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100 years Marbach Group
23. June 2023

100 years of Marbach (Part 9) Challenges give strength: new opportunities.

On July 16, 2023, we will celebrate our 100th anniversary. In 100 years of company history, there have not always been only successes (Read more in part 8 of this series: "100 years of Marbach. On the way to becoming a world market leader: successes and employee development."), but also many challenges that had to be mastered in order to ultimately remain successful in the market after so many years. 

After the company was founded in 1923, manual top knives were initially produced for the shoe industry. However, the company had to suspend operations in the very first year because of the worldwide economic crisis. (Read more about this in the first part of this series: "100 years of Marbach. 1923 - 1927: the founding years.") During this time, Karl Marbach Senior kept his head above water with occasional jobs, for example cleaning steam locomotives – after all, he had to feed his family. Only a few months later, in 1924, Karl Marbach Senior resumed business. Due to the world economic crisis, there were fewer and fewer customers from the shoe industry. But Karl Marbach Senior did not let this get him down either. As early as 1926, the window display advertising factory Nupnau needed cutting-dies for cardboard letters. With the product "cutting-dies" Marbach reached a new group of customers from the paper processing and advertising industry. This also included the Knorr company with its demand for folding cartons. The new product "cutting-dies" was successful and Karl Marbach Senior managed to lead the company out of the world economic crisis. 

Only a short time later, another worldwide crisis began with the Second World War. (More about this in the second part of this series: "100 Years Marbach. 1939 - 1945: The war years.") Fortunately, tools for the production of seals for engines, gearboxes and pumps were urgently needed, and in this why business could be continued – also with the help of Karl Marbach Junior. In 1944 and 1945, both the company building in Fügerstrasse in Heilbronn and a provisional building in Unterheinriet were damaged. Nevertheless, Marbach continued to produce. After the war, the company was moved back to Heilbronn where they had to start all over again.

In 1955, the company history could have taken another negative turn: Karl Marbach Junior was working at IBM at that time. If he had not followed his father's call to join the company, this could have led to the end of the Marbach company. On July 1, 1955, Karl Marbach Junior joined his parents' company after his father told him to do so with the words: "... either you come now or I'll do it my way!". 

Another turning point in Marbach's company history was the investment in a CO2 laser in 1972. (Read more in part 4 of this series: "100 years of Marbach. A major milestone: the use of lasers in die-cutting technology.") Peter Marbach, Managing Partner, relates: "I can still remember this myself, my father made the clear statement: 'Either it works – or we are gone!' and it worked, BINGO! In the risk – thank God – there is usually also an opportunity!"

In 1993, packaging was suddenly seen as evil: the green dot had been introduced shortly before. For Marbach as a manufacturer of tools in the packaging industry, things got difficult. In addition, the company had to deal with a loss in profits in 1994 due to the generally worsening economic situation. Karl Marbach described the company’s profit situation as 'still satisfactory' and confirmed to the Heilbronner Stimme further rationalization measures. He realized that he had to make changes in his business and therefore dared to take the step – for a Swabian a difficult one – of getting support from external consultants. Five experts from the Fraunhofer Institute advised Marbach. And Marbach accepted this challenge too and emerged from this situation stronger.

Further risks were posed by international economic growth and the constant need for new buildings in Heilbronn (More on this in Part 7 of this series: "100 Years of Marbach. More space and modern working: The new buildings.") Peter Marbach: "The big challenge during the construction in 2006 was the historical background of Heilbronn-Böckingen. In the immediate surroundings of our company there had been a Roman military camp (Roman fort), which was active from 85/90 AD until the middle of the 2nd century. There might have been important archeological finds during excavation. But that was not all: Böckingen was hit by several air raids during the Second World War. Therefore, extreme caution was required. According to the building permit, we even had the obligation to hire a specialist company for explosive ordnance disposal at our own expense, to detect explosive ordnance and – in case of a find – to remove it. Fortunately, however, only a few Roman excavations and no remains of explosive ordnance were found during the construction of the new hall."

Shortly after moving into the new building at the main site in Heilbronn, the banking crisis began in 2008/2009, which Marbach also survived, as well as the Corona pandemic. The latter meant short-time work – but did not require large layoffs, as was necessary at other companies. The next world crisis followed with the Ukraine war and its fallout effects such as price increases and shortage of raw materials. But Marbach would not be Marbach if the company had not mastered these challenges as well. 

Peter Marbach sums up after 100 years of company history: "Despite all these challenges, we are standing here today and can look back on 100 years of Marbach. An incredible feeling. Who would have imagined that back in 1923 when my grandfather had founded the company. And what will the future bring? None of us knows. But one thing is certain: we'll keep going and take on all the challenges, the old ones and the ones that are yet to come."


You can be sure the secret of Marbach's success is also related to the tireless commitment and inventiveness of the Marbach family, which, now in its third generation, has done everything to ensure that the company becomes, is and remains successful. More about the family behind the company will follow in the last part of this series: "100 years of Marbach. Three generations: the family business."

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