“Our pioneering spirit has blossomed again in the past two years.”

 Dr. Martin Komischke

Dr. Martin Komischke, President of the Board of Directors of HOERBIGER Holding AG, looks back on the past fiscal year with great satisfaction. In this interview, he explains why he is convinced that the HOERBIGER team will be able to continue the planned profitable growth in the future despite difficult conditions.

HOERBIGER grew profitably again in 2023. How would you rate the past financial year?


Dr. Martin Komischke - The employees in all the Group’s business areas have delivered an outstanding performance – sometimes even in the face of the most difficult external circumstances. I consider the annual result to be extremely satisfactory in terms of both sales and profitability. I am particularly pleased that HOERBIGER has regained its former strength in innovation. The innovations of the past twelve months are very impressive.

“I am deeply impressed by the motivation and determination with which the team has worked on new opportunities across the Group over the past two years.”

Dr. Martin Komischke
President of the Board of Directors

This is the third year of growth in a row. Can you briefly summarize HOERBIGER’s growth strategy for us?


MK - HOERBIGER pursues the goal of being number one or two in niche markets with sustainable growth potential. Our strength lies in recognizing the right developments at the right time and exploiting this opportunity in the form of market offerings by turning technologies – whether production or product technology – into performance-defining products that enable our customers to achieve their goals.

We develop and manufacture these performance-defining products close to the customer – we call this “local for local”. What do we mean by that? We produce where our customers are. And we not only produce locally, but we also organize our supply chains locally. This means we are closer to our customers, more flexible, faster, and more independent.

However, the decisive success factor – and therefore our greatest asset – is that we can rely on strong local teams. This means that we rely on people who come from the regions and are therefore able to consider what is special about this market. Only a locally anchored team that thinks entrepreneurially and acts independently can assess a market to tease out its potential. At HOERBIGER, the Group does not centrally dictate how to work locally. Our local people decide what needs to be done.

We have been particularly successful in China, where we have greatly expanded our presence over the past year. We now want to transfer the experience we have gained in China to other countries in Asia and Latin America to drive growth there.


You are alluding to the new plant in Changzhou, which was opened at the end of 2023. Can you tell us a little more about this?


MK - China is one of the most important foreign markets for HOERBIGER. We went to China in the mid-1990s and are very satisfied with the market there. Thanks to our local management and local employees, we have managed to adapt optimally to market conditions and customer needs – although this is not always easy. Our new plant in Changzhou, which was planned and built in a record time of just 12 months, is emblematic of this: What the team has achieved in close cooperation with the Chinese authorities is extraordinary.

We are convinced that HOERBIGER can continue to grow in China. We have used the new building to realize further rationalization and efficiency improvement potential. The new plant also enables us to drive forward activities such as the service business and develop new business areas. For the Safety Business Unit, for example, wonderful new markets have emerged. Our longstanding presence in the Chinese market and the support of the Compression Division are now helping to open this market for other areas. HOERBIGER has greatly improved cooperation across the business areas. We can see this very clearly in China.


You have declared innovation to be a top priority, which is to be driven forward with determination across the Group. Which areas of innovation are currently particularly important for the Group and how would you assess progress in these areas over the past year?


MK - I am very pleased to see that HOERBIGER is once again focusing strongly on innovation. Unfortunately, this was not always the case in the past. But now we have caught up again and I am deeply impressed by the motivation and determination with which the team has worked on new opportunities across the Group over the past two years. Our innovation projects are the most important driver of HOERBIGER’s transformation and profitable growth. That is why they will remain our top priority in 2024.

In its innovation activities, the HOERBIGER Group focuses on megatrends such as emission reduction, sustainability, e-mobility, and safety. One key technology is hydrogen, which is being addressed by almost all areas with new developments. In automotive technology, we are also working at full speed on new products in the areas of battery technology and shifting systems for electric drives. And we are working on completely new areas of application for global growth markets, such as the semiconductor industry, the paper processing and wind power industries and medical technology.


That sounds like a lot of topics and fields of application. Isn’t there also a risk of getting bogged down?


MK - There is always this danger. The trick is to do the right thing right. We need to focus on our strengths: developing familiar and proven solutions further through innovation and the use of new technologies, thereby opening new application possibilities or tapping into new markets. And we must also have the courage to say no. Our management skills must also include of consciously not doing something. In my opinion, we have already become very good at this.

“We need to focus on our strengths: developing familiar and proven solutions further through innovation and the use of new technologies, thereby opening new application possibilities or tapping into new markets.”

What role does the Board of Directors play in this?

MK - An important role, as it is our job to keep track of so many opportunities. Rolf Najork and Rainer Schulz, who were appointed to the Board of Directors in July 2022, got off to a flying start and ideally complement the proven Board members. As a result, HOERBIGER now has a Board of Directors that is very well supported in terms of experience backgrounds and has both broad technological knowledge and the ability to go into depth in the relevant areas. And that must also be our aspiration. We do not see ourselves as a traditional supervisory body, but as a management body that also contributes to the development of the Group. And I would say that we succeeded in doing this last year.


And how was the collaboration with the Executive Board?


MK - The Executive Board has done an extraordinary job. I feel that the cooperation is better than ever before. The Executive Board impresses with its professional work and an exceptionally positive and constructive working atmosphere. Each member is committed to their own area, but ultimately makes decisions in the interests of the Group as a whole. This cooperation – in collaboration with the Board of Directors and the extended management team – fills me with pride because it is the ideal basis for moving HOERBIGER forward in the long term.


Dr. Martin Komischke mit Dr. Bernhard Spiegl

Dr. Martin Komischke in conversation with Dr. Bernhard Spiegl, Head of Innovation & Technology (CTO), in the HOERBIGER hydrogen test bench in Vienna.


In your opinion, are there any new technologies that could be of interest to HOERBIGER in the future?


MK - HOERBIGER originally comes from the classic, quite mechanical field: compressors, gearboxes, hydraulics, pneumatics. That’s all mechanics. In the future, we will have to combine this expertise, which we have built up over 129 years, with new topics such as sensor technology, electronics, and software-based control technology. Of course, we have built up both electronics and software expertise over the years. The resulting products, such as HydroCOM or the VISTRA digital spare parts and performance assistant, have been very well received by the market. This is why we need to expand our expertise in electronics, control, regulation, and measurement technology as a Group across all business areas so that we have both the expertise and the capacity for future applications.


How do you assess the development of the economic environment for the next 12 to 18 months and what impact do you think this will have on HOERBIGER’s business?


MK - Economic conditions remain difficult or are perhaps even becoming more difficult. There is unrest and instability around the world. This will continue to have a strong impact on the raw materials, energy, and financial markets. The consumer-related machine tool manufacturers are only at the beginning of a chain of problems. And the semiconductor industry, which is now very important for HOERBIGER, is not expected to regain momentum until the end of the year. So, we are facing tough times ahead.

However, when I look back on the past fiscal year, in which we also had to contend with difficult circumstances, I am not worried about HOERBIGER. The progress we have made as an organization in the areas of leadership, cost management and operational excellence, our customer proximity and strong existing business, the many growth and innovation projects and, above all, the strong internal attitude of the team give me confidence that we will be able to continue our growth phase as planned.


A quick question at the end: Which HOERBIGER corporate value is most important to you personally?


MK - This is clear to me: The Pioneering Spirit that has blossomed in our company over the past two years. Based on this strength, we can offer customer benefits that count even when we face headwinds.