Many Potentials, One Vision

Interview with Sandra Maile, CEO and Ulrich Ermel, COO of FORTEC Elektronik AG

Sandra Maile, CEO and Ulrich Ermel, COO of FORTEC Elektronik AG
Sandra Maile, CEO and Ulrich Ermel, COO of FORTEC Elektronik AG

FORTEC Elektronik AG, based in Germering near Munich, has had an exciting journey. From being a distributor, it has transformed into a system supplier for industrial high-tech products in the areas of Display Technology, Embedded Systems, and Power Supplies. To offer customers a wide range of solutions, FORTEC faces the challenges of a continuously changing market and remains true to the slogan 'Big enough to compete – small enough to care'.

Wirtschaftsforum: Mrs. Maile, Mr. Ermel, FORTEC AG is celebrating its 40th company anniversary in July. What major milestones have marked these four decades?

Sandra Maile: Four young men founded the company in 1984 and went public after just six years, which is relatively fast. Through acquisitions, we have evolved from a pure product provider to a system solution provider; this was associated with entries into the areas of Embedded Systems, Power Supplies, and Display Technology. Today, we also develop and manufacture our own products. In 2015, internationalization was further driven by a last major acquisition with an entry into the American and English market.

Ulrich Ermel: The development has continued to this day. The many individual acquisitions had created a heterogeneous landscape that needed to be consolidated. The goal was to strengthen the potential of each company, to interconnect them more, and to standardize the individual brands. The ‘FORTEC One project’ was a significant step towards the future.

FORTEC Electronics Flame-Load Optimized Monitors
Flame-load optimized monitors are, among other things, a result of the commitment of employees involved in the fire department

Sandra Maile: I have been on the board since 2017. In 2020, after the first companies and works had been consolidated and locations merged, the 'Grow together' strategic approach was born. From the heterogeneous landscape, a corporation was to emerge that was perceived as a unit with one strategy, one vision, and one mission. That's why we have been in a transformation process since 2017. There was a time when we had to find ourselves; we had to create the spirit, convincing the employees, but also the management, that this is the right path in a changing market. This identification process requires time if one wants to be successful.

Wirtschaftsforum: FORTEC employs about 230 staff. What does identification look like today?

Ulrich Ermel: Our employees are passionate and committed, which makes us very proud. The mission, what we do for our customers, is in the minds of the employees and it's beautiful to see the contributions and ideas that come from them. They identify with the strategy, provide new impulses, initiate their own projects, and are the truly important people behind the company. Many volunteer, which we support.

Sandra Maile: We organize common events, working groups, have employee surveys and take feedback very seriously. Giving constructive feedback, in both directions, is important to us. Our slogan, for example, was created in a workshop where we dealt with the question of what defines us. We are medium-sized companies with a global network, have local roots with specialists on site. We are influenced by medium-sized business structures and listed on the stock exchange with all the associated opportunities and challenges; this special combination distinguishes us from the competition.

Wirtschaftsforum: How does FORTEC set itself apart with its services?

Ulrich Ermel: As a system supplier for complex electronics, we can always get the best out and offer customers higher value creation. Customers focus on their core competencies, we take over the electronics sector for them. We focus on the markets Medical, Transportation, Railway, and Defense and offer durable, reliable products that can be repaired and for which there are spare parts.

Wirtschaftsforum: What role does digitalization play in the company?

Sandra Maile: We are on the digital journey, which continuously brings new challenges such as IT security or infrastructure. Regarding AI, we are relatively at the beginning, but we are working with it, wanting to see where we can use it sensibly, where it can make us work more efficiently.

Wirtschaftsforum: What are the future plans?

Ulrich Ermel: The world is changing and we are changing with it. We need to position ourselves more globally, for example, to become more independent from geopolitical uncertainties. We need to diversify both on the procurement side and in the sales markets. An important slogan for us is therefore 'Go international'. And that in many respects.