Former Maquet subsidiary has a fresh start

Medikomp turns into Stahl: Medium-sized company sets itself ambitious targets

(“Rastatter Tageblatt”, Rastatt/Ötigheim)  – Turning, milling and welding – Wolfgang Hohnhaus has learned these skills completely from scratch. From the age of 15, he worked in his parents’ engineering company. Mr. Hohnhaus, who holds a doctorate in business economics, has been an entrepreneur for 17 years. Almost to the day, one year ago, he and his business partner Peter Jansenberger purchased the Maquet subsidiary Medikomp in Rastatt. Not only the new name represents an awakening in Kehler Street. As Stahl Metall and Medizintechnik GmbH, the new owners want to make a new start with ambitious targets.

Wolfgang Hohnhaus knows that the starting position is everything but comfortable. For many years, Medikomp seemed to be stuck in a permanent state of crisis. The subsidiary of the medical equipment producer Maquet, which took over the production for the parent company, was said to be the “unwanted child”. When Maquet arranged the sale, the change of ownership only happened because the staff was prepared to swallow a bitter pill: 39 instead of 35 working hours without any wage compensation. For the managing partner Mr. Hohnhaus, this was an indispensable condition for the turnaround. After all, in the previous year, there had been a loss of 3.5 million euros from a turnover of about 30 million euros. Now the motto is: “We can only distribute if we earn” says the 44-year-old father of four.

Moreover, a change of culture is necessary. The staff must let go of the habits of a concern. “Less hierarchy and more personal responsibility”, says Mr. Hohnhaus. In order to bring the firm back on the road to success, the company boss has hired Christian Keller as managing director to work at his side. The manager is no stranger in Rastatt. He used to work for Maquet and was managing director at Medikomp. However, in the last few years he was self-employed in the USA. The duo – bolstered by the former Maquet boss Dr. Heribert Ballhaus operating as consultant on the advisory board – want to tackle the restructuring now. All three unanimously emphasize that the chances are good. All employees have been taken on and currently 225 work in Rastatt and another 20 at the location in Ötigheim, where “Stahl Hygienic Room Solutions GmbH” was founded and which builds clean rooms for hospitals. Further proof which shows the new bosses believe in the future of Rastatt is that seven apprentices have been taken on and trained since September and the quota will steadily be increased to ten percent.

Stahl’s new business strategy may initially sound contradictory. Around 80 percent of the orders currently come from Maquet. The company would like to accept more orders from its neighbour but in the long term, increase the number of other customers to more than 50 percent of its total. How so? With the noble target that Wolfgang Hohnhaus and Christian Keller formulate as follows: ”We want to become the biggest stainless steel processing company in Germany.” A company that does not mind order production but which – as a medium-sized owner-managed company – wants to impress with quality, reliability, innovation and short delivery times of orders ranging from the straightforward to complex demands for small quantities.

The bosses at Stahl are increasingly under the impression that the relocation of production to low wage countries has reached its limits. Their credo is this: first the quality, then the price. As proof, they present one of their latest customers. A company has stainless steel equipment manufactured with Stahl, equipment which the customers had previously produced in Hungary. However, in Rastatt, they do not only want to build components. Thanks to various concessions and certifications, the company bosses are determined to launch their own producs for hospitals in the market. For argument’s sake, the company wants to gain a foothold in the area of gastronomy. With the production of industry kitchens, Mr. Hohnhaus could create synergies with some of the other companies he owns.

In order to meet the high demands, Stahl in Rastatt wants to invest ten million in the next few years. The factory will be modernized step by step. A 1.2 million tube laser machine has just been purchased. Next year, the investment programme also includes the construction of a hall with its own reception as well as entrances for customers and suppliers. It is also a sign to the public how the former Maquet subsidiary has become more independent from the parent company.

Want to get rid of it? Give it to us!

You may rub your eyes in amazement when you see the old forge in Kehler Street. Small but mighty, the former Maquet subsidiary Medikomp has a new appearance and is about to stir up the metal processing market in Germany. Only as a reminder: In the past, Medikomp used to be the “mucky pup” of the parent company Maquet which belongs to the Swedish Getinge concern. “Get rid of it!” used to be the message to the metal builders for many years. The figures were burning red. And now? After only one year, the new owners are spreading a spirit of optimism. Their motto: “Give it to us”, namely addressed to all metal-works which major concerns disdainfully wish to push abroad.

However, one swallow does not make a summer. It is remarkable that investors take their money and spend it on a discontinued model, then restore it so that it can survive in a high-wage country and – on top of that – ensure that it brings profit to the owners and guarantees work places.

So something must be done differently in a medium-sized company than in a major corporation. Do two completely different belief systems clash with each other? The contrast can be seen quite clearly now in Rastatt. On their compound, the Benz plant in Rastatt is scrapping their suppliers for interior paneling and is going to have the products for the new compact car generation made in Eastern Europe. Whether this ultimately works out is doubted by the advocates of “Made in Germany”. They favour the quality here, the short distances and punctual delivery times. They also believe that he who exclusively focuses on cheap production in Eastern Europe and Asia, may be in for a sudden and unwelcome surprise. Egbert Mauderer