For the Climate: Moving Every Lever

Interview with Dirk A. Neumayer, Managing Director of Richard Neumayer GmbH

Dirk A. Neumayer, Managing Director of Richard Neumayer GmbH
Dirk A. Neumayer, Managing Director of Richard Neumayer GmbH / © Konstantin Werner

'We innovate in green forging' - that is the slogan of Richard Neumayer GmbH, which specializes in forging and machining technology. Green forging? That initially sounds strange. But the family business from Hausach is serious about it. Managing Director Dirk A. Neumayer leads the company in the 5th generation. In conversation with Wirtschaftsforum, he explains what lies behind it, and how the company is confronting climate change.

Economic Forum: Mr. Neumayer, the company Richard Neumayer has been on the market for over 150 years. What does the company stand for?

Dirk A. Neumayer: Our central theme has always been mobility. It started with forging horseshoes, then followed by pistons for combustion engines. Today, we see strong growth in components for e-mobility. Our goal has always been to be innovative and to support our customers in their innovations.

Economic Forum: What is your core business?

Dirk A. Neumayer: We forge, shape, and largely further process 200 tons of steel each day. Venturing into processing and assembly were important steps. Thus, today we are able to assemble ready for installation. We manufacture products that are subjected to the highest demands, such as brake levers for trucks or engine pistons. Hence, our former slogan was 'We forge safety'. Drive wheels for e-mobility have become increasingly important, as forged parts are needed to transmit high torque. Another pillar is the non-automotive sector with the processing of high-alloy steel.

Richard Neumayer Dirk A. Neumayer with business partners
Dirk A. Neumayer (right) with business partners from SachsenEnergie AG and Freiflächen-PVA Stocken GmbH & Co. KG in front of the new solar plant / ©
Richard Neumayer Components for E-Mobility
Components for E-Mobility / © Konstantin Werner

Economic Forum: Where does the company stand economically?

Dirk A. Neumayer: Our sales are at 145 million EUR and are slightly increasing. We expect slight growth in the future as well. It will be important for such development to expand our value creation depth in the area of processing and assembly and to consistently focus on climate protection. This issue was intensively pursued by my father, and I also see our generations as responsible. We must solve this task. With an energy-intensive company like our forge, we have great levers that we can use in the sense of climate protection. Compared to 2018, we have already been able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 90% in our direct influence area. A large field of innovation!

Economic Forum: What does that look like in concrete terms?

Dirk A. Neumayer: Our slogan today is 'We innovate in green forging' – We want to forge green with innovations that are directly effective. For example, if we can do without burning fossil fuels, then this has an immediate positive effect on limiting global warming. Our customers, who want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their supply chain, are thrilled. This gives us a clear competitive advantage over other competitors. There are many examples of such innovations. For instance, we have introduced a process that saves a complete manufacturing step. By controlled cooling from forging heat instead of an additional heat treatment, we save 95% natural gas. In the field of power electronics, we have replaced three heating systems for a seven-figure sum. They are now operated on the basis of silicon carbide, which saves about two million kW of electricity. All roof surfaces are covered with solar panels – 1.4 MWp – yet that doesn't even cover 2% of our electricity needs! Direct supply with self-generation is hard to implement in the energy-intensive industry. Our employees make a significant contribution by taking their breaks in such a way that the machines for the heating processes can keep running. This saves about 250,000 kWh per year. Most processes are already electrified, which my father started. Since January 2021, we work with 100% green electricity initially from Norwegian hydropower. For effective climate protection, the expansion of renewables is important! That's why we have signed a Green Power Purchase Agreement, short PPA, with our energy supplier SachsenEnergie – an important milestone on the path to climate neutrality!

Richard Neumayer Solar System
Thanks to PPA: Part of the solar system in the Allgäu that supplies Richard Neumayer with green electricity / ©

Economic Forum: How digital is Richard Neumayer already?

Dirk A. Neumayer: Digitalization is crucial for success. The possibilities in the area of Industry 4.0 alone are brilliant and enable us, among other things, to determine the energy consumption per part and order and to make predictions for consumption. We thereby gain a deep insight into the processes and access to improvement processes. Additionally, we have a digital maintenance management and offer an employee app.

Economic Forum: What reasons are there for your company's success over so many decades?

Dirk A. Neumayer: First of all, it comes down to our sustainable orientation - we think in generations. Further, the employees strongly identify with the company. The quality of our products also speaks for us. And last but not least, due to our high technical competence, we are able to develop new things together with customers that nobody has made before. An example is the steel piston. It has been used in trucks for a long time, but its application in passenger vehicles was new. Here again, climate protection was the guide. The diesel steel piston saves between 3 to 5% in fuel consumption.

Richard Neumayer Forged Parts
Forged parts / © Konstantin Werner
Richard Neumayer Forge
Richard Neumayer has been forging with 100% green electricity since 2021 / © Konstantin Werner

Economic Forum: One more personal question: What motivates you every day?

Dirk A. Neumayer: A major drive is the responsibility for my employees. I want to offer them an attractive future. My main goal is to contribute effectively to climate protection – our grandchildren will later ask us what we did to combat climate change. I also enjoy dealing with digitalization.

Economic Forum: What other goals do you have with the company?

Dirk A. Neumayer: We want to move away from pure ‘Build to print’ and become a development supplier. The earlier we can accompany our customers in component development, the more we can align the components and processes towards sustainability. Our customers have a great interest in green forged parts. Also, by purchasing steel with a low CO2 footprint, we contribute to climate protection. One issue currently worries us: The electricity prices are many times the cost of electricity production. This severely endangers competitiveness. We need fair electricity prices! And the possibilities for energy-intensive companies to generate electricity directly are limited. It would be brilliant if the energy-intensive industry could treat electricity generated from more distant plants as if it were fed directly into the company's network. This would massively strengthen PPAs and the expansion of renewable energies, and allow companies to produce at least a part of the electricity at production costs themselves. This is my appeal to politics.