09/22/2023 - Oliver Hagenlocher - Press

The EMAG Group mourns the loss of its former CEO: The visionary entrepreneur Norbert Heßbrüggen has died

Norbert Heßbrüggen is dead. The former CEO and shareholder of EMAG passed away on September 17, 2023, at the age of 88 in his hometown of Salach. The company owes a lot to him: Under his leadership from the end of the 1960s, the small southern German machine manufacturer became a globally active group with numerous subsidiaries. He also had the pioneering idea for a multi-functional vertical turning center that made EMAG a technology leader. Norbert Heßbrüggen shaped the company in a special way through his personality and his values.

In addition, the successful corporate structure that is still in place today was created under his responsibility: there are central production facilities at EMAG as well as individual technology companies that further develop certain metalworking processes - an entrepreneurial concept with vision that fits perfectly with the flexible requirements of today's market and, with its efficient value chain, avoids as much waste as possible - as was his goal from the very beginning.


"Courage is among the most important entrepreneurial virtues."

Born in Münster in 1935 and a mechanical engineer by training, he began working for SÜKO, then EMAG's parent company, as early as 1967. Initially, he was plant manager at an Indian plant. In 1969, he takes over the vacant position as technical

Manager at EMAG and is realigning the company: High-performance, automated machines are a primary goal. When it became apparent that SÜKO was going to sell EMAG in 1975, Norbert Heßbrüggen reacted and took over the company as part of a management buyout. "This term was not even known at the time. So the whole thing was rather new and therefore a challenge, but one that I was happy to accept because it corresponds to my inner attitude. Courage is one of the most important entrepreneurial virtues," he once said during an interview.


At the end of the 1980s/beginning of the 1990s, a decisive step is taken: In the midst of a worldwide economic downturn, the visionary managing director has the idea of a multi-functional pick-up machine whose vertical work spindle can be moved in the main axes. The movement is thus in the workpiece, while the tool is fixed. "We want to use this technology to master all sensible machining operations on round components," explains Norbert Heßbrüggen at the time. And indeed, to this day, the principle is suitable for more than 60 percent of all round and less round components in cars, for example.


From then on, EMAG under Norbert Heßbrüggen went uphill almost continuously: The associated VSC series already boosted growth strongly in the 1990s. In the years that followed, EMAG also acquired various companies, thus continuously expanding its application know-how. By the time the Group celebrated its 150th anniversary six years ago, more than 12,500 pick-up turning machines, 4,300 grinding machines and 2,350 gear cutting machines are already in operation at customers' sites worldwide. The anniversary was accompanied by the former CEO with great pride and joy.


People at the center

Norbert Heßbrüggen has always emphasized how important employees are to EMAG's success. He encouraged people to be the "local entrepreneur" at their workplace, he said. In general, a good company must offer a trusting working environment. Everyone should have the chance to develop and contribute their creativity, he said. "As a person, I'm happy about what others create and I always stay up to date on the developments at EMAG." - This statement holds true to the very end: Norbert Heßbrüggen regularly visited his life's work at the Salach site. The entire company is mourning the death of its great visionary these days.


Oliver Hagenlocher


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