On 22.05.2014 the machine manufacturer Aerzen celebrated the 150th anniversary of its foundation (Fig. 1). From foundry to a worldwide successful company group – Aerzen has experienced all sorts of ups and downs within the past 150 years of its existence. When you look at this process, you experience a good portion of German industrial history from the perspective of a medium-sized company that could save a great number of its traditional values over the years (Fig. 2 and Fig. 3). Aerzen has always proven its ability to make changes.
How to become a market leader and top of the class in the technology sector? Klaus-Hasso Heller, CEO, leading the family company Aerzen in the fourth generation has a clear statement: “Only competence and experience are not enough, it also requires a fair amount of luck. Our history differs from others, as even during crises, we have taken the advantage to orientate anew. In 2010, Aerzener Maschinenfabrik was entered for the first time in the “Lexicon of Global Market Leaders” – provisional highlight of a company career that had not necessarily been planned, but is also no coincidence. There have been early affinities for the medium air. In the middle of the 19th century: coking plants, iron foundries and forges require compressed air in large, industrial quantities which could not be handled by the common bellows anymore that were used back then (Fig. 4).
The first rotary piston machines for compression of gases originate from an Englishman: Francis Marion Roots. He developed the technical principle named after him and built the first rotary piston machines. First manufacturer of these machines on the continent: Aerzener Maschinenfabrik brought its type of Roots blower in 1869 on the market. The application fields for the new gas compressors expanded quickly: Chemical plants, shipyards, railway factories and companies from other sunrise industries ordered the new machines in masses. Only four years earlier, the Jewish merchant and son of a banker, Wilhelm Meyer, started the production of its newly established foundry and machine company. Almost 50 employees manufactured what was needed by the regional environment: Harrows, tedders and other agricultural equipment, but also grave crosses and drinking fountains made of cast iron. In the 1880s Aerzen took advantage of the fast industrial boom of the young empire. In 1897, the 5000th positive displacement blower is produced and supplied to Berlin (Fig. 5). In 1909, Aerzen received patents for its silencers for the blowers, the noise levels of the machines decreased drastically.
The essential step on the way to the special manufacturer for rotary piston machines made the company only in 1930 – after a landmark decision of the legendary company manager and engineer Hermann Allstaedt. He seeked and found a specialisation strategy for his company as way out of the world economic crisis. The willingness of Hermann Allstaedt to meet special customer requests shows the invention of the impellers or guide wheels for turbo machines in 1910 and the entry in the production of turbo blowers in 1911 (Fig. 6). In 1930, the growing gas pipeline business opened up a huge market for Aerzener Maschinenfabrik in the field of industrial gas measurement. Very soon it proved that the management had made the right decision with the rotary piston gas meters whose functional principle derived from the blower technology. Major customers like Ruhrgas AG or Friedrich Krupp AG secured the sales and were the basis for the user-oriented development of new machines for the compression of gases – still today one of the pillars for the company’s success (Fig. 7).
During the war Allstaedt’s son-in-law Karlheinrich Heller took over the management of the company and started the development of the first screw compressors. Their success on the booming European postwar markets was not long in coming. The factory was extended and supplemented by a second factory in Hamelin. In 1960, Karlheinrich Heller suddenly died, shortly before Aerzen supplied the 100 000th positive displacement blower (Fig. 8). The company had more than 600 employees at that time. In 1965, Hasso Heller took over the management of the company and started to develop it to a global player. In rapid succession he establishes subsidiary companies in France, England, USA and South Africa. At the same time the location Aerzen is modernised further, the range of products is expanded by many innovations. In 1978 Aerzen launches the world’s largest positive displacement blower on the market. It is used in the steel industry and has a piston diameter of 1.5 metres.
With the new series Delta Screw and Delta Blower (Fig. 9) Aerzen wins new customer groups worldwide also in the 1990s. Now about 1000 employees work for Aerzen. “Quality has always been a central factor of success for us”, explains Klaus-Hasso Heller, who took over the management from his father in the year 2000. “Or to put it another way, we are able to always redefine quality.”
As one of the first German companies in 1990 Aerzener Maschinenfabrik received the DIN EN ISO 9001 certificate, which shows the customers, that high quality standards are one of the declared management targets. “We have pushed this forward”, supplements managing director Björn Irtel: “Machine availability and efficiency, throughout the entire machine life and in the customers’ process - this is our current definition of quality.” With a view to the availability as central element of the machine quality the After Sales Service was also expanded consistently and in a global scale and focused on proactive approach. A worldwide acting service team consisting of more than 100 colleagues supports customers locally and fulfils the obligations resulting from a variety of new and contractually definable service packages.
Klaus-Hasso Heller and his team went even further. The range of products was tightened, the internationality was extended to now more than 40 subsidiary companies and a generation of new, particularly energy efficient machines was developed. In 2010, with Delta Hybrid, the company presented the first worldwide series of rotary lobe compressors offering energy saving of up to 15 % compared to conventional compressors. For the first time in the company’s history, a production plant for major components was established abroad by the addition of the subsidiary Aerzen Turbo in 2011 in South Korea. This was preceded by a cooperation with a South Korean Hightech company. The energy efficient technology of turbo blowers with air bearings was developed further and the new series AT Turbo Generation 5 was launched successfully on the market.
In 2011, Klaus-Hasso Heller expanded the company management by the Master of Business and Engineering Bernd Wöhlken and engineer Björn Irtel. Together they developed an ambitious “vision 2020”, with which the company wants to become one of the three worldwide leading application specialists of its branch. Appropriately, and in time for the celebrations of the 150th anniversary (Fig. 10) an important strategic restructuring measure was completed: The founding of the corporate brand Aerzen (Fig. 11). So they broke up with partly habitual, or fond designations such as “Aerzener Maschinenfabrik” or – more traditional: “Aerzener”.
In future the steel-blue elegant company logo, which was also modernised, simply includes the international brand name: Aerzen. The company philosphy connected with the new company brand sounds confident and points the way into a global future (Fig. 12): “We want to be the ultimative solution provider in the key applications of our customers. With superior engineering and pathbreaking machine quality. With the most extensive experience of the branch, the most customer friendly service worldwide and the leading innovation potential with regard to the future success factor – energy efficiency.” Aerzen Marketing division intensively looked for a slogan, to summarise the company guidelines. Extremely simple and powerful the new slogan, which Aerzen consciously expresses in the world language English: Expect Performance.
What is the secret of success of 150 years of Aerzen? “It must be a special mixture of inventive talent, combined with virtues and independence, that only a family-run company can have. And what I am particularly proud of: We have extremely competent and faithful colleagues, creating an atmosphere, in which you like living and working!”, says CEO Heller.