Rolf Leiber: “I want to have a sparkling clean production here”

Do you know Emmingen from Egg? Have you been to Ruda Slaska? There you could – if you Dr. Visit Rolf Leiber to get a personal impression of how Germany’s industrial middle-sized sector works. And how it comes to sustainable production abroad – in this case in Poland.

To understand the success story of the Leiber Group, you do not even have to start with the press machines for spaetzle and the mincers that company founder Valentin Leiber produced in the post-war years. Today, the company is also growing in the aerospace industry, for which superstable feet for aircraft seats are produced in Emmingen. Leiber products are also hybrid-forged drive shafts or brake disc pots, which the automobile industry builds in series to reduce weight and fuel consumption.

The new truck air bellows in the bionic design and made with the patented super-hard alloy Aluxtrem: 50 percent lighter than steel. That Daimler could be won over as a customer for Rolf Leiber was an “accolade”. His “Customer Focus Team Automotive” also spent months lorries in the truck and studied exactly which weighty part they could replace with aluminum.  

The own development with focus on the future customer requirement is the one recipe for success, the mastery of the production the second. Rolf Leiber has consciously taken a different course with both of them than many blacksmiths: “Outsourcing almost everything – that makes you completely replaceable in the competition.”

“Outsourcing almost everything – that makes you arbitrarily replaceable in the competition”

The Emminger plant is now successfully covering an entire route along the value chain in lightweight construction: this starts with the pre-development, with which one can approach specific reference customers in a targeted manner. For the quality of the precursors – alloys with which one achieves unique material properties of the aluminum – the Leiber-Group takes care of itself and even shares in-depth knowledge with the suppliers. It is known that without the subsequent process knowledge, they could not really serve the competition.

The integrated production lines, which are called A1, A2 motorways, are the heart of the production in Emmingen. Material feeding, preheating, forging, deburring, quenching and then blasting – the individual stations and robots are linked. High quantities run through here automatically. This is how LEIBER achieves its productivity goals. With articulated robots, which can be adjusted to new products in a very short time, the customer requests for individualization of the product can be fulfilled. Rolf Leiber: “That’s our future. Automating, higher quality jobs, higher wages, more productivity – that’s the right strategy. “

For the location in Poland, this perspective also applies in the long term: But wage-intensive manufacturing is still concentrated there and is even being expanded. Rolf Leiber knows that in order to keep pace with the fierce competition among suppliers, he has to produce the small and labor-intensive series there, which would no longer be profitable in Emmingen. This year, Leiber has set up another production line of almost 3000 square meters in Ruda Slaska, Silesia, where it has been producing since 1995. Altogether 350 employees are now employed there.

Rolf Leiber likes a lot in Poland. Entrepreneurial that “no gap” between productivity and labor cost development opens. “On the contrary, we even have an increase in productivity there, which compensates for the double-digit wage cost increases,” Leiber praised the location. That was not the case when trying to do a work in Spain. “In the crisis that was then no longer feasible,” Leiber regrets the withdrawal from the Iberian Peninsula. “We decided on the plants in Germany and Poland.”  

And that does not regret bodies. “Poland has become a benchmark in terms of unit costs.” In Ruda Slaska, processes and machines are used immediately, which first had to be experimented in Emmingen. “Plant planning is more homogeneous in Poland,” Leiber calls another factor. “Since 1995, we have been planning on a high-performance basis.” Leiber is enthusiastic about the team in Poland: “It’s an unbelievable work discipline and on-time delivery.” Leiber, who accompanied the factory from the beginning, used to go to Poland every month, now only three months. “It works so well, I can leash for a long time.”

Long preliminary developments still take place in Germany. “I need the young and cheeky heads here,” Leiber praises the good and, above all, practice-oriented education that he eventually wishes for Poland. Only the further personal development and responsibility in the company create the basis for keeping qualified employees in practice  – even if the labor market in southern Germany makes every conceivable change possible.

“I made it for the boys”. Visiting Leiber is immensely proud that he has completely entrusted the construction and erection of a Schuler press for a new production line worth an estimated eight million to a very young employee. “This is saying that we can take on a lot of responsibility early on,” he describes the practical effect of advertising.

The view of Rolf Leiber is directed to the future. From the 50 million DM turnover, since he took over the company as managing director, in the meantime 120 million euro become. Over two decades, the company has grown at double digits almost every year. Whether this will continue in the next few years? Rolf Leiber shakes his head: “That’s not my goal at all.” For Leiber, growth, profitability and financial reserves are only a means of further developing family businesses. He also wants to be prepared for possible crises: “At the next Lehman I do not want to get a flutter man”.

Leiber does not yet take on new international markets, even though its customers’ reputation for local content is unmistakable. Asia, China, USA – the entrepreneur does not dare to go for the “global footprint” – especially since he does not run out of ideas in this country. “With eight percent growth – served from the two plants – we get along well.” His goal is another anyway: “I want when I stop, have a spotless operation.” And he even means literally, not only at the balance sheet. “Production without graphite, a really clean production.” And he adds: “Which can do without me. I want my people to be proud to be here. “

Hans Gäng
14.11.2019
von Hans Gäng