Innovative strength in a rural area
Dr. Nicole Hoffmeister-Kraut described the SÜLZLE Group as an outstanding example of innovative strength in a rural area. The Baden-Württemberg Minister for Trade & Industry, Employment and Residential Construction was a guest at Sülzle Kopf GmbH in Sulz-Bergfelden on 7 February, in the company of a delegation from the International Chamber of Commerce.
Andreas Sülzle introduced his group of companies under the strapline claim of ‘Steel, Energy, Ideas’. The Group has grown to employ more than 850 people through organic growth and acquisitions. “Steel continues to be our primary business, but since 2008, following the take-over of Kopf GmbH, we are growing in the environmental technology sector as well”, explained Sülzle. The company is setting new standards with its products and solutions for efficient building services as well as with future-oriented technologies for the drying of sewage sludge and its thermal treatment to retrieve commercially viable gas.
As well as the innovative strength of the SÜLZLE Group, priorities include the gaining and retaining of a skilled workforce and ‘future-compatible building 4.0’ [a reference to the ‘4th Industrial Revolution’]. Andreas Sülzle encouraged the notion of making this a focal point of attention also at government level. Thomas Albiez, CEO of the International Chamber of Commerce in the Black Forest region of Schwarzwald-Baar-Heuberg, pointed to the tricky balancing act that companies have to accomplish in the present situation: “They have to keep the old business model functioning well while at the same time building a new and future-proof model”. Hoffmeister-Kraut provided an assurance that the digitalization strategy of the federal government would be accelerated: “It is an important duty of the federal government to guarantee to business attractive conditions for its digital transformation”. He went on to say that initiatives such as those being taken by the SÜLZLE Group were very helpful indeed.
All parties present agreed on the importance of ‘Dual Education’ in the safeguarding of a skilled workforce – a German scheme to combine study with practical work experience.“This is a very major competitive advantage for Germany as a location”, said Hoffmeister-Kraut. In this field, the SÜLZLE Group has a leading role to play, since it provides training simultaneously in no fewer than eleven technical-vocational and other commercial professions. For Albiez, this commitment is proof positive the the SMEs in the region are shaping the future in a committed manner.
Firm from Rosenfeld joins Germany’s elite group of innovative companies / Award to be presented by Top 100 mentor Ranga Yogeshwar
The 23rd Top 100 awards for Germany’s most innovative SMEs are about to be presented, and this year, the SÜLZLE Group is joining this elite group. The firm, which is based in the town of Rosenfeld in Baden-Württemberg, took part in a rigorous, scientific selection process that analysed innovation management and successful innovation. Ranga Yogeshwar, the competition mentor, will present the top innovators with their awards at the German SME Summit in Essen on 24 June.
The Top 100 award-winning SÜLZLE Group transforms what seems to be a waste product into a valuable commodity. Every year, some two million tonnes of sewage sludge is produced in German sewage treatment plants during wastewater purification. This is usually incinerated, as the sludge contains a lot of harmful substances and dangerous chemicals. But sewage sludge is also a valuable resource, which SÜLZLE can render useful thanks to its innovative solution. The SynGas gasification plant turns sewage sludge into gas at temperatures in excess of 800 degrees. The high temperatures and additional purification stages ensure that all chemical and biological toxins are broken down – resulting in a synthetic gas, which a combined heat and power plant can turn into electricity. This, in turn, can be used to cover the power needs of the sewage treatment plant. And the ash generated by the gasification process is rich in phosphorous – the key ingredient in agricultural fertilizers. “Sewage sludge is virtually a renewable resource. Up until now, it has simply been disposed of, but we’re recycling it and deriving energy from the process,” explained managing director Heinrich Sülzle.
The Rosenberg-based SÜLZLE Group, which was founded in 1880 and is now run by the fourth generation of the family, has the necessary experience when it comes to process optimisation. SynGas is only one example of this innovative firm’s wide-ranging expertise. Another example is AK-DOS: SÜLZLE’s system for dosing and storing powdered activated carbon, one of whose applications is in the fourth purification stage for treating conventionally purified waste water. This south German firm offers solutions in a wide range of fields including environmental and building engineering, plant engineering and steel trading, and has substantially expanded its portfolio in recent years. It has drawn on its wide-ranging strengths to achieve this and created synergies between the different areas. The SÜLZLE Group’s customers provide additional impetus for its innovative developments. If a problem arises, the firm’s 500 employees respond immediately and develop customised solutions. At present, the Group holds a total of eight patents.
This year, more than 4,000 companies registered an interest in taking part in the Top 100 competition, with 366 of them applying for the qualification round and 284 getting through to the finals. Ultimately, 238 made it into the Top 100 (maximum of one hundred in each of the three size categories). Once more, the companies were evaluated by Nikolaus Franke, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration, and his team. They examined more than 100 parameters in the following five assessment categories: ‘Innovation-friendly Senior Management’, ‘Climate of Innovation’, ‘Innovative Processes and Organisation’, ‘Innovations Marketing’ and ‘Successful Innovations’.
The Top 100 are among the pacesetters in their sectors. Statistics reveal that the evaluation process included 97 German market leaders and 32 global market leaders. On average, they generated 40 per cent of their recent revenue from innovations and product improvements, which they brought to the market before their competitors. Their revenue growth rate was 28 percentage points higher than the average for their industries. In the last three years, these SMEs have together applied for a total of 2,292 German and international patents. This ability to innovate also pays dividends in terms of jobs, with the Top 100 planning to take on around 9,500 new employees in the next three years.
The Top 100‘s mentor, science journalist and television presenter Ranga Yogeshwar, is impressed by the quality of the companies and hopes they will become role models. ‘The way in which the Top 100 companies generate new ideas and develop groundbreaking products and services based on them is remarkable in the truest sense of the word. I am delighted that the award highlights these qualities. I hope their success will encourage others to follow in their footsteps, because this culture of innovation is going to become increasingly important for all companies.”
Ranga Yogeshwar will present the SÜLZLE Team with their awards at the German SME Summit in Essen on 24 June (v.l. Shareholder Andreas Sülzle, Authorized Signatory Edith Kuret, Marketing Manager Uwe Beckmann, Shareholder Heinrich Sülzle, Mentor TOP100 Ranga Yogeshwar, Commercial Manager Stefan Holweger, Managing Director SÜLZLE KLEIN Björn Wunderlich)