Done right

Author: Janina Groffmann
In October 2017, Haniel bought the company Rovema, which manufactures packaging machines. It’s a conscious investment in a new industry and a smaller company. Rovema CEO Thomas Becker and Dr Michael Reuter, who acts as a “liaison officer” at Haniel, talk about the goals and opportunities.

Mr Becker, Haniel has no experience in mechanical engineering. Why did you, as co-owner, nevertheless decide on Haniel as a buyer?

[THOMAS BECKER]: In the final selection round, Haniel was the only German company. The other interested parties were international strategists from the mechanical engineering sector. Still, it was clear to us that Rovema’s identity had to be preserved – we did not want to be fully integrated into a corporation. Longevity and stability were also important criteria, and Haniel, as a family business, stands for these qualities. Our decision was a big surprise in the industry. The employees reacted very positively.

Mr Reuter, how is Rovema being integrated into Haniel’s processes?

[DR. MICHAEL REUTER]: Not in the sense of a classic integration, because that would mean making two companies into one, with synchronous processes. With Rovema, we are deliberately refraining from that. Certain legal and commercial issues must be addressed, but only where it makes sense. We want to make Rovema better, stronger and bigger, but not change the business model. Rovema has been very successful in recent years, but is rather small compared with our other investments. That’s why we have to be sure that we do not overburden the organisation with our requirements. Prioritising and channelling these requirements is my job as liaison officer.


Haniel takes a flexible approach to managing its divisions. Strategic guidelines are agreed upon jointly, but the operational business is in the hands of the on-site management. In short: Haniel pursues flexible portfolio management.

1 The Haniel portfolio comprises a mix of mature and younger companies. The younger ones are usually smaller, and in some cases they do not have the structures and skills they need in order to develop and grow. Haniel actively helps to build up the missing competences.

2 Haniel reacts flexibly to the various needs of companies. Not every company can or must operate with the same governments, the same meeting culture and frequency, or the same breadth of experts.

3 There is no one-size-fits-all solution. For each company, Haniel finds specific control systems and provides expertise. This can be strong support in terms of financing for one company, digital solutions for another, and further help with M&A for a third.

4 For younger companies, Haniel plans to establish an active chairman – a kind of supervisory board chairman who comes from outside the company and has industry knowledge and experience in the respective sector. He is Haniel’s representative and chief advisor to the management. He supports the management on an equal footing – for example, with regard to growth and investments.

5 Flexible management also means that the status can change. For example, the maturity level of a business model might change due to a major acquisition or due to digitalisation. Haniel reacts accordingly and adapts the services to the new status.



What exactly is your role?

[REUTER]: I have a bridging function in both directions, and at Rovema I bring to bear the interests of various colleagues from the Haniel holding. For example, interests of controllers and accountants, or regarding legal requirements and questions, or on topics such as corporate responsibility and communication. I decide according to urgency: What must be done immediately, and what can wait?

Meanwhile, how do you ensure that Rovema’s operations continue to run smoothly?

[REUTER]: Certain requirements of ours do not necessarily have to be implemented at the Rovema level. Many things can be done by Haniel employees who already have expertise in this area. For example, for the annual financial statement, into which we have already integrated Rovema, we provided support in the form of auditors and experts.

Dr. Michael Reuter

„We want to make Rovema stronger and bigger, but not change the business model“

Dr. Michael Reuter

Haniel pursues a model of flexible leadership in managing its business divisions: every company receives the measures it needs to grow. What measures are these, in the case of Rovema?

[BECKER]: For example, the seminars offered by the Haniel Academy are used for the further training of our employees. In addition, one of my management colleagues attended the SXSW digital conference with a group comprising people from all business areas. These are topics that Rovema was not able to pursue until now, due to its comparatively small size.

[REUTER]: Rovema is expected to grow organically and through acquisitions. It can draw on the capacities and knowledge of Haniel’s M&A department.

[BECKER]: It is also about finding companies that optimally complement our business model. They’ll have to be for sale first. There, it’s good to have a strong investor in the background.

[REUTER]: The topic of financing is also important: By financing Rovema through Haniel, our colleagues save themselves many meetings and negotiations with various banks. We can also provide recommendations for financing partners abroad.

[BECKER]: We have already had good experiences here. An important role in the area of financing is played by sureties – that is, guarantees – that we need in order to cover ourselves when we produce machines for customers. These guarantees were implemented quickly and concisely via Haniel.

Thomas Becker

“It is good to have a strong investor in the background“

Thomas Becker

Digitalisation is a topic of the future, for mechanical engineering as well. Where are the biggest opportunities here for Rovema?

[BECKER]: There are many topics that have potential. For example, we have our own software developers in-house who programme specific user interfaces for our machines. We have also built up a network of major customers to discuss current developments. Big data, artificial intelligence and 3D printing are high on our agenda. Augmented reality, in turn, is of interest in the area of training and maintenance, and we already had a meeting with the Haniel digital unit Schacht One about this. Last but not least, we are continuously working on robotics to make the use of our complex machines as simple and efficient as possible.

Video: Haniel as Value Developer

What’s the next step?

[BECKER]: We have drawn up a business plan that envisages prosperous organic growth and good profitability for the coming years. Regional expansion is an issue in the medium term to increase Rovema’s value. We already do 90 per cent of our business abroad and are known throughout the world.

[REUTER]: We have many good ideas – for example with regard to optimising production, purchasing and logistics, and concerning further improvements in customer and supplier relationships. We need to get there quickly, so that Rovema can use its capacities more efficiently and can offer additional added value from a customer perspective – and thus continue to grow. We gain additional expertise through an “active chairman”, a special chairman of the supervisory board who supports Rovema in the implementation of strategic initiatives. This is also a new measure, and part of our flexible portfolio management.


Rovema manufactures high-quality packaging machines and is based in Fernwald, Hesse, Germany. The machine systems do the work of measuring, filling, sealing, cardboard packaging and final packaging of products. The products are primarily from the food sector – for example, baby food, sweets or snacks. Its international customer base includes almost all leading manufacturers of branded goods. Since November 30, 2017, the company has been part of the Haniel portfolio. Rovema is active in over 50 countries worldwide and has around 650 employees. In-house software development ensures that the automated packaging machines and systems are prepared for the requirements of “Industry 4.0”. Rovema tests and optimises new, efficient applications on 1,000 square metres in the company’s own technical centre. For example, the use of state-of-the-art drive equipment and control technology makes energy savings of up to 25 per cent possible.

Thomas Becker (53) has been CEO of Rovema and has held a stake in the company since 2011. Together with two colleagues, he took over Rovema after insolvency and led the company back to success. Before joining Rovema, he was the managing director of Bonfiglioli in Neuss, Germany, and at Heidolph Elektro GmbH & Co. KG in Kelheim, Germany.

Dr. Michael Reuter (40) is Head of Group Accounting and IFRS Policy Issues and has been with Haniel since 2008. Since the acquisition of Rovema, he has served as the so-called liaison officer to Haniel.