letsrecycle.com recently visited Liebherr’s Bischofshofen factory in the Austrian province of Salzburg, where the company manufactures wheel loader machines for its European and international markets.
Sitting next to the river Salzach and shrouded by the Austrian Alps, Bischofshofen’s picturesque location alone with its stunning scenery sets it apart from many other site visits. The location however has an important part to play in the history and development of Liebherr.
While it would undoubtedly have been easier for Liebherr to move closer to a major conurbation with associated transport links and employment pool, the company feels it has benefited from its 60-year history and stability in the region. Out of respect and loyalty to the communities that have served it so well, the company has chosen to develop new and innovative manufacturing techniques to meet increased demand rather than leaving its current site.
Walking through the factory, one cannot help but be drawn to the sense of order and the clean and serene working environment. Everything seems to run with almost stereotypical German precision. This is even more impressive given the geographical constraints of the 170,000 sq m factory which still stands on its original site. Having expanded steadily over the years, the site’s 1,100 employees now manufacture over 4,500 wheel loader machines this year.
Liebherr’s commitment to its employees is also demonstrated by its flourishing apprenticeship and graduate programmes which now see over 60 apprentices and trainees working on the site. Once their training is complete, all the apprentices and trainees are guaranteed a job many of which will end up being jobs for life.
Whist we were there, we were fortunate enough to meet some apprentices from the UK who were working there as part of a 3-week exchange programme, and they were more than willing to share their experiences of working for this global manufacturing giant.
Their enthusiasm for the company and their role was clear to see. It was refreshing to witness a genuine appreciation of the opportunity that they had been given. Whilst they were learning the skills they would need for a successful career, they were also having some fun at the same time.
The modern wheel loader is designed to be efficient, comfortable, safe and easy to service and Liebherr’s product range is constantly evolving in anticipation of its customers’ needs, the company explains. Wheel-loaders are provided in four different categories: Compact loaders, Stereoloaders, mid-size wheel loaders and large wheel loaders of the XPower generation.
The XPower concept developed at Bischofshofen for Liebherr’s large wheel loaders, sets standards when it comes to fuel efficiency, performance, durability and comfort. The heart of the XPower wheel loader is its power-split driveline, which Liebherr installs as standard in these machines. This combines the hydrostatic drive, perfect for short loading cycles, with the mechanical drive that delivers over long distances and during ascents. The combination of both drive types in one machine ensures maximum efficiency and significant fuel savings.
The current series of mid-size wheel loaders comprises three machines that all remain true to the reputation of this class as a powerful yet reliable all-rounder. The machines feature high-quality steel construction and the modern cab is tailored to the machine operator’s needs
The manoeuvrability of the four Stereoloaders is truly impressive. This is due to stereo steering which combines the advantages of conventional articulated steering with those of all-wheel steering. The result is a minimal turning circle which is particularly practical in cramped conditions.
The compact loaders represent powerful yet reliable machinery for diverse applications involving road building, civil engineering, horticulture, landscaping and rental companies
At the Bauma exhibition this year, Liebherr presented an extensive range of intelligent assistance systems for a number of their machines. These included innovative active personnel detection and a new weighing device.
Liebherr’s Bischofshofen factory also cooperates closely with other Liebherr plants. It enjoys strong ties with the mixed Liebherr production companies in Dalian (China) and Guaratinguetà (Brazil). This collaboration has given rise to a special wheel loader range for emerging markets outside Europe and North America.
Whilst no business can be completely shielded from the current economic and political challenges, Liebherr’s single minded commitment to its employees, manufacturing quality and the constantly evolving demands of its customers look certain to ensure that it is well positioned to continue its growth across its established and emerging international markets.