Innovations, investments and continuing internationalizationAs a bakery equipment manufacturer which, for reasons of robustness and hygiene, largely works by processing high-grade types of stainless steel, we have had to acknowledge the dramatic price increases in the steel market with some concern and with cautious corrections of our expectations on earnings.
The fact that we are nevertheless able to conclude 2006 as a highly successful year is due to the counterbalancing significantly increased sales.
With a range of innovative leading products, the continuing consolidation of our international presence, and a forward-looking investment policy, we are equipped in the best possible way for the future.
Confirmation of this view is provided, amongst other things, by the fact that 2006 again saw several well-known partners - including Martin Braun Backmittel und Essenzen KG - opting for MIWE equipment following a thorough selection process; this serves as emphatic confirmation of our lead role.
Even if we feel ourselves to be particularly committed to and bound by the German culture and tradition of bread-making, it is a fact that substantial growth potential of the kind we need and are looking for to secure our future is to be found above all in international markets.
Accordingly, we have already begun at an early stage to establish and expand a high-performance international sales structure.
In 2006, MIWE Australia saw a new point of contact established which opens up an attractive new market in itself, whilst simultaneously being of strategic importance in our planning due to its proximity to the South-East Asian economic region.
The success of our launch "down under" was noteworthy in many respects: we out-performed our own expectations on sales right from the start, and won a ‘best stand' award at the first trade fair where we exhibited, the ICTF (International Catering Trade Fair) in Sydney.
In other international markets, too, we succeeded in consolidating and further expanding our market position.
In this regard, the key performers were MIWE USA and the East European markets.
Our export share has now reached the 50% level.
Some of the innovations which we presented to our specialist customers in 2006 are similarly a clear response to the growing importance of the international markets.
Thus, for example, the MIWE lift-in is a rack oven system specially developed to satisfy the requirements of the North American market.
There is now also an American version of the MIWE condo available, as an all-round multi-deck oven for use in bakeries, stores and gastronomy.
The basic concept and the product range for MIWE service has been completely revised and optimized, partly with a view to the globalization of markets.
Another key innovation is the expansion in the dough control concepts which MIWE supports as a full systems and service provider for all heating and refrigerating processes in the bakery - from the baking room to see-and-smell baking.
At the IBA 2006, MIWE launched its Smartproof™ system, which is designed particularly with bakers in mind who value outstanding product quality and want to realize that quality with simplicity and reliable replicability, even where large product volumes and numerous branches are involved.
In terms of engineering, the system is constructed around the MIWE SF-D shock freezer, delivering long-term control operating within a precisely-delimited temperature range. This makes it possible to achieve holding times of up to 36 hours before baking off.
Maximum quality yield with a minimal space requirement, low cost of investment, low running costs (since the process does not require any frosting, despite its extended time-frame), total ease of dispatch with no need for elaborate refrigeration in the vehicle or in-store, and reliably reproducible results even with significantly large volumes of dough - all these features make the new procedure outstanding.
Other innovations are supporting bakers with the rapid changes occurring in their markets.
Entirely against the general trend, bakeries have succeeded in significantly increasing their share of out-of-home eating in recent years.
The quick snack grabbed on the go has been a key sales earner in many branches for some time - and its potential is far from being exhausted.
The MIWE cube fresh baking system is intended to handle precisely these demands, offering a variety of baking chamber types and associated storage and refrigeration components using a common platform. These can be combined in practically any configuration required.
This allows the user to put together wholly individual fresh product baking stations for every environment and every baking task; apart from use in bakeries, the system will be used in linked environments ranging from gastronomy to catering to convenient food.
Bakers appreciate the flexibility of the new system, above all: since no-one is in a position to predict today the direction in which the fresh-food adventure in out-of-hom eating is heading.
A flexible system like the MIWE cube proves to be the ideal solution in this situation, since it leaves all options open.
Further innovations round off the various developments over the year.
The MIWE thermo-static, a baking oven heated with thermal oil, has recently also been offered with a stone plate system; and the MIWE athlet loading robot was expanded to include take-it and pick-up components, further simplifying reliable baking-off right into the furthest corner of the baking oven or easy, direct transfer of dough pieces from trays.
In 2006, we continued to pursue our proven strategy of forward-looking investment activities.
Traditional investments such as the comprehensive new build of an office complex, started in 2006, serve the aim of being better able to master the growing challenges of an expanding business.
The new facility will create additional space and also support our efforts to further increase the company's performance capability through clear structures and short processing routes.
We have also invested significant sums in our fleet of machines, which at MIWE has always been state-of-the-art, and in CAD (computer-aided design) tools which are so vital to successful innovation.
An investment of a wholly different kind, but one which is similarly forward-looking, has been our work in realizing a binding definition of our corporate vision and goals; these were elaborated, and steps towards implementation initiated, during 2006.
At all levels and in all sections, these provide reliable orientation and frameworks for action which show the way ahead for the company.
We consider the training of 45 young people, who are learning a profession with us (and regularly drawing attention to themselves in examinations as "best in cohort"), to be a particularly valuable investment.
If they are included in the figures, MIWE is currently employing around 680 staff, with 120 being employed at its Meiningen plant.
MIWE has always been known as a company with an exemplary concern for the interests of its staff. Our voluntary benefits were therefore again approved for 2006.
Our order books are healthy, not least thanks to a very successful presence at the IBA 2006, the lasting impact of which will continue to keep the company busy well into 2007.
More key trade fairs are forthcoming - SIAB in Verona, IBIE in Orlando and Modern Bakery in Moscow.
Our scope as a full provider for all heating and refrigerating processes in the bakery and in linked systems has been further rounded off through the integration of Bräunlingen-based erka Maschinenbau GmbH, a company in which we took a majority holding on 1 March 2007.
erka is a proven specialist in loading, transport and conveying technology and therefore an ideal addition to our company, since this means that we can now also make optimal links between the individual functional components in the baking room and are therefore able to offer precisely the one-stop, fully-integrated system solutions which the market is demanding of us today.