The difficulties family owned businesses face when transitioning from one generation to the next are well documented. Overcoming innovative competitors, meeting new regulations and implementing long-term strategies are no small feat, even when it comes to experienced leaders.
So how has Germany’s MöllerGroup survived and thrived since its founding in 1730? For CEO Dr Gunther Schmidt, keeping the Group in family ownership is down to a combination of sustainability, a long-term vision and social commitment.
“The Möller family is sustainable by nature,” Schmidt tells The CEO Magazine. “Their focus is oriented toward the long-term by staying close to the market and having the ability to change, even if that means changing the business model or having the courage to disinvest to stay healthy.”
“This social commitment means that we are taking care of our employees as well, which is at the core of the Möller DNA.”
He says the family has also long prioritized social investment, having created the Möllerstift Foundation in 1879 as part of its commitment to improve social conditions. Over the years, the Foundation’s mission has evolved from the care of the ill and the elderly to today developing initiatives to aid disadvantaged groups as well as supporting the education sector.
“This social commitment means that we are taking care of our employees as well, which is at the core of the Möller DNA,” he says.
After all, this combination of a long-term perspective combined with the care shown toward its present employees means that the Group embodies what it means to be truly sustainable.
“It’s really meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of the next generation,” Schmidt explains.
The company has even received an award for family friendliness in 2023 from the City of Bielefeld, where it is headquartered, in recognition of the family-friendly personnel policies and human resources initiatives offered by the Group.
Economy and Innovation
From its beginnings in processing and trading copper, Möller has evolved into its present structure as four highly specialized companies in the plastic, rubber and metal manufacturing space: MöllerTech International, MöllerWerke, MöllerMiner and MöllerFlex.
Each unit has carved out a name for itself supplying the automotive industry, a sector that accounts for 70 percent of the Group’s overall business, although Möller innovations also power other industries, including rail and agriculture.
The quartet may be separate business units, but they share a common culture, and no concept is more important than MöllerEconovation, a wordplay on ‘economy’ and ‘innovation’. Described by the company as building on the kaizen philosophy of continuous improvement, this organizational approach is designed to maximize customer satisfaction by promoting a philosophy of ‘made by people’. That is, people are at the heart of the Group, whatever their role is in the company.
“Keeping the management out of the office and on the shop floor allows us to have swift decision-making, as people can quickly spot any problems that are happening inside.”
“Due to this special culture, we can dynamically adapt to the changes of the market,” Schmidt explains. “It’s also a way for us to differentiate ourselves from other companies.”
Leadership also draws upon the kaizen concept of genba, which translates as ‘the actual place’.
“This means keeping the management out of the office and on the shop floor,” he says. “It allows us to have swift decision-making, as people can quickly spot any problems that are happening inside.”
One Step Ahead
As the automotive industry shifts toward decarbonization, Schmidt is harnessing this agility to stay one step ahead in the market.
“Our customers, such as Mercedes-Benz and BMW, have all promised to their customers that they will build carbon neutral cars by the beginning of 2030,” he explains. “So we are adjusting our business in such a way that we can support them.”
Along with recycled materials, he explains that the business is currently looking into using renewable energy and raw materials for interior parts. To get there, the Group will rely on a suite of strong partnerships, including core suppliers like Haitian International, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of injection molding machines.
With its focus on people and a clear vision for future, MöllerGroup is on track to continue its success as a family-owned company that gives back to the community for years to come.
Opening in February 2024, the MöllerTech Automotive Parts Langfang plant in China is the latest addition to the growing footprint of MöllerGroup.
“With three plants in the United States, one plant in China and one plant in the United Kingdom, alongside a development center in Romania, we are really a global company,” Schmidt says.