The year 2015 marks a quarter of a century of thriving business, growth and prosperity in South Africa for fischer SA. From its humble beginnings in a rented Butterworth warehouse, to its current impressive 19 500m2 factory, fischer has stood the test of time, becoming South Africa’s largest stainless steel tubing company.
Founded by Hans Fischer in 1990 as fischer Stainless Steel Tubing SA, the company experienced early success and quickly expanded into its own premises in Verwoerdburg. Within two years of operations, its factory floor had doubled in size. Managing Director Erich Kotzenmacher says the company’s success is in its ability to keep abreast of its micro-environment. fischer SA is well-known for its innovative style, early adoption of echnology and new business practices: it is committed to investing in new facilities to continually optimise its production processes.
Globally, fischer has a strong corporate culture of business confidence and entrepreneurship, which Kotzenmacher says is one of the reasons the company continues to thrive. This ethos was entrenched early in the South African business, during one of Hans Fischer’s operational visits to South Africa.
Fischer noticed a piece of paper on an office desk and asked what it was. Kotzenmacher replied that it was just another estate agent flyer trying to sell the property next door. He’d ignored it, but Fischer saw the opportunity for what it was. “Two days later,” Kotzenmacher recalls, “having bought the property, I drove Hans back to the airport and asked very quietly, ‘and how do we pay for this?’” “His answer was, ‘that’s your problem.’” The results of that attitude of confidence, says Kotzenmacher, can be seen today.
Part of fischer SA’s monumental success was the decision to spin off into three operational companies, each with their own area of specialisation. Having run exclusively as a tubing manufacturerfor a decade, the company recognised a demand for manipulated tubing and in 2001 founded fischer Tube Technik, which services orders destined for the export market. A year later in 2002, fischer Tube EC was formed with the goal of producing larger diameter tubing. The idea was to woo the catalytic converter industry, but the move was risky. At the time there had not yet been any enquiries about larger diameter tubing. History is the best judge and with hindsight, there can be no doubt that this was the right call.
Despite tough times for the industry, Kotzenmacher is positive about the future. He believes stainless steel heat-exchanger tubing is a strong opportunity for local growth, as the local market currently relies on imports. Kotzenmacher says fischer SA has the expertise to manufacture tubing to the standards required for heat exchanger applications and is actively pursuing this market, particularly in production lines that use heat processes and power generation facilities. A new tube mill has been ordered and is expected to be operational in 2016, which should boost fischer’s production capability by about 20%.
To mark its 25th year anniversary fischer SA threw a gala event in May at their Centurion premises. A quarter of a century is a long time to make
friends and allies and with more than 500 people on the guest list, the coordinators had their work cut out for them.
Among the attendees were fischer executives from around the world; including Hans Fischer and his family, Hans-Peter Fischer, Roland Fischer from fischer Machinen Technik (DE), Dr Stefan Geissler from fischer Hydroforming (DE), Thomas Prell from fischer USA and Canada, Dr Heinz Paar from fischer Austria, Wolfgang Szymanek from fischer China and Aldo Lebed from fischer Uruguay.
Many of fischer’s valued customers joined the festivities; including representatives from Toyota, Eberspaecher, VRN, Eurosteel, Trimotive, Boysen, NDE and GEECOM.
MANY CULTURES, ONE COMPANY
The event was carefully themed to recognise fischer Group’s German origins and the African environment in which fischer SA thrives. Guests were welcomed into a spectacular African themed 750m2 marquee, where they were entertained by an oompah band and served glühwein and canapés representing the countries fischer operates in.
Erich Kotzenmacher revealed his vision for the future of the company in an address to guests. He shared amusing anecdotes, including how he almost blew his job interview at fischer by getting lost on the way and arriving an hour late.
He was followed by group Chairman Hans-Peter Fischer, who expressed his appreciation for so many years of prosperous growth. Finally, Toyota’s Anand Pather shared his positive thoughts about the long-standing relationship between the two companies. The guests were then treated to performances from a Marimba band, an African choir and a traditional drum circle.
PASSING THE TORCH
In closing, Kotzenmacher announced his decision to step down as Managing Director of fischer SA. From the 1st of January 2016, the South African arm of fischer Group International will beheaded by his son, Marco.
“Looking back at the 23 years of my involvement as the Managing Director of fischer SA,” said Kotzenmacher, “I have only one regret: that I was not involved right from the start.