Markus Relecker, Vice President and Head of Finance and Controlling of Bosch Thermotechnik. (Image: Ralf A. Niggemann)
Markus Relecker, Vice President and Head of Finance and Controlling of Bosch Thermotechnik. (Image: Ralf A. Niggemann)

Bosch Thermotechnik

Markus Relecker

In 2012, Markus Relecker became Vice President and Head of Finance and Controlling of Bosch Thermotechnik in Wetzlar. In this interview, he talks about origins, present challenges and future technologies.

W3+: Mr Relecker, the name Buderus has been closely associated with this region for more than 150 years. To what extent do you still identify with these origins today?
Markus Relecker: The construction of the Sophienhütte foundry by Buderus in 1870 marked the beginning of industrialization in the region. The optical firms already operating in Wetzlar still worked on a hand-crafted basis in those days. From 1911 onwards, the Sophienhütte supplied the town with electric power. This common history naturally forges a bond and is still evident in the company and in the region today, even after the heating technology businesses of Buderus and Bosch Thermotechnik were merged in 2004. Of course, what you say is true: we certainly have gone international – we have production facilities in Europe, Asia and America and market our energy-efficient solutions for heating, cooling, hot water and large plants in more than ninety countries all over the world. But we have always been aware of our roots, and still are.

W3+: Buderus was already making a name for itself 100 years ago as a provider of heating technology systems. Meanwhile, the systems have undergone tremendous technological progress. In retrospect, what were the decisive developments?
MR: It would probably go beyond the scope of this interview to name all the milestones of our company and our traditional brands Buderus and Junkers. They date back to the year 1731 when Johann Wilhelm Buderus launched the first cast-iron stove plates on the market. In 1896, Junkers presented the first wall-mounted gas-fired bath boilers. By 1913 Buderus was already known as a single-source supplier for the installation of central heating systems. These few examples alone indicate that both Buderus and Junkers realized early on what mattered most: innovative strength and system expertise.

W3+: Are those the key ingredients a technology leader needs to be successful over such a long period of time?
MR: Yes, I would say so. The last forty years have witnessed some extremely dynamic developments in the energy sector. It took considerable innovative strength and system expertise to not only follow these developments in heating technology but to be the spearhead of decades of technological progress. In 1983, Buderus introduced the “Logana Ecomatic plus” boiler at the international leading trade fair ISH in Frankfurt. The condensing technology implemented in this boiler, the next logical step of Buderus‘ proprietary low-temperature technology, is still used today. The all-important question for us has always been how to provide the most resource-friendly and energy-efficient systems for heating, air-conditioning and hot water supply in buildings and industrial facilities. And as every building requires a totally individual solution, there is more than one answer to this question. We provide quite a lot of answers, in fact: condensing boilers, combined air and heat or fuel cells, biomass, geothermal or solar thermal systems. These sophisticated systems are even capable of generating more energy than needed. This is shown, for example, by the Energy Plus house in Wetzlar that Buderus fitted with modern technology in 2011.

W3+: So your company reaps double benefits from innovative strength and system expertise in terms of sustainability?
MR: You could put it like that. The term sustainability embraces ecological, social and economic aspects. So if we develop technologies that are good for man and nature, it has a positive effect – economically speaking – on the company and its staff, too. Conversely, it’s the innovative strength and creativity of our staff that are largely responsible for the company’s success. Without them, there would be no cutting-edge technology. And without cutting-edge technology no sustainability.

W3+: In 2004 the heating technology businesses of Buderus and Bosch Thermotechnik were merged. What positive impact did this have?
MR: By merging the two businesses into Bosch Thermotechnik we became the leading supplier of heating systems for residential buildings worldwide. Based in Wetzlar and Wernau near Stuttgart, the company has a workforce of 13,500 and production facilities in Europe, America and Asia. In 2013 we made sales of 3.12 billion Euros. We offer a wide variety of general and specialized products ranging from classic heating appliances and water heaters through solar thermal systems and heat pumps for heating and air-conditioning all the way to systems for large commercial enterprises and industry such as large boilers, combined heat and power plants and plants that utilize waste heat from industrial processes. We want to continue to build on this strong position and also carve out a lead for ourselves on the world market for hot water in residential buildings. On top of that, we plan to significantly expand our already flourishing large-scale plant business on an international scale.

W3+: How will you get the qualified young professionals to ensure that this technological expertise is passed on to further generations?
MR: Bosch is one of the world’s main technology and service companies where staff work together under the motto “Invented for Life” to improve people’s quality of life and yet protect environmental resources at the same time. Bosch Thermotechnik in Central Hessen profits from this positive image. We notice this again and again. All the same, we cannot sit back and relax as we know that the competition for the best professionals has only just begun. As regards young talent in Central Hessen, we cooperate very closely with the “Studium Plus” dual study program of the Central Hessen University of Applied Sciences, THM. That means we train young people ourselves with a view to retaining highly qualified specialists in our company. Apart from this, we have taken extensive measures to heighten our appeal as an employer in the region. One example is the family/career balance, which is a very important aspect for many young people when planning their future. We have about 100 different work models that enable our employees to work flexible hours irrespective of place and time. What‘s more, we expressly count parental leave as a career module. Our employees find this flexible and family-oriented corporate culture helpful for reconciling personal commitments and career.

W3+: And what are the future prospects of heating technology? Will you be helping to shape this future from Wetzlar?
MR: Worldwide, energy consumption has more than doubled over the last forty years. This breaks down into around 40 per cent for buildings, 30 per cent for industry and another 30 per cent for transport. As far as buildings and industry are concerned, thermal technology can play a major role in stopping this growing energy demand and thereby also meet challenging climate targets. This is what we are doing – from Wetzlar and Wernau and in close cooperation with other future-oriented technology areas of the Bosch corporation. For example, the injection jet of our condensing boiler Buderus Logano plus GB145 is machined with a new ultra short-pulse laser developed by employees of Bosch, Trumpf, the University of Jena and the Fraunhofer IOF institute. Using this innovative method, which was awarded the German Future Prize by the Federal President of Germany in 2013, the boiler can be modulated stepwise and provides exactly the amount of heat needed at any time. In synergy with a Bosch lambda probe that measures the oxygen content in the exhaust gas for optimum combustion, oil consumption is reduced by up to 15 per cent! But whether we’re talking about today or tomorrow, it’s not only a matter of having the right hardware, but also intelligent software. The so-called smart heating systems are an extremely promising development for optimum control of heating and energy demand. For example, our Nefit Easy room thermostat uses internet-based weather data to regulate room temperature. This can cut up to 10 per cent of the energy bill.

W3+: Will Wetzlar retain its significance as a location with Bosch Thermotechnik being part of a global corporation?
MR: Most definitely yes! Buderus has been in Wetzlar for more than 150 years and today it is an important brand of Bosch Thermotechnik. Nothing will change in that respect. One of the main reasons is the local expertise and innovation potential we can draw on for recruiting qualified staff or realizing joint projects with partner companies. In this context we are hoping that our membership in Wetzlar Network will provide substantial impetus. We have also intensified our commitment in the region, for instance with our participation in the Children’s Summer program of the Industry of Trade and Commerce, IHK, or the State Horticultural Show in Giessen. Our message is clear: We’re here to stay. And we feel at home here – even though, and especially because we’re part of a global corporation.


Additional Information: