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Baden-Württemberg's Minister President visits AZO

Focus on the topics skills shortages and sustainability

On Friday, 17 February 2023, Baden-Württemberg's Minister-President Winfried Kretschmann visited the Neckar-Odenwald district. With the topics of sustainability and the shortage of skilled workers in mind, this visit - along with the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a new wind turbine - also brought him to us in Osterburken. A special pleasure and honour - and above all an opportunity we wanted to seize. After all, the topics chosen for the visit are not only of the utmost importance to the Minister-President, but have also been at the forefront of AZO's corporate policy for years and shape our entrepreneurial actions. For this reason, we were particularly proud and pleased to have the opportunity to present our successes but also to make visible the challenges that companies in german rural areas face.

With a delegation consisting of representatives of the local press, Minister Peter Hauk, District Administrator Achim Brötel as well as Osterburken's Mayor Jürgen Galm and members of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce as well as district and local councillors, the Minister-President arrived at AZO on Friday afternoon. He was greeted personally by Rainer and Sabine Zimmermann, who led him into the showroom for a presentation and Q&A session. The products and solutions on display in our showroom already gave a first impression of how we at AZO deal with the issues of sustainability and the shortage of skilled workers: Robot solutions that relieve the operating personnel of heavy physical work as well as intelligent software solutions for the automation and optimisation of production processes were in focus. Innovations that cannot exist without appropriately trained skilled personnel. And it was also the topic of skilled personnel and training that was the focus of our presentation. "Even when my parents-in-law, Adolf and Marianne Zimmermann, founded the AZO company, one of the biggest challenges was to develop butchers, shepherds and bakers here in the rural area into mechanics and electricians, designers and service technicians," says Sabine Zimmermann. A task that Adolf Zimmermann in particular mastered through great optimism and assertiveness, thus making AZO a technology leader.

Solutions from politics are needed

But with demographic change advancing as one of the greatest challenges of our time, the shortage of skilled workers is now becoming a real threat to companies in rural areas. A decisive lever to powerfully counteract this is above all the integration of women in technical professions. According to Sabine Zimmermann, despite active promotion, good career and salary prospects as well as exciting tasks, this has not yet been achieved and is therefore a task where politics must also start and offer solutions. There is also a need for optimisation in the area of education, as Sabine Zimmermann emphasised: "In my experience, teachers are too far away from the job profiles and tasks in a company. Here we see another lever to inspire young people earlier and make the meaning of learning tangible to them." And the infrastructure in rural areas also offers potential for improvement. More residential and commercial areas, a better developed public transport system and a comprehensive and seamless mobile phone network could make a significant contribution to increasing the attractiveness of rural businesses.

Rainer Zimmermann made further demands on politicians clear in his part of the presentation: "As AZO, we are driven by the 5 Ds: Digitalisation, Decarbonisation, Demographic Change, Deglobalisation and Deindustrialisation," said the CEO. These are reinforced by the acronym VUCA: volatility, uncertainty, complexityand ambiguity. According to Zimmermann, the task of politics is to create the necessary foundations for industry to be able to withstand these challenges in the future - to make policy for and with industry, not against it. The current path, which provides for increasing numbers of ever more complex regulations, may have noble goals, but this form of overregulation ultimately inhibits the competitiveness of rural enterprises rather than helping it. What is needed here is to find relief in regulatory provisions and a good balance between effort and benefit in order to position the industry for the future. At the same time, Rainer Zimmermann emphasised: "At AZO, we have already found solutions to many of the problems mentioned. Our motto is 'Think global – act local' and resilience as well as risk minimisation are our answer for AZO's path to future viability."

Minister-President pays great respect

After the presentation, the Minister-President personally took the floor and thanked the management for their clear words. "I have great respect for what you are doing here," was the Minister-President's message, and he assured the audience that politicians were addressing these issues raised of over-bureaucratisation and the shortage of skilled workers and were doing their best to ensure that growth and prosperity for companies like AZO could continue. After a short question and answer session, Kretschmann officially entered his name in the golden book of the town of Osterburken, followed by a tour of the production facilities with Hartmut Eckert, Managing Director of AZO Global Production Center GmbH & Co KG. During this tour, the assembly centre was shown in addition to solutions for raw material handling using artificial intelligence. The focus here was clearly on the topic of sustainability. With sustainable solutions, such as a digital worker cockpit that provides all information for assembly completely paperless, as well as the power supply from the company's own photovoltaic system, the first steps towards decarbonisation of production have been taken here. The tour was rounded off by a discussion between the Minister President and our apprentices and students.

The broadcaster RON TV was there live and conducted an interview with the Prime-Minister on site at AZO.


  • 74706 Osterburken, Germany
  • AZO Group