Andreas Schrägle

The industrial engineer leads the RATHGEBER Group in the third generation.

Andrea Schrägle

Courage for change

The RATHGEBER Group from Oberhaching is celebrating its 75th anniversary. In this interview, managing directors Andrea and Andreas Schrägle talk about the appeal of the family business as part of the community, sustainability as an opportunity and the special relationship they have with their employees.  


Mr Schrägle – what does it feel like to celebrate the anniversary of the family business? 

We are very proud of RATHGEBER having been a successful family business for three quarters of a century. And we are continuing with passion and energy.

Together with your wife, you are leading RATHGEBER in the third generation. Is there something that has persisted throughout the company's history?  

Andreas Schrägle: Our courage for change and our openness to new developments has always set us apart. My grandfather Anton RATHGEBER started small after the war with transfer pictures and wooden toys. From the very beginning, he has always kept a close eye on the market and explored what could make him even more successful. That's how he added the first badges and transfer pictures to his range 

My parents Christine and Werner Schrägle were also always proactive. They digitised the company very early on, set up branches in the Czech Republic and Poland, and also thought about sustainability even then.

When Andrea, my wife, and I took over the company, we had a stable foundation to build on and continued to develop the company. I think my grandfather would be very happy if he could see what his idea has turned into. 

What has remained is a passion for the product, would you say?

Yes. We have a genuine passion for what we do and of course for our products. It is a great joy to be able to see our "little gems" being used everywhere, every day. This makes us all very proud, and it only strengthens our ambition when we see products that we didn't make ourselves

First Covid, then war and inflation – the past few years have been turbulent. How is RATHGEBER doing in its anniversary year? 

Andreas Schrägle: A huge amount has happened; it was a difficult and complex time. But it became clear once again that we at the RATHGEBER Group are resilient. Especially in such difficult situations, it became evident how valuable our broad positioning is in many respects. This applies to our product portfolio, but also to the many different customers we have in a wide range of industries. This is of course also thanks to our employees who always think proactively, propel the company forward and contribute so many great ideas. This is how we have always managed to navigate difficult times, and it gives us strength for the years ahead.

Do employees in a family business have a different significance compared with employees in a large corporation? 

Andrea Schrägle: In a family business, employees are the main success factor. We are one big corporate family where everyone knows everyone else. This gives all of us a certain sense of security that things will go on and that we support each other, especially in times of crisis. This has helped us a lot as a company. And our employees also feel the trust we place in them and they enjoy the freedom they have at RATHGEBER. 

"Ultimately, it's about promoting the creativity of all employees and not holding anyone back." (Andrea Schrägle)

What role does RATHGEBER's mission statement play in this?

Andrea Schrägle: The mission statement should not be seen as something rigid. We encourage people to act and work independently. That's probably typical of a family business, because not everything is organised down to the last detail. And what's more, the individual departments are not strictly separated, which means there's a significant amount of cross-departmental collaboration. And that's exactly what we want. Our mission statement opens up a wide corridor in which we want to work together. Ultimately, the aim is to encourage our employees' creativity and courage, make sure they enjoy their job and not to hold anyone back. 

Andreas Schrägle: A lot has happened in this respect in recent years. We have a mission statement for cooperation and leadership, we have our RATHGEBER values and we have developed a company code of conduct. And of course there is the RATHGEBER Group's vision. This is what guides us every day: In which direction are we going? How do we work together? How do we communicate? How do we deal with each other? What are our overarching goals?

You mention RATHGEBER's values. Sustainability has been one of them for 25 years 

Andreas Schrägle: It has been an integral part of our RATHGEBER DNA for a long time. In all the decisions we make, we keep an eye on economic aspects as well as environmental and social ones. And it's not just about the big picture; we also try to find the right balance between these three aspects in the smallest details on a daily basis. Our CSR team supports this process with great commitment and enthusiasm.

You'd be excused for thinking that many companies have reached capacity in the fight against climate change. 

Andreas Schrägle: There simply is no alternative to sustainable economic practices. The RATHGEBER Group is a good example. We are economically successful while having been climate-neutral for over twelve years. This is not just a fad, a passing trend. Climate change is a fact that will be a constant consideration in the future. We at RATHGEBER started being sustainably 25 years ago. This is not something that happens by accident; we are working on improving in countless areas every day. It's a factor for our employees. It's a factor for the environment. It's a factor for our customers and for us as a company, and it makes us proud and happy. 

Andrea Schrägle: One thing needs to be made clear: what we do and how we do things is not always straightforward, and often not the cheapest or quickest way. But we make a profit, and the environment benefits too. Because our customers are also becoming increasingly aware of the need for sustainable solutions. We have a good lead, and we will not let go of it.

Andreas Schrägle: I hear the concerns and I see the challenges. But I firmly believe that sustainability is the solution, not the problem. This includes the careful and economical use of resources. Yes, it's good for the environment. But it also makes good business sense to waste as little as possible and to save resources.

Let's talk about the specifics. You're not just putting a plaster on. You're currently converting production processes in Mindelheim to move away from fossil fuels there as well.

Andreas Schrägle: Our production plant in Mindelheim relied on gas for a long time. In addition to the system in Oberhaching (60 kWp), we installed a photovoltaic system with 212 kWp on the roof some time ago. Two large industrial heat pumps are also currently being installed there. We will be completely free from fossil fuels at our German sites by autumn 2023. That really is a great success.  

Andrea Schrägle: It's a major investment. And then there are also the many small things that we do every day. We save a lot of paper, make more than 100 company leasing bikes available, our fleet is almost entirely electric, we continuously optimise our packaging concept and are creating a sustainable product line with our Green-Label range. We have taken many large and small steps. We rarely take the easy or cheap route, but it's definitely the right route in the long term.  

You have also initiated new sustainable product projects. The "Green Label" will be your eco-friendly alternatives in the future. 

Andreas Schrägle: We decided to offer a sustainable alternative to every traditional range. We are implementing this very consistently. We will offer our customers a greener, more sustainable alternative to all materials and aids, including packaging. This is a real challenge, but we are making good progress.

The RATHGEBER Group is economically successful while having been climate-neutral for over twelve years. This is not just a fad, a passing trend. Climate change is a fact." (Andreas Schrägle)

Is there an end to this? Will there come a point when you've accomplished your goal? 

Andrea Schrägle: No. It will continue with larger and smaller steps in all areas, economical, environmental and social. It's what drives us and brings us together. It gives us a common goal. This is how we want to continue.  

Andreas Schrägle: We talked about this earlier. Not everything is about sustainability and social commitment. RATHGEBER is a company, and we have to earn money and we are happy about good results. But we do not just focus on the coming quarter. Like many family businesses, we think in the medium and long term.  

Andrea Schrägle: What's more, our commitment is not only very important for our employees, it is also of interest to applicants. They can see that a lot has already happened here. And that makes us an attractive employer. We are particularly proud that we will be training nine apprentices in various areas at our German sites starting in autumn.

More than half of RATHGEBER's employees are women. Are you particularly family-friendly? 

Andrea Schrägle: Family-work balance is something we as a company are good at. Because of the size of our company, we don't have our own company kindergarten. But we offer many opportunities that help create a good work/life balance. We want to support our employees as much as this is possible in a family business, including when family members need to be cared for.  

Let's take another brief look back. Covid hit everyone hard. RATHGEBER used the pandemic as an opportunity to an extent and accelerated digitalisation efforts within the company.  

Andrea Schrägle: There are two aspects to this. First of all, it was remarkable how quickly employees adapted and how well the company did while people worked from home. We were very well positioned technologically before the pandemic, and were able to switch to working from home within days in many cases. Of course we are also very happy that most of us are now back at the office. 

Andreas Schrägle: And the product itself is also becoming increasingly digital. We have started to develop product-related services. It is now possible to create a 3D visualisation of a product before it is produced, including with augmented reality. And of course we also take care of processing and the application of the product at the customer's once it's been delivered. In addition, the RATHGEBER Group even offers software integration for the product via our subsidiary smart-TEC.

Let's take another look at the 75th anniversary of RATHGEBER. You decided against having a huge party. Instead, you wanted to make a visible difference in the community with your employees.  

Andrea Schrägle: This has to do with our environment. We want to be integrated in the community and work for the common good. But it also has to do with ourselves. After Covid and the many crises that followed, we thought we'd bring our employees back together, get active and do something together, and thus gain a sense of togetherness. That's why in 2023 our sustainable/social RATHGEBER team events will be taking place throughout the summer. And by the way, the groups chose and organised their own topics, creating great activities in the process. For example, planting flower meadows on our company premises, building insect hotels, visits to retirement homes, afternoons with senior citizens. We build nature trails and plant trees, we support the food bank in Munich and much more.  

That's definitely not a traditional office party. How did people like the idea? 

Andrea Schrägle: People weren't too sure at the beginning. But then it gained great momentum very quickly. Our employees come back from their team events happy and fulfilled because they feel the sense of togetherness and closeness that this creates. I'm sure this mood will stay with us in the years to come. And of course we also celebrate, but on a smaller scale.

What's your personal team event? 

Andrea Schrägle: Our team helps out at the food bank in Munich. We collect donations, sort through them, pack them up and hand them out to people. We are also available to help with any problems. This will be a lasting experience for our team.

Finally, a look into the future: Where will RATHGEBER be in ten years' time? 

Andreas Schrägle: In ten years, RATHGEBER will be a company that has developed significantly when to comes to product labelling. I'm talking about sustainable and smart product labelling, high-tech applications and services. In addition, our production sites in Germany and the Czech Republic will be climate-neutral and our employees will be motivated and happy. These are big tasks! We very much look forward to it.