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Wolfgang Bürkle and Dr. Peter Geiselhart

Dr. Peter Geiselhart: »We keep relying on continuity«

In 2019, Dr. Peter Geiselhart took over the management of the Herrenberg-based testing and contacting specialist Feinmetall. He is following in the footsteps of Wolfgang Bürkle, who had managed the company for 20 years.

In this interview with the German magazine "Markt&Technik", Peter Geiselhart gives an insight into the current status of the company and its plans for the future.

Markt&Technik: Dr. Geiselhart, what was the first thing you did after your start as Managing Director?

Dr. Peter Geiselhart: I have already accompanied Feinmetall since 2017 as a member of the Advisory Board and was therefore well prepared for all important business issues. After joining the company, I first concentrated on communication with the employees in order to better understand the people and the internal processes of the company.

In the mid-1990s you have already been to Feinmetall. What made you decide to return to Feinmetall, and what was it that particularly attracted you to your new role?

Yes, I was already working for Feinmetall in 1995 and 1996 as technical manager. At that time, Wolfgang Bürkle took over the management and I changed my professional direction. However, the contact did not break off and I was very pleased when Wolfgang Bürkle asked me in 2016 whether I would be interested in taking over his succession. As I was still under contract until the end of 2018, the shareholders of Feinmetall appointed me to the company's advisory board to prepare the change. Feinmetall is a strong player in the market. Digitization is opening up completely new segments - this is a task that I consider extraordinarily interesting.

What are you looking forward to most in your new position?

I am looking forward to managing and developing a very well positioned medium-sized company. In contrast to many large companies, Feinmetall has short decision-making processes that enable quick decisions and implementation, and the proximity to the shareholders is also extremely helpful.

Where do you currently see your most urgent tasks at Feinmetall?

Feinmetall is generally well positioned, internationally represented on the major markets and very well wired to its customers. Of course there is always room for improvement. My particular focus is the consistent expansion of the product portfolio.

They have succeeded Wolfgang Bürkle, who has led the company for the past 20 years. What changes will customers have to prepare for now?

Feinmetall is very well represented in the market and enjoys the confidence of many important customers. These close customer relationships are very important to me because they are the key to success. I want to expand these customer relationships. I am particularly interested in understanding the new requirements of our customers even better. Only those who understand their customers' applications are able to develop and offer the right testing solutions. In this respect, we rely on continuity. Our goal is to build an innovation partnership with our customers - with new products and excellent service.

And what is changing for the employees?

Well, the employees at Feinmetall are of course feeling a change. I work and manage with a strong "hands on" mentality and question many of the familiar work processes that have become routine. Many changes in daily work processes and working methods are noticeable to the employees. More and more employees are accepting these changes positively and are becoming participants in this change process. I regard this very positively.

What are your leadership principles?

I don't want to quote any textbook phrases. I work in a goal-oriented, open and transparent way with the employees. Attention and respect for other people are important values for me. I expect managers to take clear responsibility. This is called Ownership & Accountability - this gets to the point. For me, the basic principle of "challenge and encourage" is an essential tool for developing young people and preparing them for the next tasks.

You come from Elmos, a listed chip manufacturer based in the Ruhr area, to Feinmetall, a Swabian, medium-sized family business. How big are the cultural differences?

The cultural differences are quite small. Although Elmos is a listed company, it has remained a medium-sized company at heart. The founders of the company are still closely connected to the company as major shareholders and accompany the corporation on its supervisory board. In this regard there are more similarities than differences. I also feel very good in Herrenberg.

Which processes from Elmos could also be interesting for Feinmetall?

Feinmetall is very strongly positioned on the subject of processes - similar to Elmos. But we must never forget that even the best processes alone do not make good products. This is where we need good, qualified and motivated employees who are involved in the corporate processes in order to define, develop, manufacture and finally sell the best products. The processes are important here, as important as the highway guard rails.

Do you think the company is currently well positioned and future-proof? And how important will internationalization be?

Feinmetall recognized the need for internationalization very early on and is already excellently positioned today. We are represented in all relevant markets by our own subsidiaries and representatives. This enables us to serve and advise all important customers locally.

What will be your development priorities in the coming years?

Our development focus is largely oriented on the major market trends such as further digitization, especially through 5G, and electromobility. This applies both to the testing technology of printed circuit boards, electronic modules, wire harnesses and batteries for the automotive industry and to semiconductor testing. In order to meet these requirements, we are working on contacting solutions for high current, high frequency, fine pitch contacting for the smallest contact distances on printed circuit boards up to probe cards for efficient semiconductor testing with contact elements that are thinner than a human hair. We will never run out of exciting tasks and challenges.

What long-term goals have you set yourself?

My primary goal is the successful expansion of our market position. Through innovation and technological leadership we want to be the preferred partner of the electronics industry for contacting in test engineering. I see the growth potential of Feinmetall and am convinced that we will win new customers with new products.