In the run-up to December 1st this year, our Austrian distributor Luger GmbH will have every reason to celebrate. First of all the 85th birthday of company founder Willibald Luger, followed by the 50th anniversary of the formation of his distribution and engineering company that has represented motan in Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia for no less than 44 years!
All of which is a reason for us to look back together at past achievements. Born in 1932 in Mattighofen in the district of Braunau am Inn in Upper Austria into a farming family as one of seven children, Willibald Luger started his professional career as an apprentice machinist at a local company. After his apprenticeship, he moved to crane builder Palfinger in Salzburg/Bergheim, where he completed his master's certificate. In 1958, now 26 years old, he decided to seek his fortunes elsewhere. After applying to several Swiss firms - not least because of the better pay offered - he landed a job at injection moulding machine maker Netstal in Näfels (now Glarus Nord). Starting here as a machine fitter, he worked his way up to the role of assembly line manager via positions as a service and application technician. Outside work, his personal life had also taken a significant turn for the better after a chance meeting with a certain young woman from Salzburg, Angela Gelbenegger. She would later become his wife. In 1967, having negotiated a contract for managing the sales and service in Austria for Netstal, Angela and Willi then moved back to their home country - although not to Salzburg or Upper Austria. They decided instead to make a new start in Vienna - the centre of the Austrian plastics processing industry at the time.
On 1st December 1967, Willi Luger began his career as a self-employed commercial agent for Netstal machines from his rented apartment, with wife Angela providing the necessary administrative support. Fortune favours the brave, and the hoped-for sales success was quick to arrive, not least because Willi Luger didn't focus exclusively on injection moulding machinery but kept a weather eye on the larger machine environment needed and advised customers individually according to their requirements. The fact that he could also commission and repair the machines himself quickly established his reputation in the injection moulding industry, then still in its infancy. His abiding objective and maxim was being able to operate as 'a one-stop shop'. So he began to negotiate more distribution contracts.
In 1973, and now an established company, he managed to land the motan distributorship. Followed by Swiss HB-Therm temperature controllers in 1974 and cutting mills from Italian Tria srl in 1978.
With motan, Luger had the right product range at the right time.
By 1974, he had already completed the sale of the first fully automated plastic pellet conveyor system – to ball bearing cage manufacturer Camillo Krejci and packaging producer Greiner Packaging. From 1973 – and long before easy access to this market – Willi Luger and his high-quality portfolio were already active in Eastern Europe. As buyers of the time were typically looking for complete systems, his turnkey system planning and installation business was a perfect match. To be able to cater to as many segments as possible, Luger expanded his portfolio over the years to include handling systems, conveyor belts, re-cooling plant, pneumatic part feeder systems and extrusion/blow moulding machinery. His business now operates as an agent for a total of 14 companies.
With an increasing focus on plant business and the associated expansion in the workforce, there was a growing need for additional space, and so in 1987, new company premises were constructed in Purkersdorf, just west of Vienna. Construction work here was overseen by Luger’s son Thomas, an engineer by trade who had joined the company in 1985. He was followed in 1987 by another engineering graduate – his sister Ulrike. The third generation of Lugers have also completed their education and are already working in the company. After 1989, there were new challenges to face, which no-one could prepare for but could only meet with the courage of their convictions. This marked the opening up of Eastern Europe and the creation of a new market right next to the reunited Germany. The company courageously decided to form its own subsidiaries (1991 in Hungary and 1992 in the Czech Republic) with local sales staff and service technicians. One beneficiary of this was motan itself, in whose name Luger has completed an impressive number of new projects.
As of today, Luger GmbH employs 60 employees at three locations, of which 36 work at its main plant in Austria. Here, an extensive spare parts warehouse keeps all of the machines and systems supported in proper working order, while the onsite technical unit manufactures specialised components and overhauls used machinery. The company has been managed by Thomas Luger since 2001.
All in all, an impressive life’s work, which Willi Luger can reflect on as he enjoys his 85th birthday.
Many happy returns, Mr Luger!