Manufacturer Profile: Art Inspires Businessman
In 1979, following the death of his father, Peter Schaufler took over the small to medium-sized company in Sindelfingen, which has been involved in the manufacture of refrigeration compressors since its foundation by Martin Bitzer in 1934.
Right from the very beginning of his time in the company, Peter Schaufler impressed people with his great sense of responsibility and modern marketing-based decisions, particularly when it came to making forward-looking investments. Even in those days, there were five main points that were central to his future visions for the company:
1. Number one independent manufacturer in Europe
2. Global presence
3. Sound, controlled growth
4. Financial and entrepreneurial independence
5. Reliable protection of the jobs the company provides
All five corporate goals were achieved, be it through technical innovations, long lasting and loyal partnerships, its own corporate developments or strategic alliances through so-called joint venture companies. "Actually, these are only temporary companies and are only accepted for marketing organizations, generally not for Bitzer factories."
With farsightedness, Peter Schaufler developed his small to medium-sized company into an important group in the industry that combines 24 subsidiaries under the roof of one holding company today.
All the subsidiaries operate under the name Bitzer International with a separate market and corporate style identity, but also with an integrated and well-formulated, shared corporate identity.
Bitzer Kuehlmaschinenbau GmbH & Co. Holding KG has its head office in Sindelfingen.
The consolidated turnover of all the Bitzer companies was almost DM 400 million in 1999. Another significant increase is expected for the year 2000. The group employs around 1,200 people at present, but this figure will remain the same or even rise as the group expands.
The group is highly export-oriented with 70% of sales made outside of Germany, Austria and Switzerland; 50% of all export business is outside of Europe.
The sales and marketing channels that are used include the entire range of conventional and more innovative possibilities. Direct sales caters to national and international OEM customers, the after-sales area in distribution is covered by wholesalers, general importers, and marketing subsidiaries, while the end customer market segment generally serves typical installers.
Today, Bitzer has reached one of its original goals and is actually one of the largest independent manufacturers of refrigeration compressors in the middle capacity range (0.5 to 150 KW driving power). It manufactures piston and screw compressors.
These products are used in all areas of refrigeration and air-conditioning technology. Conventional areas of application range from blast freezing to vacuum-packing food in supermarkets. Other areas of application include controlling the room temperature in offices and hotels, and air-conditioning in buses or rail vehicles (e.g. ICE).
With calculated risk-taking and future vision, Peter Schaufler led his company in a technological way to become a leading international supplier.
In 1995, the European Bitzer factories were awarded DIN EN ISO 9001 and 9002 certification. This could only have been achieved with clear internal guidelines on monitoring a constant "in-process" production quality. Peter Schaufler puts great emphasis on this.
"Environment-friendly products must also be produced in an ecologically harmless way". In accordance with this guiding principle, all the German Bitzer companies underwent a voluntary and successful Eco-audit at their three locations in 1997.
Without doubt, the takeover of the former MAB Schkeuditz in Sachsen was a milestone in the history of the company. Peter Schaufler acquired the company from the trust in 1991 and it now employs 300 people. Bitzer has invested more than DM 100 million in this company to date, including the purchase price that it paid to the trust.
In the first year of the takeover, Bitzer was able to produce DDR-design compressors to the value of DM 60 million in this factory and supply them to the Soviet Union at the time. The relevant proceeds were then obtained with luck and vigor.
Following the collapse of the East European block, it was necessary to give up this market despite all the initial Hermes safeguards. Very soon afterwards, the newly equipped Bitzer factory close to Leipzig was converted for the production of semi-hermetic compressors for the world market. Today, this factory is one of the most important pillars of production for carrying out business worldwide.
It was his courage in taking calculated risks and his objective of achieving financial independence that has prompted Peter Schaufler over the years to invest in so-called unsteady markets like Russia, South Africa, China, India, Indonesia and Malaysia by setting up his own subsidiaries. The road to success was not always easy, profits were often only made in the medium term, but the most important thing here was the philosophy that "earned profits must be reinvested, preferably in the companies in which they were made".
Peter Schaufler grants decision-making powers, which often go way beyond position or job description, to individual "area leaders" or "managers" according to ability and experience.
With this attitude, he strengthens the sense of responsibility of his leading employees and increases flexibility significantly. Success gives him this right. The worst mistake that an employee can make is to only highlight problems without presenting any suggestions for reaching a decision, or even to dodge making a decision.
Honorary Senator Peter Schaufler chose not to reveal how he plans to spend his 60th birthday. Perhaps he will sit with his wife and good friends and hatch plans that are in keeping with the rare harmony obtained from art appreciation and visionary business transactions and which will then signal new surprises for his environment in the near future.
"People from the most varied nations and cultures often ask me where I get the strength and desire to work so hard. The answer to this is very easy for two reasons: firstly, there's the fact that corporate success gives me such simple joy and satisfaction, in fact it is also my hobby. And secondly, together with my wife Christine, have managed in recent years to find a balance as an art lover, collector and patron, from which I can draw sufficient strength in my free time. This second aspect of my interests inspires me - sometimes even in the same way as an artist is inspired - to look for new, private and business challenges, which must often be judged as remarkable."
Publication date: 02/19/2001