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Systems for the food industry

from Marc Kuhn |

Transported by air

Whenever a loaf of bread is bought in Germany, it is highly likely to have come from a production plant in Rödermark. Plant engineering company Zeppelin Systems GmbH, part of the Group of the same name, is responsible for an ever-growing range of services.

When Wolfgang Horn explains the business model used by Zeppelin in Rödermark, the managing director has a very simple way of illustrating it: He blows dust off his hand. “We make this principle work for us,” says Horn. “Air is used to blow the material through pipes.” Zeppelin Systems GmbH specializes in the storage and transport of high-quality bulk materials, building huge systems for this purpose. “We produce globally,” explains Michael Piepenbrock, who recently assumed responsibility for the food business area. The company was previously known in the region as Reimelt, and was renamed Zeppelin Systems GmbH in 2013, following its takeover by Zeppelin in 2009. “Zeppelin is the continuation of the Reimelt story,” says Piepenbrock. According to Horn, the company has been reinforced by the greater financial clout that the Group offers; the managing director also points out that Zeppelin Systems GmbH is the largest employer in Rödermark,

with its head office in Friedrichshafen. He explains that the company specializes in three business segments. The first segment concentrates on constructing plants for plastics producers; the second focuses on production facilities for the plastics processing, rubber and tire industry; lastly, systems are also produced for food companies, with the emphasis on baked goods and confectionery. “This business is handled in Rödermark,” says Horn. Customers can test their future production facilities there in a technology center: Silos, pipelines, weighing systems and, for example, baking equipment, are available here. Raw materials such as flour, salt, sugar, water and oil are not only conveyed in the complete facility, but also weighed to the nearest gram.

Computer support ensures the right mixto produce cookies, pretzels, and pasta. Zeppelin also has an excellent reputation when it comes to freshly baked goods, says Piepenbrock. “Great-tasting food.” The systems allow bakers to turn, for example, two metric tons of dough per hour into around 16,000 bread rolls.

As Horn explains, Zeppelin production plants cost between EUR 500,000 and EUR 20 million. “Everything is customized,” adds Piepenbrock. And of course,production automation is of increasing importance to customers. It takes 6–18 months to create a Zeppelin facility, from planning to assembly, and everything is done under one roof in Rödermark. “Germany remains the key market in Europe,” explains Horn. He sees potential for growth in Europe and Asia in particular.

In Plant Engineering at Zeppelin, almost 1,380 employees generated sales of EUR 328 million last year (for comparison, 2014: EUR 266 million). Although, the food division lagged far behind its targets due to losing some major contracts,the business units for plastics production and processing facilities enjoyed more success.

In 2015, the Zeppelin Group increased its sales slightly to more than EUR 2.3 billion.The Group, whose registered office is situated in Friedrichshafen on Lake Constance, with headquarters in Garching bei München, has a workforce of 7,800 employees. Along with automotive supplier ZF Friedrichshafen AG and Airship Zeppelin GmbH, it is part of the Zeppelin Foundation.

The Zeppelin Group has around 190 sites in around 30 countries. “We are structured as several strategic business units,” Horn explains. Zeppelin is sales partner to Caterpillar, the largest manufacturer of construction equipment worldwide, which has its head office in Peoria, Illinois, USA. One division of the Group is involved in the distribution and servicing of machines in Europe, while another looks after the same business in Eastern Europe.

Zeppelin also specializes in the rental of construction machines and equipment for construction logistics. In the Power Systems business unit, everything revolves around drive and energy systems; cruise ship company Aida is one of the main customers of this division.

The Group’s name also has deep roots in the region. Zeppelinheim, a district of Neu-Isenburg, was built by Graf Ferdinand Zeppelin, inventor of the airship of the same name. The crews who manned the airship’s transatlantic flights lived in the district.

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