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SchmitterGroup is one of the Top 100

Firm from Thüngen has joined Germany's elite group of innovative companies/Award presented by Top 100 mentor Ranga Yogeshwar

from left to right: Dr. Thomas Ruhland, M. Schmidt (CEO at SchmitterGroup AG), Ranga Yogeshwar (Top 100 Mentor), Hans-Martin Trefzger

Thüngen – The 23rd Top 100 awards for Germany's most innovative SMEs have been presented, and this year, SchmitterGroup AG joins this elite group. The Thüngen-based firm took part in a rigorous, scientific selection process that analysed innovation management and successful innovation. Ranga Yogeshwar, the competition mentor, presented the top innovators with their awards at the German SME Summit in Essen on 24 June.

SchmitterGroup AG, which was founded in 1947 as a business selling replacement vehicle parts in Bielefeld, can look back on a long history of innovation. Back in 1956, it manufactured the first fuel and diesel injection pipes and hydraulic hoses. Since then, strategic acquisitions have enabled it to steadily build up its portfolio to include the inhouse production of tubes and pipes, focusing on cold forging. Today, more than 1,000 employees bend, compress, shape, pull, cut, weld, solder and assemble pipes and tubes that can be found in almost any car, truck or other commercial vehicle: from injection lines and fuel rails to reservoir tubes for shock absorbers. Based in Thüngen in Lower Franconia (Bavaria) for more than 60 years, this Top 100 company now has a further seven sites worldwide, including in China, Malaysia and Mexico (at the planning stage). "In many cases we are based in the same places as where our customers manufacture. That not only saves time and money but also creates significant synergies," explained CEO Marco Schmidt.

During the Top 100 competition, the pipe, tube and cold forging specialist was particularly commended for its close contact with customers during development projects. The SchmitterGroup regularly holds joint design workshops with its customers to discuss drawings and specifications and to work together to find solutions to problems. Recently, for example, this resulted in the development of a new kind of inner tube for shock absorbers that can be manufactured in one piece – without welding or purchased parts. "This makes the tube much more robust and also means it is lighter," said Schmidt.

The firm's innovation processes also deserve special mention. To ensure that new ideas are not prematurely shelved, SchmitterGroup works with the '5 Whys': five questions that explore factors such as resource consumption, order volume and system runtimes. "We always have the problem that issues are dealt with too superficially during the working day. Our approach systematically tackles this problem," explained Schmidt.

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, was 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."

The Top 100 competition
Since 1993, compamedia has been awarding the Top 100 seal of approval to SMEs with a particular ability to innovate and above-average success rates for innovations. This project has been coordinated by Professor Nikolaus Franke from the Institute of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Vienna University of Economics and Business since 2002. The Top 100 is mentored by science journalist and television presenter Ranga Yogeshwar and organised in partnership with the Fraunhofer Society for the Promotion of Applied Research and the German Association for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses (BVMW). Media support for the company benchmarking competition is provided by manager magazin. Further information is available at www.top100-germany.com.

KD Busch/compamedia