And Hauck has plenty of experience of large companies. After graduating with a degree in electrical engineering from the University of Cologne, he worked for AEG for five years before moving to a village near Reading in the UK. There, he worked on automation projects in both baggage handling and materials handling. After four years, he moved back to Siegen, about 80km east of Cologne, near Baumer’s base in Freudenberg.
Hauck was managing director of his previous employer, another family-owned company. ‘It was profitable for every single one of those 21 years,’ he said. But, looking for a new challenge, he resigned in 2020. Shortly afterwards, he was approached by Nina Patisson, and became Baumer’s managing director in early 2021.
He likes the close-knit nature of the company. ‘Some families have two or three employees at the company here,’ he said. ‘We even have three generations of some families. To me, it is like coming home. I live two miles (3km) down the road from the factory, and it is closer for me to come to work than it is to go to the bakery.’
The company is more diverse than it might first appear. ‘A lot of new people have come in from university and from our in-house training, and there is a lot of fresh blood in the R&D and sales departments,’ he said. ‘So there is plenty of diversity.’
Hauck is also a supporter of Germany’s middle-sized companies. ‘Baumer is a hidden champion. It is amazing how many small family-owned businesses run the show in their respective markets.’ He believes these companies have become world leaders because they grew, adapted and saw opportunities. And this is what he wants to do with Baumer, too, but without throwing out what has made the company the success it is today.
‘Premium machinery manufacture is the company’s core competence and will remain so, even to taking one-off commissions for single machines,’ he said. ‘I’m happy with the current mix of materials that we are producing machinery for. Foam cutting is our focus for the furniture, mattresses and automotive industries.’
In the past, he said, Baumer was known as a machine-manufacturer in the most traditional sense. ‘Transitioning effectively into the age of digitalisation requires us to take the values and qualities that helped the company to succeed, and apply them to the challenges we are facing today and will be facing even more in the future,’ he explained. ‘Creating an intelligent machine that will be able to learn, adapt and improve is what we are striving to do.’
He believes his background in automation will be extremely useful in this transition into the digital age. ‘We will go way over and above old-fashioned machine manufacturing,’ he said. ‘We are happy to supply the complete line, from the foaming machine onwards, if the customer wants that. We are absolutely open to it, and it is part of our future, along with stand-alone cutting machines.’
He realises that while achieving this will take a little time, some customers expect the capability from a company of Baumer’s size and know-how. ‘We have the organisation, we have the project management skills and the engineering skills, and we have the financial power,’ he said. ‘Our aim is to be the partner for the process. We are trying to be the technological experts for complete production lines as a general contractor. But we will never forget our roots.’
However, there will need to be some changes to the culture and the way that the company operates. For example, he is a firm believer in the power of the digital twin. ‘Engineers tend to say, “Once I’ve written software and it works, I don’t need to simulate.” But I believe we do,’ he said. ‘You cannot imagine the aspects you find when you have a proper simulation model of your machine. For example, you will be able to select crashes. You can’t do that in the real world, it is too expensive.’
Running simulations brings other benefits, he believes, including reduced cycle times and the ability to train both in-house and customer staff, as well as optimising the mechanics. Hauck plans to roll this out across the company’s range of machines over the coming years. ‘We would be crazy if we don’t utilise the possibilities that the technology and the market gives you,’ he said.
Baumer’s business and technology headquarters will continue to be located in Freudenberg, but he is considering the options for its overseas operations. Commercially, he said, the main emphasis will be on Europe, North America, Middle East and south-east Asia. ‘In China, we have an organisation which needs to be supported. Twenty years ago, you could sell cheaper items to China. Now, China wants the most sophisticated equipment.’
He hinted that this could lead to investment in the country. ‘In the future, it is possible that we will build at least parts of machines in China,’ he said. ‘There are limitations, we are a medium-sized company, and we need to do more than we did in the past. Our North American organisation is doing very well. Baumer of America has the right people on board, with a good mixture of local people and Germans. We will certainly further improve the local market in the US, and take the local service to the next level up.
In terms of manufacturing, at the moment the North American customers are fully supported from Freudenberg, but he believes that in future it is possible that more assembly and manufacture could take place in the US.
South and Latin America are more complicated propositions, he said, and they may be served with different types of machine. ‘Central America and South America need to be served with the right machinery,’ he said. ‘It is difficult to sell highly sophisticated premium machines in those countries, or to countries in Africa.’
Core, sensitive know-how will always be in house, Hauck said, but there are no plans to reinvent the wheel. ‘If there are off-the-shelf products, then we will utilise those,’ he said. ‘We will find partnerships for other specialist areas up- and down-stream of our product range, such as bonding machines. You can’t chop and change between partners. These relationships are well-established. You stick to them and you win, and you lose together.’
The company’s machinery has always had to be capable of providing good quality products, irrespective of operator skills, he said. ‘We have skills for Industry 4.0 in house, but we need to look further, to the circular economy, to blockchain business. We need to be open to these new topics, and these could also be opportunities for new partnerships.’