Top Manager Dr. Eberhard Veit

“If you don’t set an example, no one will take you seriously”

Dr Eberhard Veit wrote his doctoral dissertation on robot vacuum cleaners – a vision in 1999 that is today reality in many homes. As a top manager, he is responsible for realizing ideas within firms such as Kärcher and Festo. A simple recipe lies behind his success.

Dr Eberhard Veit is one of Germany’s top managers, but at heart he is a simple man who remains true to the virtues of his Swabian roots. Schwabians, as he puts it, like simple solutions that are both practical and affordable. He often thinks back to his studies in Weihenstephan and to a very special course of studies in Household Technology: “With low-budget means and a method that, at first sight, did not appear entirely of its time, an extremely clever, memorable and practical solution was presented,” Veit says of the four-sided model of market-orientated product and system solutions within the field of Household Technology, which examines such topics as steam cooking, cooling methods or even equipping households for the disabled. “I was convinced: it wasn’t a matter of big budgets and expensive PR but excellent content and practicality.”

Eberhard Veit carried over this kind of thinking and acting from his studies into his management posts. First, he was development manager at the model railway builder Märklin, then head of development at the cleaning device manufacturer Kärcher. In 1997, he became executive chairman of product and technology management at the Festo group, which rose during his tenure to be a world leader in pneumatic and automation technology – a so-called hidden champion. This term is used to refer to small and medium-sized businesses that are relatively unknown, yet which nonetheless lead the market in their industry or sector.

Visionary Ideas

Already with his dissertation on “Robotic Vacuum Cleaners for the Household” Eberhard Veit showed his extraordinary vision: “In those days the technology and the idea were too far ahead of their time,” he says. Since then, robotic vacuum cleaners have become a standard product. The time has to be ripe. It often depends on the right market-entry point, he says, and offers the advice: “Don’t lose heart – keep going.” For his doctoral thesis Veit was awarded the German Innovation Prize for Household Technology in 2000.

Successful progress is life-long learning.

Eberhard Veit showed that he could realize visions during his time at Märklin, when digital and control technology became ready for series production, and later at Kärcher, where he contributed to decisive consumer-product innovations for robot cleaners and vacuums. He was 27 years old and directed more than 200 employees. As a manager then, just like now, he emphasized life-long education: “Excellent university education is the springboard into a career. Successful progress is life-long learning and further study. Knowledge is Germany’s only raw material. If we don’t cultivate it, it will die out!” He has continually promoted further education in business and has continually educated himself, for, as he says, “If you don’t set an example, no one will take you seriously.”

This attitude – setting an example, remaining on the same level as his employees – is the key to his success. When employees are motivated, you can turn their attention to the future, e.g. towards digitization, to which Eberhard Veit has dedicated himself for years – as a consultant to the federal government as well as in learning factories across the world, in Germany and even in his Schwabian hometown of Göppingen. It is important to him that things are moving forward: “Don’t stand around chatting, do something!” and “At the very least we have to show that wherever we’re more expensive, we’re worth it!”

How do you become a hidden champion? At the panel discussion on January 18, 2018 you can get to know three hidden world-market leaders from the ranks of TUM alumni. The event will take place in the IAS Faculty Club on the Garching campus and in cooperation with the TUM Graduate School. You can register here.