from February 2018
Görlitz. Looking back is important for Andreas Neu. Not only because the company’s fire protection technology in Görlitz can tell a success story, but because it’s one of the few remaining locally independent producers committed to tradition. “The history of firefighting vehicle construction in Germany was essentially written here,” emphasizes Managing Director Neu.
He likes to refer visitors to his favorite quote from Henry Ford: “There are more people who surrender than those who fail.” Andreas Neu has neither surrendered nor failed. He was only unemployed for a short time when the trust liquidated the former VEB Feuerlöschgerätewerk Görlitz (fire extinguisher factory). In 1992 he became a shareholder and operations manager, as well as in 1997 when Iveco started Brandschutztechnik Görlitz BTG (fire protection technology). When the Italian commercial vehicle manufacturer announced its withdrawal in 2012, Andreas Neu decided to take over on his own. “I didn’t want to let the Görlitz tradition die out,” says the 60-year-old who already sees Friedrich, one of his two sons, as his competent successor. He transferred his first shares as a co-partner to him last year. The company is well positioned in this regard. In the five years under Neu’s own direction, the workforce climbed from 55 to 65, and another five colleagues are to be hired in the next few weeks. The order books for 2018 are full, some for 2019. Over 200 vehicles leave the company on Dr.-Kahlbaum-Alle every year. Only a few months ago the BTG opened a branch in Reichenbach. There, three employees take on the assembly of small vehicles. Andreas Neu wants to employ eight colleagues there by the end of this year. The branch office is already busy: an order for 140 vehicles for Hesse is to be processed in Reichenbach alone.
After 2013, the BTG employees first had to develop new technologies, because Iveco work processes were protected by patent, but all employees lent a hand. Andreas Neu is happy about such a good working atmosphere, does not cut back on wages – and therefore has no shortage of skilled workers. “We receive a lot of applications, but at the same time we have hardly any fluctuation in our workforce,” he says. This is of great value for the many complicated work processes. Additionally, there’s an exemplary collaboration with Commerzbank: the company must first pay in advance for all orders, and the invoices are only paid after the finished vehicles have been handed over. There are millions for material and wages to begin with. “There were never any problems with the bank,” says Neu, who describes himself as a “realistic optimist”: “Full order books are nice, but there can still be light years between the order and the execution.” He can feel this, for example, with the development of his own sales and service unit, which has not yet been completed. “I don’t have the entire Federal Republic under one roof,” says the boss, who describes “the German communities as the most important market”. Just as important are the many orders from Russia, Lithuania, Jordan, and even Brazil five years ago, exports which he had initially reduced. “First of all, our strength has to apply to our own country,” he explains. But now the time has come for the foreign countries to be targeted again. “We started with South Tyrol in 2017 and signed a larger contract with Poland for 2018. We are attending trade fairs again, currently for example a trade show in Bolzano.” This is important for Andreas Neu: “Today you hardly ever come to the table when making agreements, everything is electronic, impersonal, is far away and therefore leads to misunderstandings.” But there’s another reason why full order books don’t ease the managing director’s worries: a fire brigade assembly requires many parts, and there’s a lack of suppliers in the Görlitz area. It’s still the case that the BTG has to bring a lot of material from the direction of Dresden, which makes little logistical sense. “But that won’t change, on the contrary – on the overcrowded Autobahn it will take longer than before,” regrets the managing director. Here, too, he is a realist, but the optimistic side of him adds: “Everything that can continue does.”