Düsseldorf, Germany — It's hard to believe that Peter Neumann is retiring. He will step down as CEO and long-time chairman of Engel Holding GmbH at the end of this year.
K 2016 was a chance to stop by the Engel stand to talk to Neumann and say hello to his successor, Stefan Engleder. Certainly, Engel is always a must-see at major trade shows.
Like many top European machinery executives, Neumann is very polished and well-spoken. He can talk in-depth about injection molding technology. But Neumann seems to be much more well-rounded than most when it comes to a broad range of social and political issues.
He is a person who is curious about the world, not just engineering.
That attitude serves Austria-based Engel very well. Any global machinery manufacturer is much better off when the top executives are genuinely interested in how people think and behave in different countries around the world. (Note that I said “countries” and not “markets.” For all the talk at K about markets, a local economy is made up of decisions made every day by individual people. And each country is different.)
From a reporter's standpoint, Neumann was a great person to interview. Want to get a quote about the VW diesel-emissions scandal? Go to Neumann. What's the future of the European Union after Brexit? Get a comment from Neumann.
And if you've met the Engel leader, you know that he has a twinkle in his eyes. He always seems to be naturally upbeat. He never seems to worry — and maybe that's why (along with their similar names), when I see Peter Neumann, I always think of Mad magazine cover boy Alfred E. Neuman, whose famous line is “What, Me Worry?”
I don't know if Mad magazine humor translates to Germany and Austria…
And so Peter Neumann, the trade press is going to miss you. Stefan Engleder, welcome!
One thing that won't change is that Engel in Schwertberg remains a family-owned business. Neumann was the son-in-law of Georg and Irene Schwarz. Engleder is their grandson.
Georg and Irene Schwarz both died this year, passing away within a few days of each other in late March and early April. It marked the end of an era. Irene's father, Ludwig Engel, founded the company in 1945 to make apple presses.
Georg Schwarz, who had moved with his family to Austria from Croatia, married Irene Engel in 1951. He joined her father's company.
The following year, Engel came out with its first injection molding machine. Schwarz passed the examination to become a master machine fitter, then attended evening classes to gain additional commercial and business skills. He became head of sales in 1957, and began to build up Engel's international business.
Ludwig Engel died in 1965, and Irene and Georg Schwarz took over the management of the machinery maker. They managed the company until 1997.
That kind of stability gives Engel an advantage, in an industrial machinery world seemingly being gobbled up by private equity people, run by the bean-counters.
And that will continue under Stefan Engleder.
Bregar is a Plastics News senior reporter. Follow him on Twitter @Machinerybeat25.