In more ways than one, the story of Liebherr is the story of the earthmoving and construction industry. A big industry that gives rise to players of unique capabilities and strengths who constantly put their unique stamp on our built environment.
Invention and innovation are two recurring themes that run through Liebherr’s heritage as an equipment manufacturer. The company was born on the back of a towering invention in post war Germany—in response to a pressing need for equipment and machinery Liebherr’s founder, Hans Liebherr, with engineers and tradesmen, developed the first mobile tower crane.
Immediately after the company’s first product, the mobile tower crane TK 10, crane production and construction equipment manufacturing began.
Invention and innovation were not limited to game changing machines and technology; user friendliness was always a consideration in developing new equipment. The mobile tower crane, the invention that launched Liebherr in 1949, was easy to transport and set up as well.
The following two decades saw an impressive array of innovations ranging from construction machinery to refrigeration and aircraft technology.
The growth of Liebherr as a significant name in the global heavy machinery market is now the stuff of legend.
What is perhaps not so well known is that the company has always been, from its earliest days to the multinational corporation it is now, a family owned enterprise. This is certainly one of the reasons why Liebherr has been able to build itself, in its relationships with its customers, as a company with a human face; and this also explains the company’s vision of its role in the market: tough machines, built to last, that deliver significant productivity gains, through power, efficiency and operator safety and comfort.
With all these ingredients Liebherr was destined to become a significant presence on the global market for equipment and machinery. Along the way, there were several milestones in rapid succession. In the late 1950s the company had nearly 2400 employees, and in the late 1960s that number more than doubled.
In recognition of the technological advances as well as the scores of patents to its credit, founder Hans Liebherr was awarded an honorary university doctorate. In the 1970s the trend towards growth and global expansion intesified, and Liebherr became a significant player in the North American market. This decade also saw the emergence of
Liebherr’s all-terrain crane.
Further growth in the next decade gave rise to new management structures in response to the size and versatility of the business and its products and services. Through these phases of continual growth and expansion Liebherr has maintained core competencies within the organisation. Important assemblies are developed and produced within the organisation itself. In the first 40 years of operation the company consistently maintained its impressive growth levels and profitability.
In the last two decades, with the changing environment of the global economy and manufacturing Liebherr entered into a joint venture (with a company in China), established a hire division, and extended its range of climate control technologies.
In the early 2000s Liebherr-Elektronik- GmbH, a state-of-the-art facility to manufacture electronic assemblies and systems for construction machinery and mining equipment, maritime cranes, aircraft and rail cars commenced operations.
And in line with a development in global manufacturing, Liebherr replaced the country-based organisation system to a product-area-based structure to consolidate technology and sales. These developments and the capabilities they make possible have seen Liebherr’s local units meeting specific requirements in regional markets, like gear cutting machines in India, and parasol manufacturing for large pilgrimage sites.
In the first decade of the 2000s Liebherr continued to perform exceptionally well as a company, but the continuing market volatility impacted the company’s profits.
However, despite a decline in sales, the number of employees remained stable and investments continued. As in previous economic crises, this strategy demonstrated that product diversity and the presence in various markets stabilise the entire company.
LIEBHERR IN AUSTRALIA
Such globally oriented growth always had Australia high on its list of priority markets.
Liebherr has been in Australia since 1981 when the family came looking for a site to base the company in order to service the booming mining and infrastructure sectors. Liebherr’s main branches are in Adelaide and Sydney.
Other divisions in several parts of Australia and New Zealand look after sales, service and parts for its customer base. Traditionally, in the Australian market, Liebherr has had a significant chunk of the material handling equipment industry. Liebherr’s machines in the industrial waste management sector are, according to industry experts, unmatchable in terms of endurance and productivity.
REINVENTING THE WHEEL LOADER
Today the company is all set to grow its footprint in the market in Australia. Call it legacy, or call it DNA, the thrust behind this move will once again be game changing technology: Liebherr’s XPower™ were introduced to Australia at the end of last year, and the company is confident that this will change the game down under.
Although Liebherr has been in Australia for a few decades, the earthmoving division claims to be only six years old. Liebherr sees the growth of this division of the company, in this short period, as phenomenal. The company is not in competition with the lower tiers of the market, overcrowded with economical machines that don’t meet the highest emission standards. Experts say that the bulk of the construction machinery market in Australia has been carved between the big players. It is this segment of the market that Liebherr will be trying to sell its machines to.
Liebherr believes there is a misconception in the market that, being German, their machines are expensive. However, according to the company, their machines are easily among the best in the world, and they come at a competitive price for the quality on offer. Liebherr-Australia’s sales team is passionate in the belief that when it comes to quality Australians are quick to see value in a good machine or vehicle. The company is confident that aggressive growth is imminent in 2017, and with this in mind the sales team too is growing.
Liebherr-Australia said to EEM that the growth in construction and infrastructure could easily mean that there could be a lag between demand and supply in the Australian industry. All manufacturers are working round the clock to meet demand, reportedly. In this scenario Liebherr’s game is to get enough sales people into the market and have equipment ready for customers to try before making up their mind.
In Liebherr’s stable in Sydney a range of new equipment are standing testimony to the quality and workmanship that go into each and every machine. The XPowerR wheel loader series, for instance, has won two awards so far.
Last year, in recognition of its sophisticated design, Liebherr won the iF Design Award 2016. For more than half a century now, the iF Design Award has been world renowned recognition for excellence in design. The XPowerR wheel loaders also won the Red Dot Award 2016 in the “Product Design” category. In the fray for this coveted award with the XPowerR wheel loaders were 5200 products.
Wonder machines like the XPowerR wheel loaders have Liebherr’s sale team fired up to take on the Australian market. In an industry as fast paced and eventful like the earthmoving and construction industry, Liebherr’s plans for expansion is set to be a game changing development.