Blast from the past: BPW

Reflecting on BPW Group’s 125th anniversary and the extraordinary changes the industry has faced, the company’s Managing Partners Markus Schell and Achim Kotz share their insights.

Q: How would you describe the industry and what is it like working within it from a personal perspective?

Markus Schell: The transport industry is literally always on the move. Megatrends such as digitalisation and sustainability but also other factors like dependence on the energy markets, political conflicts such as the Ukraine war and stricter legal regulations have an influence on change and development in our industry.

Achim Kotz: Despite all these challenges, it feels good for us as a company to actively shape   the change in the transport industry. I am already the fourth generation to run the family business. BPW has continuously developed in a dynamic environment and that´s what we will do also in the future.

Markus Schell.

Q: What is BPW’s strongest asset?

Markus Schell: In terms of products, we as BPW Group offer important key technologies for economical, efficient and safe transport. As a system partner, we supply vehicle manufacturers with trailer running gears and brakes, electric drive solutions as well as lighting, fastener and superstructure technologies, plastic technologies and telematics. We have supplemented this portfolio with comprehensive mobility services for transport companies. This also includes a well-developed spare parts trading network, through which we ensure the reliable and fast supply of spare parts for all relevant commercial vehicle brands in many countries around the world. Beginning with our own foundries for cast parts through the production of trailer technology, to the distribution of spare parts, we cover all stages of the value chain in the transport ecosystem – which is certainly unique within the industry in this form.

Achim Kotz: Our strength as a company is that we are still owner-managed today. As a 100 per cent family-owned business, we don’t think and act in quarterly terms, but in terms of generations. Continuity, reliability and trust are values that characterize our relationship with customers, partners and above all, our employees.

Q: Can you name one game-changing product that really put BPW on a new level and why?

Markus Schell: With our ECO Unit, BPW has certainly set a benchmark in the industry for trailer axle operation and maintenance. Back in the 80s and 90s the BPW engineers took their inspiration from pit stops in Formula 1. They asked themselves how the replacement of brake wear parts on trailers could be made easier, safer and above all faster. The result of this is our ECO Unit and the BPW ECO Principle, which enable rapid disassembly and assembly of the entire bearing unit via a central axle nut.

Q: What is the fundamental company value that has carried the business through the years?

Achim Kotz: For many generations, BPW follows the same values: integrity, honesty, diligence, decency, respect, lawfulness, loyalty, responsibility, long-term thinking and reliability. They define our marked loyalty to employees as well as to customers and market partners. They guide us in the development of new ideas as well as in the further development of our company. And they are evident in our sustainable commitment to society and the environment.

Q: What impact has BPW had on the manufacturing and the transport industry in general?

Achim Kotz: Even though the exact number can hardly be determined today, around 2,000 patents have their origins in our business in Wiehl over the last 125 years. Incidentally, the ‘P’ in our company name stands for “patent axles” – this shows that the development of pioneering running gear solutions has always been very important to us.

Markus Schell: But BPW was also a pioneer in many areas on the process side. In 1983, we were the first company in the branch to introduce documented manufacturing, making it possible to trace a product through every stage of its production. And in 2018 we were one of the first commercial vehicle suppliers to be certified according to IATF standard 16949, thus setting new quality standards.

Q: What are you personally most proud of when you think of BPW?

Achim Kotz.

Achim Kotz: In 125 years, BPW has developed from a small forge workshop with 12 employees into an internationally active Group of companies. We have 55 subsidiaries in 27 countries, and almost 7,000 employees now work within the BPW Group. In spite of this growth, we have always remained true to our roots: Since its foundation, BPW has had its company headquarters at Ohlerhammer in Wiehl.

Markus Schell: Regardless our consistent success, we always manage to surprise the industry with pioneering new products: Most recently, we have primarily demonstrated our innovative strength in the areas of electrification and digitalisation. In 2016 with the electrically powered axle eTransport, where we discarded traditional thinking patterns about combustion engines and turned the axle into the engine compartment. Or with our generator axle ePower, which generates electricity while driving to provide electrical power for cooling units. Recently, together with our telematics experts from idem telematics, we also launched the new running gear generation iC Plus into series production, paving the way for AI-supported maintenance management.

Q: What does the future hold? What are your biggest priorities going forward?

Achim Kotz: It remains a turbulent time in the transport and logistics industry. It is almost impossible to predict where the industry will be in five years’ time. So it is important for us to continue to develop partnerships with our customers and to engage in dialogue with them. What drives them? What challenges do they face? And how can we best support them in getting goods from A to B efficiently, safely and sustainably? Together with our customers, partners and employees, we will continue to actively drive forward the transformation of transport.

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