Five minutes with... Sabine Herold, Managing Director of DELO Industrial Adhesives, Windach

Bavaria's economy is full of life – and the people who live and work here make the biggest contribution to this. In our monthly “Five minutes with...” section, we introduce an interesting person from business and research. This month we talked to Sabine Herold, Executive Partner of DELO Industrial Adhesives. The hidden champion from the Ammersee region has been developing special adhesives and systems for application in high-tech sectors for over 50 years. In 2014, DELO won the innovation price of the German economy and in July 2015 it was awarded a price among “Bayern Best 50” (Bavaria's Best 50), an initiative launched by the Bavarian state government.

DELO was founded in 1961 in Munich and has been based in Windach at the Ammersee since 2006. Has the company been export-oriented from the very beginning?

DELO has long been focussing solely on Germany, expanding abroad was not an issue. And why would it be? We were able to achieve a very solid growth without any uncertainties. Internationalisation started around 1900. In fact, it was our customers who increasingly relocated their production to Asia, so we followed and took advantage of this opportunity to acquire local companies as new customers.

In which sectors are DELO products used– and what are the key market regions in sales?

Our products are predominantly used by the electronics and automotive industry and in mechanical engineering, in mobile phone cameras, for example, and mini speakers, chip cards as well as sensors or electric motors. In addition to this, we also seek out projects in glass production or in the renewable energy sector to diversify our business.

Asia, the EU and the USA are among our most important export markets. That's the reason why we have subsidiaries in Shanghai, Singapore and Boston and representative offices in Taiwan, Malaysia and South Korea. We also have sales engineers or representative offices in eight European states. Overall, we deliver to customers in 60 different countries.

Doesn't the development of new industrial applications for industrial adhesives require a lot of research?

Yes, it does. To give you an example: It took seven years to make our adhesives for smart cards marketable, which protect chips on debit or health insurance cards. Thus, the development was also very time-consuming, not to mention risky. At the time we couldn't project that our market share in this sector would be 80 %.

In order to maintain our technological advantage we invest 15 % of our turnover in research and development, which is three to four times higher than the industry average. And this pays off: We achieve 30 percent of our turnover with products developed in the last three years.

How many employees does DELO have and what are the main goals you pursue – do you plan to open new representative offices, for example?

We employ more than 450 people at DELO and we plan to hire 70 more within the next 12 months. In addition to production employees, we are particularly looking for highly qualified engineers and chemists. We already generate 70 percent of our turnover abroad, but we are looking to increase this percentage further by extending our network of distributors in Asia and Latin America. We are also considering opening further representative offices in East Asia.

Which of Bavaria's strengths have contributed to DELO's development?

Two in particular: Firstly, there are highly qualified professionals that work very accurately, regardless whether they have a university degree or have completed a vocational training. Secondly, the high density of industrial companies makes it easy to establish a network of customers and partners. The fact that Bavaria has a beautiful scenery and you're surrounded by mountains and lakes is “only” a soft factor. But it helps to lure one or more engineers from the North to Bavaria.

What are your favourite spots at the Ammersee and the surrounding areas?

There are many! Enjoying the Ammersee on a short sailing trip is just as nice as the monastery Andechs, with its beer garden or the restaurant Fischer at the northern bank, where you can enjoy an amazing view of the lake up to the Zugspitze. And during the winter you get to the mountains so quickly that you're ready to ski within an hour – I truly appreciate that.