You started thinking about soothers as a young plastics engineer. Today you are leading a global company. Did you ever expect this kind of success?
Peter Röhrig: No, I never could have imagined that, though I always wanted to achieve something. There were several factors involved: I found – certainly with some luck – the right partners and we set out from the start with an unbeatable combination of functionality, design, and medical backup. Mothers understood this immediately. In addition, major social upheavals were taking place at the time. After the war, people only bought what they really needed. In the 60s and 70s they became more demanding and suddenly wanted to have good products. This increased with the rising age of mothers, which in the meantime had risen to over 30. And on top of that, our products are not very expensive. A baby carriage can cost more than 1,000 Euros today. The best soother or the best bottle is something anyone can afford to buy for their baby. If the combination of functionality, design, and medical know-how was a major challenge at the outset: What’s the toughest thing today? The question remains the same. More and more mothers in more and more countries have this specific demand for baby products. We’re seeing that in China, for example: I never would have dreamed that MAM had a chance in this market! And that we are market leaders in Israel and Brazil today was unimaginable for me. This combination is our recipe for success.
China is one of your most important markets for the future. In which countries do you still see growth potential for MAM?
There are plenty of countries where we are not yet number 1 (laughing). There, we want to convince other mothers of our products – and we are continuously growing.
That includes the product range, too.
Exactly right. For example, we just launched our first electric product for heating and sterilising milk: the Electric Steriliser & Express Bottle Warmer. But I don’t want to veer too far from our basic premise. We are still specialists for products that have to do with babies’ mouths. And there are always plenty of chances to do something better.
What does the strong demand for MAM products mean for the production sites and manufacturing methods?
At the moment we are expanding our main assembly plant in Hungary and we just finished building a new energy-efficient factory in Kabin Buri, Thailand. In manufacturing, we are increasingly focusing on automation to guarantee delivery of our products. So we have even more precise quality control. Along with this, by the way, the thing I’m most proud of and my biggest fear are the same: In over 40 years, there has never been a serious accident with a MAM product - that's sensational! And we work hard to make sure that it will never be the case.
Growth, internationalisation and automation – does the family business culture get lost in all of this?
I try to manage MAM very personally. In the very beginning it was just me (laughs). It was only in the 90s that we really started hiring in a big way and we’ve been growing ever since. But our business area is and remains highly emotional: We work for babies. That brings us together and contributes to the great atmosphere and the extraordinary commitment of our employees. Naturally, they are happy about financial advantages and company benefits but that’s not why they are here. It’s because they feel a sense of purpose in what they do.
The topic of sustainability has become a part of public awareness in recent years. When did you first start thinking about environmental and social responsibility?
I was thinking very early on about the proper use of plastics. In the early 90s I was involved in the establishment of Altstoff Recycling Austria AG, or ARA for short. If you will, I co-organised that plastic in Austria doesn’t float down the Danube or simply get buried somewhere, but rather that up to 97% of it is recycled. It really paid off: There are only six or seven countries in the world that are on the same level as we are.
You mentioned the new production facility in Kabin Buri. It is a masterpiece of energy efficiency. Why is that so important to you?
We all have to deal with the topics of energy, resources and the environment. Through a variety of interdependent measures and clever planning we save over a thousand tons of CO2 per year. It will take eight years to amortise the costs, so it is a long-term investment. But it would simply be senseless not to take advantage of the conditions – after all, it is always hot and mostly sunny in Thailand. (Mr. Röhrig pulls out his smart phone and opens an app. A line diagram shows the power generation from the photovoltaic system per day.) You can see exactly how many kilowatt-hours of electricity we generate per day – even when clouds pass over our plant. I follow it every day, it’s great fun!