5 minutes with Philipp Steinberger, Managing Director of R&D, Operation, Sales at Wöhner GmbH & Co. KG, Rödental

Digitalisation is the word of the hour. The Coburg region is also picking up on this theme. For example, the Zukunft.Coburg.Digital network was founded in spring that brings companies and start-ups together in order to provide support with digital transformation. Philipp Steinberger, Managing Director for Research and Development, Operations and Sales at Wöhner GmbH & Co. KG, an international manufacturer of electrotechnical safety systems, is assuming a leading role in this. The SME is not very well known among the public and is therefore a classic hidden champion. More than 300 employees support customers from more than 80 countries. Today we are talking to Philipp Steinberger about the company’s success and how digitalisation is influencing the region.

(c) Wöhner GmbH & Co. KG
(c) Wöhner GmbH & Co. KG

Electronic safety systems are probably a term that many associate with the fuse box at home. What exactly are your products used for and where are they installed?

Our aim is the worldwide safe and efficient distribution and use of electrical energy. We are a specialist for electrotechnical systems in the set-up and assembly of bus bar systems. Our functional system solutions guarantee space-saving and time-efficient cabling in energy distribution, especially for larger buildings and building complexes. We supply components for control systems in mechanical and plant engineering. Solutions from Wöhner guarantee security of supply and system in the renewable energies segment too, e.g. in wind energy and photovoltaic systems. Wöhner products are installed at the Kunsthaus Graz, in the London Eye, at the Bolshoi Theatre Moscow. The Brose Group, one of the leading automotive suppliers, also relies on Wöhner products.

Wöhner GmbH is actively committed to driving digitalisation forward in and around Coburg. How is the digital transformation influencing companies in the region and why is it so important to join forces in a network?

Digital transformation is one of the most important challenges for companies and their staff. In particular, in more rural regions like ours with limited potential for specialists per se, obstacles like a lack of experience or defending existing structures play a major part. Which is why one important success factor is breaking down familiar processes, where the innovation and thought patterns of start-ups can be of crucial help. Zukunft.Coburg.Digital is to bring the experience of successful companies together with the speed and creativity of start-ups. The network also provides access to project support through external funding. As a consequence, companies benefit from targeted activities and support, e.g. for business segment development, qualification or innovation management.

Wöhner GmbH has more than 100 registered patents. How do you manage to stay innovative over 85 years?

Inventiveness, consistent realisation of our system concept and continuous growth are the cornerstones of our success. The customer is at the heart of everything we do. Always keeping an ear to the ground on the market is important to generate pioneering solutions and momentum with a competitive edge. However, a bit more is required for implementation: constant investment in research and development and committed employees who develop ideas and drive ground-breaking technologies forward. We also benefit from the collaboration with the local university of applied sciences with the recruitment of students who bring new ideas with them.

The company is being managed by the third generation of the Wöhner family. What is so special about a family-run company?

Working for a family-run company brings many advantages with it. Especially as a manager of development, I benefit from the passion and innovation of our owner Frank Wöhner, who is the driving force behind the more recent company development himself. Flexibility and agility are practised here just as much as friendly interaction and strong regional ties. Last but not least, I have also learned to appreciate the freedom and entrepreneurial spirit in an SME.

To finish, perhaps you could reveal your favourite spots in and around Coburg to us?

  • My patio

  • Häslichgraben in Rödental

  • Coburg’s Hofgarten and Marktplatz

  • Steinrücken in Creidlitz

Bavaria’s economy is vibrant – it’s mainly the people who live and work here that contribute to that. We present an interesting personality from business and research every month in our “5 minutes with...” section.