When a new dual leadership team was announced at Fagus-GreCon in September it was the first time in the company’s 100-year history that no family owners were represented in the management.

Managing director of the company since 2007, Uwe Kahmann is focusing again on the commercial and sales activities of the Fagus- GreCon Group, while newcomer and fellow managing director Dr Michael Gawronski is primarily focused on the technical side.

Mr Kahmann explained to WBPI in November that the current management has full support of each single owner of the company and he explained the background behind the changes.

“The sixth generation of the owners is a group of about 15 grandsons and daughters of fourth generation owners Ernst and Gerd Greten. In the fifth generation there is no obvious person who would be part of the management in this point of time.

“The idea is for some of the sixth generation to work in the company and then in the future be considered for management. They are currently young students who are not ready to take on the responsibility – we are talking about a time frame of maybe 15- 20 years from now.”

Dr Gawronski is a physicist who has joined from Leoni AG, where he was a board member. Prior to Leoni he worked for a company involved in measuring equipment – a major area for Fagus-GreCon.

“Mr Gawronski’s main responsibilities will be innovation, R&D projects, operations and production aspects,” added Mr Kahmann. “His work has involved fibre optics and cables, automotive, medical and chemical applications and data centres. We’re happy to have him on board with his experiences.”

The Challenge of Coronavirus

Mr Kahmann described 2019 as a very successful year for Fagus-GreCon, whose business includes fire protection equipment, measuring technology, inspection systems, shoe lasts and moulds and the Fagus Werk Unesco World Heritage site visitor centre.

“In 2019 we had double digit growth in group sales and achieved a reasonable profitable situation,” he said. “This was driven by our business in Alfeld and also many of our subsidiaries around the world.

“When we put together our plans for 2020 there was no sign of Covid-19 but the general idea for 2020 was planning for moderate growth.”

Mr Kahmann said the pandemic’s onset changed things. The company’s museum/guided tours business stopped. This reopened in July but closed again in November when restrictions were reintroduced.

“We also introduced very strict hygiene rules here for employees. We are wearing masks, keeping the distances and avoiding visitor contact here. But we also had big changes in the way we worked.”

This included mobile/homeworking for administrative employees and two shift (morning / afternoon) working for manufacturing departments.

“But the biggest impact on our customers was the travel restrictions we experienced for our sales engineers and technical service engineers. We had a few exceptions where we were able to send our engineers to the United States or other continents but in general it was not possible.”

Mr Kahmann said the July to October period saw relaxing regulations which meant several projects could be completed and service tasks fulfilled, but restrictions sre now back in the “second wave” of the virus.

“The difference between the spring and autumn is that all of our customers now have a broad understanding of the situation.”

“We shipped a Formator to South America [before restrictions] and it is still waiting for the mounting, installation and start-up. So, we have to cope with the situation and are finding ways to deal with it.”

Fagus GreCon sales and service installations around the world have helped – the company has operations globally, including in the US (Charlotte, NC), Brazil (Curitiba), Russia (Moscow), England (Newcastle), France (Alsace) and China (Shanghai).

“This situation of the pandemic was new and not an easy task, but we have a very good organisation. Instead of taking part in trade shows, our marketing department developed alternative plans – we improved our internet presence, we switched to mailings and set up digital conferences.”

Mr Kahmann said he personally found not being able to travel and meet customers the single, biggest disadvantage.

The company participated in the WMF Shanghai show and is preparing for next year’s Ligna, which he expects to be a hybrid event with physical and digital aspects.

“I think we have to prepare for both, being present with our equipment and our presence on the booth and also digital presentation of our activities, products and applications. We will not go back to a situation of 3-5 years ago, in the future it will always be a combination of these.


On the markets front, the company reported that wood-based panel factory production rates were good, with positive housebuilding and remodelling trends.

“However, I do not see many new plants being built. There are a few projects going on and we would like to be a part of those but in general there is only a few big investments. So we are concentrating a little bit more on modernisations for existing production lines with our measuring equipment.”

He reported more success with the Formator, which combines a segmented scalper and X-ray scanner DIEFFENSOR to automatically homogenise material distribution of the formed wood-based mat – improving panel quality and making savings on material, process and logistic costs.

“It is a great tool to improve efficiency of production lines and we are making more and more success in that area,” he said. The first Formator for a particleboard line has been installed recently and results are being monitored.

But the company is also seeing a stronger focus on fire protection, with customers increasingly inviting Fagus-GreCon to analyse their fire protection processes on site and propose improvements.

Mario Haas, manager of the fire protection division, highlighted the recently developed DLD 1/9 spark and hot particle detector, launched in 2020.

“It is the biggest innovation on the fire prevention market currently as it combines two traditional sensor bases – a sensor element for sparks and one for hot particles. In the past they were separate,” said Mr Haas.

Intelligent Detection Technology (IDT) is built into the system to analyse readings from the two sensors, providing high levels of sensitivity to the current production conditions and environment.

“It has had a tremendous impact on market introduction. Due to the pandemic, we expected maybe cold market conditions but we have been nearly overrun with the response.

“If customers have changing environmental conditions or changing product conditions then this sensor is able to adapt to your current running product or base material. You get two sensors for one and they are continually optimising themselves.”

The system information also allows customers to identify issues in their production line by charting spark incidences over time, helping production managers to make accurate calls on maintenance or shutdowns to prevent serious problems.

“This is the step towards Industry 4.0 because we offer customers application programme interfaces (API) or standard interfaces so they can look deeper into the production process than the fire prevention sensor itself.”

Mr Kahmann said GreCon’s Satellite online telediagnostic service system was enabling good connection with customer woodbased panel plants and even perform small maintenance jobs.

He identified the UK market as strong, especially for fire protection systems. UK customers’ uncertainty about potential Brexit impacts has driven their decision to make investments. The Newcastle subsidiary has increased its technical service capabilities, warehousing and stocks. France business operations is made trickier by strict Covid-19 regulations, with online communication proving important for customer contact.

China made a very fast and vigorous comeback after a difficult start to the year, while Latin America is described as surprisingly good.

“For me a positive surprise is Latin America, particularly Brazil. If you look at the infection numbers you might think it is very difficult there in Brazil, Chile and Argentina. But with our joint venture in Curitiba we are doing good business in Latin America.”

Similarly, the Covid situation looks difficult In North America, but the company’s Charlotte operation is performing quite well in the circumstances and extra service staff are being added.

“One of our shining stars is Egger’s Lexington plant that just opened, they have a lot of our equipment installed. We contributed to a smooth start up there and looking forward to working closely with this plant in the future for further equipment.”

Mr Kahmann reported much activity in Turkey, with equipment currently being supplied to Starwood for its Inegol MDF facility and for Kastamonu’s Samsun particleboard plant.

“We try to find solutions with customers, taking the pandemic into account, like remote service facilities and digital communications. All our customers around the world are really co-operating well with us at this time. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to a change in the situation to travel once again and meet people at tradeshows and conferences.”

Measuring Technology

Fagus-GreCon has an array of measuring technology and inspection systems to help ensure quality and efficiency for wood-based panels plants, both for in-line applications and the laboratory.

The GreCon 3D Particleview was launched in 2020 and has been used successfully at several production sites in the wood-based panel industry for the determination of particle geometry. 3D Particleview allies with the trend of companies concentrating on improving their processes to save costs, energy and materials.

“Quality improvement is a continuing topic as tolerances are getting smaller and you need data you can rely on,” the company said.

3D Particleview’s unique ability is to measures both the thickness and volume of particles which define the tensile strength of the board. In doing so it can ensure quality of the board and determine the correct time for flaker blades to be changed.

The company has also launched the GreCon SIMPLELAB for automatic measurement of formaldehyde emissions. First unveiled as a prototype at Ligna 2019, SIMPLELAB is designed to makes board analysis much easier and faster, with the first system delivered to the wood-based panels industry this year.

In the past the perforator method was used for checking formaldehyde emissions but Fagus-GreCon says this method is not sufficient for low emitting systems, with the trend toward more precise and lower board emission values.

In the past gas analysis methods have required removing formaldehyde out from water in a wet chemistry exercise, but the SIMPLELAB takes the measurement from the gas flow to enable continuous measuring of emissions and much faster results.