Norbert Heßbrüggen, the former CEO and shareholder of EMAG, has passed away at the age of 88 in his hometown of Salach.
“The company owes a lot to him: Under his leadership from the end of the 1960s, the small southern German machine manufacturer became a globally active group with numerous subsidiaries. He also had the pioneering idea for a multi-functional vertical turning center that made EMAG a technology leader. Norbert Heßbrüggen shaped the company in a special way through his personality and his values,” EMAG Group stated in a release.
In addition, the successful corporate structure that is still in place today was created under his responsibility, the company adds. There are central production facilities at EMAG as well as individual technology companies that further develop certain metalworking processes – an entrepreneurial concept with vision that EMAG Group believes fits perfectly with the flexible requirements of today’s market and, with its efficient value chain, avoids as much waste as possible – as was his goal from the very beginning.
Born in Münster in 1935 and a mechanical engineer by training, he began working for SÜKO, then EMAG’s parent company, as early as 1967. Initially, he was plant manager at an Indian plant. In 1969, he took over the vacant position of Technical Manager at EMAG and realigned the company: High-performance, automated machines were a primary goal. When it became apparent that SÜKO was going to sell EMAG in 1975, Norbert Heßbrüggen took over the company as part of a management buyout.
“This term was not even known at the time. So the whole thing was rather new and therefore a challenge, but one that I was happy to accept because it corresponds to my inner attitude. Courage is one of the most important entrepreneurial virtues,” he once said during an interview.
At the end of the 1980s/beginning of the 1990s, a decisive step was taken: In the midst of a worldwide economic downturn, the visionary managing director had the idea of a multi-functional pick-up machine whose vertical work spindle can be moved in the main axes. The movement is thus in the workpiece, while the tool is fixed.
“We want to use this technology to master all sensible machining operations on round components,” explained Norbert Heßbrüggen at the time. And indeed, to this day, the principle is suitable for more than 60 percent of all round and less round components in cars, for example.
From then on, EMAG under Norbert Heßbrüggen went uphill almost continuously: The associated VSC series already boosted growth strongly in the 1990s. In the years that followed, EMAG also acquired various companies, continuously expanding its application know-how. By the time the Group celebrated its 150th anniversary six years ago, more than 12,500 pick-up turning machines, 4,300 grinding machines and 2,350 gear cutting machines were already in operation at customer sites worldwide. The anniversary was accompanied by the former CEO with great pride and joy.
Norbert Heßbrüggen always emphasized how important employees are to EMAG’s success. He encouraged people to be the “local entrepreneur” at their workplace. In general, a good company must offer a trusting working environment. Everyone should have the chance to develop and contribute their creativity, he would advise.
“As a person, I’m happy about what others create and I always stay up to date on the developments at EMAG,” he said.
Norbert Heßbrüggen remained interested in the business to the end, regularly visiting his life’s work at the Salach site.