German cleanroom company Schilling Engineering was founded more than 20 years ago. Now the founder and CEO is preparing his twin daughters to become his successors
Gaby (L) and Ute (R) Schilling have joined the management team at Schilling Engineering
When it comes to passing down heirlooms, there is not much that requires more trust than passing down a company. For Schilling Engineering, this trust has been placed in the founder Günther Schilling's twin daughters, Gaby (on the left) and Ute (on the right), who have now been on the company's management team since May 2019.
The Wutöschingen-based company is a specialist in the development and implementation of cleanroom facilities and employs around 80 people covering the scope of cleanroom technology, automation, equipment and services. The company also has a branch in Trasadingen, Switzerland.
One of the major perks of a family-run business is the smooth corporate transition it allows when it comes time for a change in leadership. In the unprecedented time of Brexit and coronavirus, the certainty that stable leadership can provide is not to be underestimated. This is what the German company has managed, and it is no small feat. Each daughter will take on board a slightly different role with Ute being responsible for technical project management and Gaby for strategic purchasing, controlling and IT.
You are not dependent on one industry, there are a lot of possibilities to specialise in
Both women have completed combination master's degrees in industrial engineering and mechanical engineering and gained practical experience in various companies. Education and experience in a field is key to understanding how to be a good leader, but growing up immersed in an industry is a level of experience that isn't something many can bring to the table. A family-run business has always been on the cards it seems as Gaby explains to me "it was logical to study the same things to get deeper insight into the various scopes of management and mechanical engineering."
"To learn more about the processes in a big corporation I worked for BMW in Munich for the Divisional Director of Purchasing in the executive department. My main task was the controlling of purchasing data and manage the placing process," Gaby explains. "My next station was at Spheros in Gilching where I was the connection between the international purchasing departments and responsible for strategic purchasing." Gaby then goes on to explain that she continued supporting the company in its acquisition before transferring to her father's company.
Modular construction is the future as it addresses the ever-expanding diversity of requirements
Taking responsibility and having a sound understanding of their father's sector seems to be very important to the women, as Ute agrees that the education and experience was important to get a good overview of the different departments in a company. She explained that one of her biggest takeaways from these years was that the structure of a company can inform the strategic direction.
Ute tells Cleanroom Technology about her journey to the role. "I worked for Gämmerler as a technical salesperson responsible for foreign regions. There I supported the local sales with technical drawings, technical consulting, finding customer adapted solutions and negotiation in China, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, US and Canada. The post-press market is very specialised and needs technical adapted processes and lines individualised for each customer side."
Both Gaby and Ute agree that the characteristic of the cleanroom sector that appeals to them is the diversity. "You can work in many different industries," says Ute. Her sister agrees, saying that "each customer and project is different. The work is very diverse that makes it interesting and each time challenging to find the best solution for the customer."
But this trait is not just an appeal in terms of work enjoyment, but also for company success as Ute adds: "You are not dependent on one industry, there are a lot of possibilities to specialise in."
Günther Schilling, Founder of Schilling Engineering
Many companies put a huge amount of time and effort into creating a diversified portfolio to ensure the safety of the company as a whole if one sector should struggle. This is achieved by the omnipresence of cleanrooms across industry. Schilling Engineering embodies this model with solutions to cover projects for everything from pharmaceutical to cosmetics, from automotive to food. "The industry has so many different customer applications. It is always fascinating which products are manufactured in our cleanrooms," Gaby enthuses.
The sisters also say that as the world becomes more and more regulated, the need for cleanrooms will only continue to grow, as the product range that requires them does. "The need to manufacture in a cleanroom is getting more important for different reasons as regulations, improvement of quality increase," Ute says.
Both Ute and Gaby agree that modular construction is the future as it addresses the ever-expanding diversity of requirements. "To be flexible for every upcoming process or machine change it is very helpful to have a modular solution," Gaby explains, elaborating that the ability to adjust a cleanroom to future needs by using existing elements and adding further elements that fit a new demand is going to be key.
"A modular construction gets more important while markets change faster. The need of today will not be the requirements in the future," Ute chimes in, agreeing that flexibility will be a must. "Our cleanroom systems are mostly not fix aligned with the building. That brings the possibility of dismantling the cleanroom at one site non-destructively and building it again at another site or adapt it to the new customer's needs. We have a grid that can be adapted to the customer's requirements that we can integrate machines into easily or react to building specialities."
Coronavirus is disrupting customer markets, as well as supply chains
Proud of the company's offering Gaby tells Cleanroom Technology what Schilling provides that is so unique. "Our system marks out the complete control of the cleanroom including lockers, dimming lights, visualisation of the doors, climate regulation with climate cabinet and control units with one surface presented at a 15" panel display."
The futurist approach to more central control is another way industry is always progressing. In this future market, Ute believes that the business model that makes Schilling stand out is its short communication channels in a family environment that enable short project throughput times with high product innovation. "While we are a small medium-sized company, we have the flexibility to fulfil special wishes of the customer and still have a short time to market," she says.
Another front that the management team seems particularly proud of is the 'greenness' of their modular CleanCell series. The company appreciates the issue of wasteful usage, but also the cost implications. Gaby and Ute know that most energy consumption of a cleanroom results from ongoing air exchange and innovating air circulation technology is a focus of the company, using a high level of tightness and low-maintenance components to progress this.
Protection clothes and face masks are difficult to source at the moment because all production focus is on medical products
Now another great responsibility has fallen on all shoulders in the cleanroom sector. The unprecedented coronavirus pandemic needs to be tackled Gaby says, "the coronavirus is influencing the whole world at the moment disrupting customer markets, as well as supply chains. The biggest impact is on our customers operating in the cleanroom, as protection clothes and face masks are difficult to source at the moment because all production focus is on medical products. We hope the situation is resolved in the next few months as all people strictly follow the contact ban."
With an open mind to innovation and lightening focus on their goals, it seems that both Gaby and Ute are carrying forward the same entrepreneurial spirit that their father set in motion more than 20 years ago.N.B. This article is featured in the April 2020 issue of Cleanroom Technology. The latest digital edition is available online.