"We can achieve even more!"

Interview with Michael Schäfer Managing Director and Sven Siegemund, Production Manager of IAB Industrieanlagenbau Senftenberg GmbH

IAB Industrieanlagenbau Ladle Trolley

IAB Industrieanlagenbau Senftenberg GmbH from Lusatia has previously been primarily involved in the steel and smelting industry. In the coming years, it wants to apply its grown competencies in further sectors, including the expansion of renewable energies. The specific impulses the company is pursuing were explained in an interview by Managing Director Michael Schäfer and Production Manager Sven Siegemund.

Wirtschaftsforum: Mr. Schäfer, IAB has been operating as an experienced plant builder in the market for many decades - which segments are at the core of your activity spectrum?

Michael Schäfer: When the current owner family acquired this company from the Trust Agency during the turnaround period, it was primarily engaged in special machinery construction. However, even then, there was a close interlocking with the coal and steel industry, which would come into even sharper focus in the following years, for instance, with the production of casting ladles and scrap baskets for steelworks and smelting plants. As this sector is not only in a complex structural transformation due to long-term industry-specific challenges but has also been under increased pressure due to significantly risen energy prices in recent years, we want to bring our grown expertise to further industries while also continuing to strengthen our market position in the steel and smelting industry in perspective.

Michael Schäfer, Managing Director of IAB Industrieanlagenbau Senftenberg GmbH
Michael Schäfer, Managing Director
Sven Siegemund, Production Manager of IAB Industrieanlagenbau Senftenberg GmbH
Sven Siegemund, Production Manager

Wirtschaftsforum: Which industries are you focusing on?

Michael Schäfer: Steel construction plays a significant role in many manufacturing-intensive segments – for instance in construction machinery technology, where we would like to get more involved and which offers significantly lower barriers to entry for a company of our size and market positioning compared to the automotive industry. For many of our specific core competencies, we can envision numerous additional application fields. Currently, we are also manufacturing conveyor systems for the steel and coal industry, which, with the appropriate modifications, can also be used in other logistics environments. At the same time, we want to act as a supplier for the photovoltaic industry and can provide the necessary substructures for solar panels at this point. Here, we see a very exciting opportunity in the field of renewable energies in general to grow beyond our traditional spectrum in the steel and smelting industry, for instance, by supplying key components for hydrogen-powered plants. We have already received relevant inquiries from prominent companies in Europe regarding this. In the long term, we can also imagine contributing our expertise to the reconstruction of steel mills in Ukraine after the end of the war.

IAB Industrial Plant Construction Conveyor Belt
IAB also aims to convince in the future with its knowledge-intensive manufacturing expertise

Wirtschaftsforum: What manufacturing infrastructure can you rely on?

Sven Siegemund: We have many thousands of square meters of manufacturing space, as well as crane systems designed for 2 x 20 tons, enabling us to easily produce and transport particularly large components. In addition, we have made extensive investments in recent years to prepare ourselves for demanding projects: Our rolling machines can now produce cylinders that are 3 meters wide and robust, while we also have a state-of-the-art plasma facility that we may also want to use for contract manufacturing for other clients. In the coming years, we will also invest in another painting system to ensure even greater longevity of the components we manufacture by providing better corrosion protection. An equally strong focus is on efficient processes, especially in the numerous different welding methods that our employees implement with their proven expertise and many years of experience.

IAB Industrial Plant Construction Production
In recent years, the company has made comprehensive investments
IAB Industrial Plant Construction Production
The company wants to expand into further industrial sectors

Wirtschaftsforum: Companies with intensive manufacturing operations are particularly struggling with the shortage of skilled workers. How does IAB plan to secure its grown competencies in the future as well?

Sven Siegemund: I believe that we are facing a societal challenge in this context. Currently, I feel there is a certain surplus of academics in the job market, unfortunately to the disadvantage of well-trained master craftsmen. To maintain our know-how in the long term, we too are investing heavily in the training of young employees whom we want to excite for our company. Certain political decisions, however, make this path considerably more difficult: For example, it was recently decided that technical courses at the local university of applied sciences will no longer be offered, and the corresponding resources are to be relocated to Cottbus, which will lead to even more difficulties in finding relevant skilled workers in our region. Unfortunately, there is often a lack of sustainable political will in this context, to facilitate the creation of a reliable basis.

Wirtschaftsforum: Given these diverse challenges and new impulses, what vision currently forms the central guiding principle of your company?

Michael Schäfer: I will try to reactivate IAB more and in the coming years, we will show what we are capable of, and that we can do much more than we might have been able to show in the last few years. The task of strengthening our market position in the steel and smelting industry while at the same time exploring new business areas for our know-how, is an important incentive for us in the daily business as well.