28/02/05

Würth connects the world

Künzelsau. It is one of the unbelievable stories of the economic miracle, which began in the tough post-war years. The small one-man business in the Hohenlohe district town of Künzelsau has turned into a global player: The Würth Group - the world market leader in fastening and assembly technology. This year, the company will celebrate its 60th anniversary.
Künzelsau is certainly not the worst breeding ground for success stories from the former country of the economic miracle. Here, in the region of Hohenlohe people are said to be especially diligent, ambitious but nevertheless modest. With such people you can make history. Würth? The name is not as well-known as Daimler, Bosch or Porsche, however, this is mainly due to the products sold: Screws, dowels, steel anchors, tools as well as adhesives, brake lining and many more. The range of the trading group comprises over 100,000 products. In more than 80 countries in the world Würth sees to it that everything that belongs together stays together.

Operating All over the World

Downtown Shanghai: The new building shell is 87 meters high. It is supposed to become a block of apartments and it is to provide a little more space for the 16 million inhabitants of the metropolis of the future. A cold wind blows through the storey. Xiao Yu has come to do something about it. He is the vice president of Shanghai Mei Te Curtain Wall Systems. His company glazes facades of high-rise buildings. "Tailoring a dress for Shanghai", says Xiao. The "dress" is made of glass. In all, it covers a surface area of 10,000 square meters. A big surface for the wind, which blows very strong in Shanghai in certain times of the year, above all at such a height.

In such situations, up to 450 kilograms burden each square meter of glass. It goes without saying that the facade needs a mounting which can bear extreme loads. It comes from Germany. "We have persuaded the property developer to order Würth products", states Xiao Yu and points at the threaded rods called "W-VAD M12". With the help of shear connector W-VAD they are securely fastened to the concrete. It is above all two arguments which speak in favor of Würth products. On the one hand, there are no comparable articles in the Chinese market, for instance chemical anchors. Würth has them in the range, and has gained a lot of experience with the application of those articles. On the other hand, property developers appreciate the professional and comprehensive customer service provided by Würth. If required, around the clock. In Shanghai, people work longer than in Germany.

Motivating People to Achieve Top Performance

There are many secrets to the success of the Würth Group. The main driving force, however, is a visionary entrepreneur who knows the situation in and the demands of the markets. He considers motivation and personnel management to be decisive, and his employees have internalized that they do not "work for the company but for the customers". "I am convinced that personnel management has a more than 50 percent influence on one's profits and losses", Reinhold Würth keeps underlining. If there is any need he still tries to solve his customers' and employees' problems, even though he had put the operative management of his company into other hands in 1994. Highly motivated and efficient sales staff decides upon the success of the trading group. People who are not only sales representatives but also advisors and partners to their customers.

They do not only have a tried-and-tested product range on offer, which meets the requirements of the strict "Würth seal of quality", but they also respond to the desires and needs of their partners and the market. Their constant personal contact with millions of customers and their close co-operation with suppliers result in custom-fit products. While many companies avoid investing in their sales forces, Würth proves that they are successful with a different approach: At international level, there are some 26,000 sales representatives on the payroll - that is eleven percent more than a year ago. Würth knows that more business is only possible with more sales representatives. Making concessions in terms of supply and consulting quality in favor of additional profits is a taboo. Würth has a long-term perspective and knows what it owes to its customers and partners: Outstanding service and top quality. Therefore, Würth also has its own research and development department. In close co-operation with suppliers the know-how from millions of encounters with customers has been turned into new or improved products.

Excellent Service, Perfect Logistics

Whoever intends to be a partner of a demanding and highly competitive industry needs to do more than just leave the products at the gates of the production works. In addition to high quality and full service, sophisticated logistics solutions are also required. There is hardly any factory which still has its own costly and large warehouse. However the assembly worker always needs to have the so-called C parts, such as cable connectors, screws, nuts, clamps or electronic components, available right at the assembly belt.

Würth also has the right solution for this case. Crane-construction engineer Liebherr in Ehingen, for instance, bets on the so-called Würth Kanban racks. They extend over the entire length of the warehouse of over 400 meters. Some 3,500 different articles of Würth Industry Service GmbH & Co. KG are stored there.

"Our specialized workers have everything ready at hand", explains Rainer Müller, who is responsible for logistics and materials planning at Liebherr. Once a week, a Würth sales representative checks the inventory and, on the basis of the customer's demand, orders new products with the help of a barcode scanner.
The biggest Liebherr cranes, which themselves weigh some 700 tons, can lift loads of up to 1,200 tons. The Liebherr erecting engineers need approximately 8 days to construct such a six-axle monster. It would be too dreadful to imagine that the assembly belt could be at a standstill just because a tiny little screw or a cable connector is missing. Minor mistakes, disastrous effects. To avoid something like that from happening the Würth Group does not only offer a smoothly running electronic ordering system. Internal logistics has also been improved over and over again. This is to say orders which are placed by 3 p.m. are shipped the next day. This promise is kept in 98 percent of the cases.

Every Customer Is Courted

Order for manufacturers of large plants, for the automobile industry or for entire football stadiums - these are prestigious projects on which every company prides itself. To Würth, these are also important customers as their sales are high. However, the partnership with millions of small customers around the world is vital for Würth. They are also advised and serviced on an individual basis. Everyone has started off small - even in Künzelsau.

Or he does not want to grow. For his craft requires a lot of time. Just like Roberto Dei Rossi. Together with his wife and two daughters he lives in the Burano Island in Venice - as is suitable for a gondola builder. He carries out an extremely seldom craft which has had a century-old tradition and requires the highest level of skill. There are only three workshops of this kind in the world.

Apart from good training and love for the detail a gondola builder also needs high-value tools and materials. And they are supplied by Würth. The person on the spot has everything a small three-man business needs: From screws and sanding paper to hand tools and power tools. Rusting screws? Unimaginable. For the gondolier this is a matter of honor. The bow is screwed together with ASSYplus srews of high-quality stainless steel. When it comes to electrical tools Signore Dei Rossi also trusts in Würth. For traditional craftsmen also want to work with state-of-the-art tools. The Würth sales representative gives skilled advice on new products - monthly training seminars are a must for each Würth salesperson. Signore Rossi likes falling back on it. So he does not need to keep himself informed about new products on the market.

Preserving Traditions, Making Progress

It was demonstration of a special kind, and typical of the winner of several prizes: To show his employees in a vivid way where the roots of the company are entrepreneur Reinhold Würth walked through Künzelsau a couple of years ago. With screws - on a wooden cart. As he had done in the past.

This is how everything started, exactly 60 years ago. In the adjacent building to the Künzelsau castle mill, Adolf Würth founded his screw-wholesale business, a one-man-plus-wife enterprise. On a cow-drawn carriage the company founder went to the screw manufacturer in the neighboring village to collect his goods. Even the smallest units were sold. There was a lot that required repairing in Germany after the war. The founder of the company passed away at a young age in 1954. At 19, his son Reinhold had to take over the business. Soon, Reinhold Würth founded subsidiaries all over Germany. Then in 1962, he dared to extend his business to the Netherlands, in 1969 to the USA and in 1970 to South Africa. Würth had found a gap in the market. They did not only supply screws but tailored his product range to their customers' needs. Today, the Würth Group has subsidiaries around the globe from Argentina to Australia. Würth connects the world. "Quality beats price" - with the help of this motto the role-model company did not only achieve rapid growth but also strong yields. More than 47,000 employees generated a sales volume of over six billion euro and an operating result of nearly 380 million euro.

Motto 2005: Three cheers for the craft

The year 2005 is very special to Adolf Würth GmbH & Co. KG. For weeks, the flags on the company premises in Künzelsau have been announcing it: Würth will be 60. This will not only be celebrated with the customers, celebrities and employees. The entire year will be celebrated under the motto, which is typical of Würth: "Three cheers for the craft." Würth knows that the success of its company is not only homemade. It is also the result of the trusting co-operation with the craft.

In the last few years, Würth has turned into the quintessence of a craftsmen's brand. For all the products sold through the Würth line also bear this name. Especially in times of economic difficulties the Würth Group would like to support the craft wherever possible and help to improve its economic framework conditions. For this purpose Würth organizes several events in the anniversary year and offers the craft practical support. Quality, reliability, confidence: With the help of these characteristics, today's global player Würth grew big. The company has shaped its environment, too, as an employer, as a promoter of art, culture and social projects and also through its economic importance. On the other hand, Würth has always kept a little of what it was like in the beginning: A company taking into consideration its tradition, its region and its people. People who are supposedly capable of anything - except of speaking High German. That is what people say. That is what you can see in a TV spot with grand seigneur Reinhold Würth. No, it is not screws - which have made the corporate patriarch so famous - that he uses when hanging up a picture on the wall: "Sometimes", he states in a clearly audible Swabian accent, "a nail is sufficient". Mr. Würth is still happy. For the company also has nails in its product range.