Smart parts, big goals.
Marquardt is a hugely significant enterprise worldwide for small parts. Thanks to operating elements and switches for cars, the signs are pointing more than ever to growth. The Wuerttemberg Group’s logistics would be inconceivable without airfreight.
Invisible helpers. The term comes to life in a hall flooded with light from skylights. More than a dozen machines are used to punch filigree samples there on steel sheets that are only a couple of centimeters wide. One of the sheets is made of a shiny chromium-nickel alloy and is being fed constantly from a reel. “Battery contacts for interior parts of car keys are made from that,” explains Andreas Weidner.
The 45-year-old is responsible for the worldwide transport and customs management of the Marquardt Group – which thanks to considerable engineering spirit develops and manufactures many of these invisible helpers. For electrical tools, household equipment and recently electric bicycles, but above all for cars: operating panels in the center console, keys on the steering wheel and for adjusting seats. Whether window openers or keyless systems for opening and starting, Marquardt’s technology is everywhere – including in parts used by many manufacturers. “We produce for the Original Equipment Manufacturers, the OEMs, but also for other suppliers that then install the parts.”
Marquardt is one of the world’s leading developers and manufacturers of electromechanical and electronic switches and switch systems. Weidner takes the “planet” team on a tour through the main plant in Rietheim-Weilheim on the Swabian Alps in south western Germany. The plant has 2,500 employees, just about the same number of residents who live in the area.
About 300 Marquardt employees work in plastics production: Marquardt not only produces the interior, but also many operating elements. Injection molding machines continuously churn out small parts: white rocker switches or matt black elements that are immediately recognizable as the upper half of ignition key housings – not least because of the embossed logo of a major German carmaker.
At the end of the 1990s, the family enterprise went to great lengths to focus on the automotive business – and soon made similarly great progress. In 2015, Marquardt generated about one billion euros in sales. “The automotive share accounted for well over 80 percent,” says Weidner. Today, the Group has more than 8,500 employees at 14 locations and additional sales offices. Production locations include China, Mexico, USA, Romania and Macedonia.
Lufthansa Cargo ranks among the frequently used carriers. “Naturally we are pleased when our consignments are transported via Lufthansa Cargo because it stands for quality and reliability,” says Weidner. Most of it is standard freight, but the express product td.Flash is also regularly booked. Similarly, transporting hazardous goods is not uncommon. “Think of our punched contacts: if car keys contain batteries, they are hazardous goods. And transport safety is really taken seriously at Lufthansa Cargo.”
Shipments to Shanghai.
Marquardt’s key airfreight routes run from Frankfurt to Mexico City, New York and Shanghai. “From there the consignments are taken by truck to our plants in the respective countries,” says Weidner. The Swabian enterprise also transports a lot of airfreight to Atlanta: production material for the location of an automotive customer. In the opposite direction, parts that have been produced or newly developed in China are flown from Shanghai and Hong Kong to Frankfurt and New York.
However, the linchpin of the company’s logistics is located at the main plant: a 10,000 square meter logistics center set up in 2012 with an automated small parts warehouse. “This is where we handle goods from our plant in Sibiu, Romania, among others, which reach us by truck and are transported from Frankfurt as airfreight.” To that end, Andreas Weidner’s team created its own road feeder service in 2015: a system with two teams of two that replace each other in Austria.
According to the company management, that is by no means the end of it. By 2020, Marquardt aims to generate sales of more than two billion euros – with automotive as the key growth driver. Small parts, big goals.
"In 2015 we had more than 4,500 tons of airfreight. In particularly urgent cases, we chartered an entire aircraft."
Success factor airfreight: Andreas Weidner is responsible for the worldwide transport and customs management of the Marquardt Group. In 2015, the company transported no less than 13 percent of its tonnage by airfreight.