European Business: aichele GROUP has long been at home in various industries. How has it enabled success for each of its three companies?
Bernd Geiger: It has been a gradual development, with a close collaboration between the companies. Even though BREMI, era-contact and streicherplast might be at home in different fields, they share the same culture.
European Business: Could you highlight the focus of each company in short?
Bernd Geiger: BREMI is the expert for ignition technology, wiring and sensor technology, addressing the automotive and electro-mobility sectors as well as mechanical engineering. It sends out more than 5,000 products every day. era-contact is a provider of cable assemblies, control panels, electro- mechanical systems and rail couplings. In fact, the company is market leader in rail couplings with our partner Voith. We are responsible for all couplings used in trains worldwide. We are the first address for complete cabling systems in trains, construction machinery, excavators and ship cabling.
European Business: In addition, you operate streicherplast in Rottweil. Does it also have its specialisation?
Bernd Geiger: streicherplast is producing plastic parts with up to a 800 g part weight, which makes them high-strength and high-temperature resistant.
European Business: You are serving a broad range of products and markets. What binds you together as a group?
Bernd Geiger: Apart from being innovation-driven, we share the same values and highly respect people. You will find this belief echoed in our motto of ‘Our success is driven by people’ – it sums up our vision of partnerships with suppliers and customers. The slogan might be some 24 years old, but it is still vivid in our daily work. It was the company’s founder Erich Aichele who first coined this sentence, and we still live up to it today. We aim to see our partners as equals, and this attitude has earned us the respect of suppliers and customers alike.
European Business: What drives you personally?
Bernd Geiger: It is above all the cooperation with people. It is very rewarding to see our company thrive. I am now working for aichele GROUP for 25 years, at first as tool manufacturing director but since 2006 I have been CEO, responsible for the technical part of our business.
European Business: What is your focus?
Bernd Geiger: We operate eight production sites on four continents, which results in extensive traveling. I want to keep in close contact with all our locations and our 900 employees worldwide. While at the moment I am very much involved in our cooperation with key accounts, I will shift my attention to the implementation of our new strategy 2022 which targets continuous growth and aims at maintaining our leading position in rail couplings, including all related innovations and new introductions.
European Business: What has manifested your vanguard position in rail couplings?
Bernd Geiger: One of our latest innovations is the era-transceiver® which era-contact recently presented to the market. With its optical radio signal it can be used as interface for high-speed data transfer in trains without showing any wear. It is an ideal solution for high-speed data transfer between carriages of rail vehicles. As it provides a secure connection to mechanical vibration and electromagnetic interferences, it ensures high availability in any train.
European Business: Are there other fields where you drive innovation in order to offer solutions for the future?
Bernd Geiger: We are a provider of ignition coils and high-voltage cables for e-mobility. It is important to focus on innovative technologies that will have a major impact on the future. Surely, e-mobility will become one of the dominating issues in the coming years.
European Business: Which major current trends will affect the future of the automotive and rail industries?
Bernd Geiger: Train technology will develop further. Bombardier and Siemens are still leading the way. When it comes to the automotive sector, it is above all the shift towards e-mobility that will determine the future. Autonomous driving and reduction of diesel cars are very much the talk of the industry.
European Business: What does the strategy 2022 imply?
Bernd Geiger: We aim to remain a market leader in rail couplings. We are generating a turnover of 90 million EUR, but we aim to reach 150 million EUR in the coming years. We emphasise the attractiveness of the aichele GROUP. We are always looking for new innovations, new partnerships and new markets. We have entered a partnership with the university of Karlsruhe, focusing on paperless manufacturing, for which we received an award, for instance. We opened a new production site in South Carolina two weeks ago.
European Business: What would you advice junior managers to do?
Bernd Geiger: I would advice them to set clear goals and be honest to themselves and to their employees. All staff members must be aware that you care and that you are involved in their daily dealings even when times are rough. Teamwork is an important factor, which we have already implemented with great success in our daily work for many years.