From a small workshop in Selb, Germany, to an internationally successful mechanical engineering group: NETZSCH is ringing in its 150th anniversary year – and over 4,100 employees worldwide are joining in the celebration.
The beginning is a copy of the same start-up pattern we often see today: Two brothers set up their own business in 1873 and, in a small workshop in Selb, developed a quality product that won over the fire departments of the region. The fire extinguishers from the “Gebrüder Netzsch Maschinenfabrik” were a big seller. From there, Thomas Netzsch, a locksmith, and his younger brother Christian Netzsch, an engineer, went on to develop machines for ceramic production that were also renowned for their quality. With the boom of the porcelain industry at that time in the Fichtelgebirge, the company finally concentrated entirely on the production of the ceramics industry equipment.
Thus, 150 years ago, the success story of a family-owned company began, which today spans the globe with its three business units “Pumps & Systems”, “Grinding & Dispersing” and “Analyzing & Testing” – with products such as the Mohno pump, wet mill and rheometer, with around 210 production and sales locations and more than 4,100 employees. Today, the NETZSCH Group is once again headed by two brothers from Selb: Moritz and Paul Netzsch. As the fifth generation of the Netzsch family of owners, they run the company along with CFO Jens Niessner.
“Our history provides answers”
What began in 1873 in a workshop in Selb has, of course, long outgrown its infancy. But NETZSCH wants to remain true to its family values and roots. In this anniversary year, Moritz Netzsch emphasizes: “It is important to me that we have a stable, continued development of what we do today. My wish is that, with all the reflection, with all the necessary rethinking and new thinking, we grow organically, and bring the company into the next generation stronger than ever.”
This is one of the reasons why NETZSCH had its corporate history researched from a variety of perspectives for its 150th anniversary. Looking into the past not only substantiates values and successes, it also reveals the fit of a value proposition. “Our history provides answers as to why we have existed for so long. Our slogan ‘Proven Excellence’ is no empty phrase. We can prove our excellence from our history. One can observe how we actively shaped entire industries over many years. Along with this, NETZSCH has always been able to adapt to radical changes in the corporate world or in the marketplace. Sometimes this also meant that we had to drastically reposition ourselves,” says Paul Netzsch. After the Second World War, for example, potato washing machines were designed, and during the heyday of the porcelain industry, NETZSCH built complete factories for the ceramic industry. All of these developments ultimately led to NETZSCH positioning itself very successfully in the market with its “Analyzing & Testing”, “Grinding & Dispersing” and “Pumps & Systems” business units. “We want to transfer this historically grown adaptability into the future as well,” explains Moritz Netzsch.
Success over generations
Looking back also has a personal component. Especially when important milestones in the company’s history can be attributed to Erich Netzsch (1903-1990) and Thomas Netzsch (1946-2010). Both managing directors have shaped the company in their own distinctive way and brought it forward with groundbreaking decisions. The discovery and further development of the Mohno pump under Erich Netzsch and the intensive internationalization under Thomas Netzsch are just two examples. The company still benefits from these formative decisions today. After all, success at NETZSCH always has a cross-generational component. The same applies to an understanding of values and quality that, for generations, has not only focused on the company’s own products and customers, but also on its employees. Thus, 25- and even 40-year anniversaries are nothing unusual at NETZSCH – even internationally. The average length of service of the international workforce at NETZSCH is high at 10.6 years. At the German locations, employees even remain employed for an average of 13 years.
CFO Jens Niessner is convinced: “You can feel our NETZSCH spirit at every location. Our values, the economic success, the perspective for the employees – this pairing sparks an aura that makes us competitive even in places where other companies with a high international profile are located.” The result: Niessner repeatedly experiences deja vu during employee interviews all over the world: “I often meet employees, whether it’s in China, Brazil or Waldkraiburg, and realize in conversation: the son or daughter now also works for us. Our spirit is not only inherited by the owner family, but also by our workforce.
“We drive industrial progress”
Meanwhile, the vision for the future is set: in 2022, the company has launched a new strategy for the three business units. “We drive industrial progress to sustain a successful eco-system through generations” – the new mission for the future reveals a strengthened will to shape things at NETZSCH. Looking back gives courage, but above all it makes us want to look forward to the future. And this future should be characterized by innovation more than ever. Since 2019, for example, employees have been involved in the development of futuristic ideas in NETZSCH’s own innovation incubator NEDGEX and are always on the lookout for potential new business areas. In 2021, NEDGEX was honored by Infront Consulting and the business magazine Capital as one of the best Digital Innovations Labs in Germany with the Digital Lab Award.
In its anniversary year, NETZSCH is planning extensive celebrations – including at all major international locations. The company will share the various facets of its history with its workforce, customers and partners, as well as interested members of the public, in a magazine and an anniversary blog.