Manufacturing a new beginning
EBK Krüger is expanding in Adlershof
The new headquarters of EBK Krüger in Adlershof is brand new - office buildings, manufacturing halls, meeting rooms, and staff locker rooms. Everything but the manufacturing facility that is about to put in operation in the facility’s main room. This is deliberate, however. Breaking down old facilities from Siemens, Bosch and Co and putting them back together is the business model of Martin Lehmann and his partner Daniel Heidrich.
EBK Krüger GmbH & Co. KG is responsible for manufacturing components – e.g. motor parts or mechanical-electrical parts, like relays – for vehicles and machines after the end of production. Many manufacturers aim at providing spare components for years or even decades after the models were discontinued. Due to their limited capacities in terms of space and staff, which are required for making new products, companies outsource the manufacturing of such discontinued models. In the case of sophisticated and security-related components, they are often outsourced to Germany – instead of Eastern Europe and Asia – more specifically: to EBK.
The issue of limited space is not just an issue for the company’s customers, like Bosch and Siemens, but also for EBK themselves. The company is growing because it is producing for more and more customers as well as expanding its technological skillset. The Mariendorf branch, for example, focuses on manufacturing plastic parts, galvanics and punching metal. Martin Lehmann, who is an industrial engineer, joined the company in 2007, which was founded as a Siemens spin-off in 1997, and took over in 2013 together with Daniel Heidrich. When the Teltow branch started to burst at the seams, they started searching for new a location. Staying in the city was interesting to them partly because it was “a trend among manufacturing companies, as a Fraunhofer study has shown,” says Lehmann. Adlershof was an obvious choice that Lehmann was familiar with because of the site’s connection to HTW University for Applied Sciences, his alma mater. The move of the old EBK location in Teltow to Adlershof and Mariendorf will be completed by the end of 2019. EBK quickly reserved the lot right next to the freshly developed site. It is clear to their customers that the company has potential.
“For us, growth also means an increase in reliability and quality,” says Lehmann. This message quickly got about and resulted in an increase in orders. Lehmann is particularly proud to produce injection valves for Bosch, which the company took over last year. “Being trusted with manufacturing those highly precise components was like an accolade to us.” It was also the basis for the company’s expansion. However, says Lehmann, this cannot and will not go on forever.
“The much-cited skills shortage in Germany, however, is not a limiting factor for us.” EBK has no problem finding sufficiently trained staff and, additionally, employs an average of seven to ten apprentices, who are trained as electricians and industrial engineers. About 30 percent of the company’s 167 employees are engineers, while most others are technicians and business managers. “Of course it is important to put some effort into finding staff,” says Lehmann. These efforts range from the initial application process to the atmosphere of the new company headquarters in Adlershof.
The slightly unusual business model of EBK requires slightly more unusual staff. In terms of technology, EBK expects its employees to have some interest in old technologies, including punch cards and 8-bit personal computers such as the “Commodore 64” from 1982. Moreover, staff are required to freestyle by combining such skills with cutting-edge methods like 3D printing and to fix minor damage and issues on their own accord. “Occasionally, we have to redesign a manufacturing process. Frequently, we downgrade in terms of automatisation and focus on manual procedures, simply because it’s more efficient,” says Lehmann. Moreover, the customer’s logistics are a challenge because EBK not only ‘inherits’ the facilities but also the supply chains. With currently 30 different product groups and 28,000 available items, the company has amounted 800 suppliers who have to be managed. This is obviously done digitally, says Lehmann.
“LeitArt Gesellschaft für Mittelstandskybernetik mbH, a start-up we founded after buying EBK Krüger, also recently moved house,” says Lehmann. LeitArt focuses on data analytics. It has eight employees and will hit a million euro revenues for the first time in 2018. Its customers include Knorr Bremse, Rheinmetall, Siemens and other medium-sized manufacturing companies.
Apropos growth: another argument in favour of Adlershof as the new location was the planned establishment of a prototype centre. The needs of manufacturing start-ups are quite similar to medium-sized companies focused on manufacturing discontinued merchandise: small quantities, manual labour, special expertise and space. EBK is able to offer young companies, particularly start-ups, the required expertise, staff and space. “At the same time, we get to hear new ideas, meet new people and find new companies to invest in,” says Lehmann. Together with Daniel Heidrich, he is also co-owner for Dimidia, an investment and management firm, which is also the parent company of EBK. All these things are just different types of growth for the full-blooded entrepreneur.
By Uta Deffke for Adlershof Journal