small factories

Small Companies



Swabia host (2) set us apart
ensure turnover passionate
core (2) field (2) take the lead
key (2) interrupt competition
staff tinkerer coincidence
custom appeal (2) reputation
patent premise custom made
ampule innovation double-digit figures
founder sufficient component
seal (3) potential apprentices
rival sterilize pharmaceutical
alert long haul staying power
conquer explosion stay ahead






The Swabian countryside is perhaps not where you would not expect to find a host of global market leaders.

But they’re here.

This one is currently expanding its premises — yet again.

The company Stahl in the town of Baden Wurttenburg has tripled its turnover in the last few years: it’s now making over €300 million per year, producing electrical installations that are explosion protected.

It’s a highly specialized field where Stahl has taken the lead.

Martin Schumacher, Stahl CEO: “This here for example is a typical circuit breaker. It has an interrupter inside, just like we have at home. But it has a special housing around it that ensures there can never be an explosion.

That’s the core of our technology.”

Martin Schumacher says one of the keys to the company’s success is that they train their own staff, pay them well and don’t lose them to the competition.

But how did it become a global leader?

Martin Schomaker, Stahl CEO: “There were coincidences involved. This plastics technology quickly conquered the market.

German technology has a good reputation, and Stahl was already a leading technological firm.

So we immediately appealed to European customers, which helped us.”

The company builds electrical systems, particularly for the chemical and oil industry, which right now are selling especially well in Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

Much of what they do is custom made.

Martin Schomaker, Stahl CEO: “I think the technical experts of this region is known for developing products. They want to produce the best solution for the customer.

That’s what sets us apart from firms that deliver a product which just fulfils a certain function.

Many of our employees are constantly coming up with new ideas: every year we register patents in double-digit figures — even though we are not a huge firm.

We have great potential for innovation, which is typical in this region.”

We visit another company close by, Bausche and Stroble, which today employs over a thousand people.

Siegfried Bullinger, Company Co-Founder: “We never dreamt it would grow to this. Our first building was designed for 30 people.

We later doubled that.

But then we found that even that wasn’t enough because we were growing so fast.”

Bausche and Stroble is another global leader.

The company founder is nearly seventy, but still involved in the business.

Siegfried Bullinger is an engineer and is passionate about the machines he works with.

He too has trained nearly 70% of the workers here himself.

Apprentices are already building components for the packaging machine which the company sells.

The machines are used in particular in the pharmaceuticals industry.

This one for example, can cut open ampoules, sterilize them, refill them and then reseal them.

It took decades to develop.

One thing we notice again and again here is that the engineer clearing have staying power for the long haul.

Siegfried Bullinger, Company Co-Founder: “That’s the way people are here. They’re thinkers and tinkerers. And they live and work here.”

What does his employee think?

Employee: “Many people come from farming, where they’ve always had to repair things and find solutions. Perhaps there’s a connection.”

Most of the company’s customers are in Asia.

But they’re not worried their potential rivals in China could start building these machines more cheaply.

Siegfried Bullinger, Company Co-founder: “We’re not very concerned about Asian rivals at the moment. There’s an awful lot of know-how involved.

And we take steps to protect that.”

So far, that’s been sufficient.

But other companies are opening all the time.

Germany’s global leaders have to be alert — if they are to stay ahead of the game.

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1. World leading manufacturers are all located in large urban areas. True or false?

2. Is business at Stahl increasing, decreasing or remaining constant? Do they specialize in a product niche or manufacture a wide variety of products?

3. What is Stahl’s secret of success? What are some of its key markets?

4. Does Stahl copy or does it create, innovate and invent?

5. Apprenticeship and employee training are integral at Bausche and Stroble. Is this correct or wrong?

6. What do they specialize in? What is their (main) market?

7. Most of the factory technicians and engineers come from the city. Yes or no?

8. Are they worried about foreign competition? What’s their secret for dealing with competitors?
A. Most factories are located in large cities and urban areas in my country. Yes or no, both, usually?

B. What do they specialize in?

C. How are technicians and workers trained?

D. Is there a lot of (foreign) competition?

E. What will happen in the future?


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