Polytechnik Luft- und Feuerungstechnik GmbH
Polytechnik´s 50th Anniversary
Polytechnik's 50th Anniversary: In Two Generations to a Global Player with Energy from Biomass
12 Million Euros Worth of Investments Planned in European Industrial Locations
WEISSENBACH (November 2015).Austria is the world's top manufacturer of biomass fired energy plants. Family-owned company, Polytechnik Luft- und Feuerungstechnik, stands out with above-average growth-rates. Over the last few decades, what used to be a small business with only two employees in Triestingtal, Lower Austria, has become the global corporate Polytechnik Group. At an official function marking the company's fiftieth anniversary, Polytechnik Group announced plans for a 12 million euro expansion of its European production plants. The company intends countering the recent downturn in growth of its established markets by opening up new export markets.
The name Polytechnik stands for quality. The Republic of Austria officially recognised this by awarding Polytechnik Group the national coat of arms last year. This leading Austrian company’s export quota is currently almost 100 percent. Polytechnik has manufactured over 3,000 plants that are successfully operating for clients throughout the world. Within Europe, four ISO 9001-certified production plants and 15 engineering, sales and service branches employ over 240 people. The group has another four offices abroad.
Company succession and ownership continuity ensured
Although this has meant that the number of Polytechnik's employees has increased by more than a hundred times over the last four decades, the family spirit has remained strong in every corner of the company. These days there are two generations at Polytechnik's top management. Majority shareholder Leo Schirnhofer manages the company together with his son Lukas. "We define the term 'family' quite broadly," says Leo Schirnhofer. Key managers who have systematically built their departments to their current size have shares in the company.
Twenty-five or 30 years' service are common at Polytechnik and typify the company's long-term focus on its corporate culture. "With this in mind, we have carefully prepared for the arrival of coming generations at the company's top management,” says Schirnhofer. Continuity and reliability are very important for Polytechnik customers, he says, because customer relationships actually begin when we commission plant that we have delivered, and continue when we maintain it later on. He adds, "We regard sustainability as more than just a technological or ecological concept."
Growing together with global customers
Over the last 50 years, Polytechnik has moved from manufacturing vacuum and filter equipment to being one of the world's leading suppliers in the design and manufacture of turnkey biomass incineration plants for generating heat and power. The company supplies incineration plants with 300 kW to 30,000 kW single-boiler capacities. Polytechnik offers specially developed incineration systems depending on the type and the water content of the fuel. The media carriers used are warm water, hot water, steam or thermal oil. The plants can be used for heating up buildings, process heating, and for power generation.
The international growth plan that Polytechnik started about 25 years ago is responsible for the company becoming a global player today. Polytechnik’s valued customers include Europe’s largest aircraft manufacturer, British protein manufacturers and Russian wood processing companies: companies which themselves dominate world markets.
"You can find our plants anywhere from New Zealand to Siberia. As partners in technology development, we help customers put the energy supply of their production onto a carbon-neutral basis," company head Leo Schirnhofer says. Conversion to biomass technology makes it possible to save up to 100,000 tonnes of CO2per company per year. Plants like this make a major contribution to climate-protection.
Global energy situation favours biomass
Pursuit of energy independence by major industrial groups is a key driver of Polytechnik’s business model. Because of this Polytechnik is pursuing continued growth with a clear focus on exports. This strategy involves risk but it is calculated risk, Schirnhofer says. "Of course, over the last two years, we have had to accept reductions in this market due to the economically tense situation between Europe and Russia. We are building a strong global presence in order to establish our approach to biomass energy production even more firmly in our core markets. Export and systematic innovation are our only chance of safeguarding highly-skilled jobs in Austria."
Investment in research & development and site-expansion
In order to be at the leading edge of technology, Polytechnik plans to invest between 2.5 and 5 percent of its annual earnings in research and development. "For example, we know from our experiments that it is possible to generate efficient heating with miscanthus (a genus of perennial grasses), turf, or even henhouse litter. That makes us very flexible," says company head Schirnhofer confidently. There are biogenic raw materials on every continent. They are renewable and available locally. Long transport routes become superfluous and international raw material dependencies, which are even today root-causes of many political conflicts, can be reduced. Polytechnik's brand of biomass model makes it possible to think locally but act globally at the same time.
Polytechnik is systematically preparing itself for the next stage of growth. In doing so, the owners are making a clear commitment to Austria as their main location, and to industrial production in Europe. Says Schirnhofer, "We expect that global economic trends will stabilise, and accordingly, we are planning to invest 12 million euros in industrial production in Europe by 2020." At its headquarters in Triestingtal, the company is planning to increase production space by 2000 m2 and office space by 500 m2. During the same period, two business premises in Hungary, located on an already-purchased 8.5 hectare-large piece of industrial land, will be combined into a new plant with 8,000 m2 of production space and 1,000 m2 of office space.