politics?

Joachim Himmelsbach: Almost every company in Germany struggles with bureaucracy. We have to put in significantly more effort compared to other countries. Here, I would wish for optimizations. Another obstacle to the German economy is the mandatory regulations and sanctions, which are significantly stricter in Germany than in other European countries. This makes us primarily strengthen competition abroad.