News - 17 December 2013

Mighty model offers key lessons for Derby firms

Derby manufacturers are being urged to follow in the footsteps of a mighty German business model. 

The Mittelstand is a powerful band of often privately-owned, medium-sized companies who have taken success in their own country on to the world stage. 

The group has been credited by historians and economists for a large percentage of Germany’s economic growth and now business leaders are keen for UK businesses to learn some potentially valuable lessons. 

A special New Year conference has been organised to explain the evolution of the model and illustrate how manufacturers from Derby and across the Midlands could follow its strategies for success. 

The ‘Meet The Mittelstand’ event will also help build links between companies in the UK and Germany and there will be specialists on hand to provide expert advice on exporting to Europe. 

The conference is to be held at the headquarters of digger giants JCB in Rocester, Staffordshire on Wednesday, January 22. 

While Mittelstand companies, now thought to employ around 70 per cent of Germany’s workforce, are often technology focused, many are experts in niche markets who have enjoyed consistent growth by leveraging their expertise and export potential. 

They combine a highly-focused but cautious and long-term approach to business with the adoption of modern management practices in a model which has won worldwide acclaim. 

The conference, to be chaired by BBC news correspondent Nick Higham, will provide an overview of five key characteristics of the model created by Mittelstand, which also contains companies from Austria and Switzerland. 

It will focus on technology access, education and professional development, corporate structure and the stakeholder model, export strategy and stewardship. 

The event will also include keynote speeches from Lord Livingston, the former BT chief who is now Government Minister for Trade and Investment, and Lord Digby Jones, former Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry and also a former Minister of State who is now a Corporate Ambassador for JCB. 

Business leaders from Germany will also play a key role in the conference including Helmut Heinson – joint managing director of Arburg GmbH, a leading manufacturer of injection moulding and and robotic systems and Professor Engelbert Westkämper – an expert in Manufacturing Technologies and Management. 

Dr Bernd Atenstaedt, the chief executive of German Industry UK (GIUK) and UK director of the Federation of German Industries, will also be at the conference to advise British companies looking for tie-ups with German counterparts. 

Speakers including Bernard Molloy, the Global Industrial Logistics Director for Unipart and Alan Foster, Operations Director of McLaren Automotive, will provide a British perspective. 

JCB Chairman Lord Bamford is confident the conference will be a useful and eye-opening exercise for businesses in the Midlands.

He said: “Germany is the largest net exporter in the world, due mostly to the success of the country’s family-owned manufacturing companies.

“Germany is not so different from the UK, so it’s right we should try to understand what enabled Germany to nurture these companies and if we can we take lessons from them.

“I expect this conference will be very useful to many British firms who want to get an insight into a different and successful way of doing business.”

Places for manufacturers are available at the event and more details can be found at

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