“Left, right, straight ahead, take the third exit at the roundabout...,” the woman on the satnav has plenty to do with piloting through the Wolfen industrial park. There is only a few kilometres to the A9 motorway. Berlin, Leipzig, the entire Central German region are virtually round the corner; even North, South and West Germany can be quickly reached from here. Eastern Europe is also not far away. A decisive location advantage. The company’s building is modern, but in no way ostentatious. It is more modest. It’s hard to believe that a real global player lives here.
The claim made by the company is not one bit modest. “We produce the Daimler of shop ovens,” says factory manager Pero Antolovič, not without pride. The multi-award-winning appliances from Bitterfeld-Wolfen are not just found in Germany and almost all other European states in supermarkets, bakeries, petrol stations, airports, railway stations, hotels and anywhere that fresh baked goods are in demand. The bulk of the production is exported overseas. A worldwide service package is naturally part of this.
The boss is also proud of the success story, which the Saxony-Anhalt based subsidiary of the renowned Baden Wurttemberg manufacturer Wiesheu GmbH has been writing since its foundation in 1991. On the premises of the former film factory Agfa (Orwo) in Wolfen, five employees back then dealt with the production of grill and disposal appliances. Continually expanded, the product range, production area and number of employees all grew. “Without the energetic, unbureaucratic cooperation with local authorities and the state as well as the general subsidies, this would not have been possible,” says Antolovič convinced.
Today, about 100 employees in a production hall of 3,000 square metres produce “Ebo” deck ovens, the Minimat series and fermenting cabinets to the very latest technical standards. About 10,000 units of these computer-controlled marvels leave the Wolfen factory every year. The order books are full, the machines run to full capacity around the clock. Although the last expansion was only four years ago (about 3.5 million Euro was invested for this), the capacities have long since been reached again. For this reason, a new factory is currently being built on the company’s premises, which will not only double the production space and thus create a considerable increase in units. About 25 to 30 further employees should have a new employer at Wiesheu Wolfen by the end of the year.
“Should,” emphasises Antolovič. In view of the growing problem of finding suitable professionals, the otherwise confident-looking Swabian with Yugoslavian roots is worried. “Well educated, satisfied professionals are the key to success for our company,” he knows and adds, “Anyone who starts work here, stays.” Employee motivation and ensuring the training for the next generation are fixed components of the company’s philosophy. Many of the employees began their professional career in the company, which also has a good reputation as a company providing apprenticeships. More than half of the workforce in Wolfen has worked for the company for at least ten years; about a third has been here for more than 15 years.
The climate that prevails in the company is more the reason that employees enjoy work and provide a good service than the modern production conditions and above-average pay. “Our employees identify with the company,” says the factory manager happily. Be it the Christmas party, the personal attention to anniversaries and birthdays or simply the friendly interaction among staff - what has long since fallen victim to the cold hectic everyday business elsewhere is still part of the etiquette at Wiesheu. As recognition for its commitment in this sector, the company was honoured with the Mittelstandspreis for social responsibility in the state of Baden-Württemberg in 2010.
The almost familial working climate, which is sadly now rare to find, has not occurred by chance. It has evolved traditionally. Marga und Karlheinz Wiesheu founded the company more than 40 years ago with the very simplest conditions. In the proverbial garage in Burgstetten in 1973, the dedicated company boss built his first oven with top and bottom heat for a typically Swabian and Bavarian speciality, Leberkäse meatloaf. Today, the innovative company that is based in the Baden town of Affalterbach is the market leader of the industry, employs more than 500 employees in total and achieved a turnover of 89 million Euro in 2012.
Author: Christian Wohlt
Wiesheu Wolfen GmbH
ph: +49 3494 66963-0