Vorsprung Durch Companies

April 21, 2011 | By More

The Wirtgen road milling machines are used in many countries.

Germany’s economy is the strongest in the world. Its trade balance – the value of its exports over its imports – is second only to China’s, which is all the more remarkable since Germany is home to just 82 million people.  Its 7.5 percent unemployment rate is lower than at any time since right after reunification. Growth is robust, and real wages are rising.

The main motor of Germany’s growth is the Mittelstand, mainly small and medium-sized firms, typically family-owned and highly specialised, that build products that dominate obscure branches of industry. And these firms excel in their individual markets.

If a particular job can best be done by a machine, then the chances are that the machine in question was built in a small town in Germany. Machines that make other things are a Mittelstand speciality.

The Winkler+Dünnebier envelope machine makes 1300 envelopes per min

Wirtgen is a leader in making machines that recycle tar and grit from old roads to be relaid as smooth new ones. Leitz in making wood-processing tools.  Kugler-Womako, a champion in production lines for printing passports.  Winkler+Dünnebier makes machines that produce envelopes.  Micon makes mining tools, including one that is used to rescue trapped miners recently in Chile.

The Kugler-Womako passport machine

Other famous brands that are no longer small include B. Braun, a family-owned maker of medical supplies, or Bosch, an engineering group owned by a charitable foundation.

Mittelstand companies are not limited to tech companies. There are many non-tech too – such as bakeries, retail, construction, publication, manufacturing and all types of service industries – providing 70% of the country’s jobs. 80% of apprentices work in these firms so they also provide vocational training.

The family-owned "Braune" bakery was founded in 1853.

Mittelstand is not limited to only Germany, but includes small and medium-sized enterprises in German-speaking countries, especially in Austria and Switzerland.

Mittelstand values include attention to detail, financial caution and social responsibility. As we have discussed in previous postings, excellence in what they do (read more about In pursuit of Excellence).

The characteristics of Mittelstand need not be limited to German-speaking countries either. Your company, too, can be one.



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About the Author ()

EngTong, pioneer and innovator. Graduated from Imperial College London with an MBA from Cranfield School of Management. Lived in Scotland, England, California, Beijing and led teams in Italy, France, Japan, Taiwan and Malaysia to do the impossible. Now based in Singapore and believes the future is to blend the sophistication of western management practices with the strength of Asian Values. Trained as a Chartered Engineer. Member of IET, Associate of City and Guilds and a certified SixSigma Champion.

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