Otmar Kaup

Industry Profile
- 11 Dec 2008 ( #390 ) - Aschaffenburg, Germany
2 min read
Otmar Kaup wants to pass on a worldwide-recognised company to the next generation of Kaups
Otmar Kaup wants to pass on a worldwide-recognised company to the next generation of Kaups
The man who invented the first serial forklift knows his 46-year-old company's success lies in finding niche markets and providing excellent customer service.

Otmar Kaup founded KAUP GmbH & Co KG in 1962 after spotting a need in the market. "After designing the first forklift for Linde, I realised that there was a gap for forklift attachments," he says.

"I enjoy development and design, and coming up with solutions to complicated materials handling requirements."

Kaup, who just turned 80, began his working life as an apprentice in his grandfather's blacksmith business. He later studied mechanical engineering in Darmstadt and secured a job as a ship diesel motor designer at MAN in Augsburg.

In 1954, he started work as a design engineer at Güldner Motor Works Aschaffenburg, (known today as Linde Material Handling). He rose up the ranks to become head of the design department for hydraulics and forklifts and is credited with developing the first serial forklift with hydrostatic drive.

Kaup says he started his business in his family's blacksmith shop. "I started with capital taken from my savings and turned the blacksmith shop into a factory," he says.

The business, which started with five people, has grown to employ over 550. It provides forklift attachments, stationary equipment and container spreaders globally to manufacturers and distributors.

This year, Kaup expanded its production plant in Aschaffenburg. The new assembly plant with 14,000 sqm (15,0694 square feet) floor space will commence operation soon. The company started with 300 sqm (3,229 square feet) production space and now has a total of 43,000 sqm (46,2848 square feet) with nine halls.

Kaup remembers his biggest break in the industry was from meeting the growing needs of another industry. "At that time, a large number of cement and brick-making companies were founded in Germany and they all needed block and brick clamps," he recalls. "Kaup was the only manufacturer of this kind of equipment."

However, there have been moments when Kaup was not sure his luck would hold out. "In 1970, I invested the whole of the company's annual turnover in new production facilities," he says. "If the economy had not boomed as expected, I would have been ruined and it would have been the end of the company."

The company came out of that period prosperous and Kaup's greatest ambition is to leave his company to his family. "I want to pass on an intact and worldwide-recognised company to the next generation of Kaups," he says.

Holger Kaup, Kaup's son, has been active in the business for many years and is managing director of the company.

Kaup says his priorities are to provide quality, fulfilment of delivery dates, excellent service, to motivate his employees and ensure his company grows "under its own steam".

"The single thing that would most help with that (growth) is an economic boom," he adds.

Over the years, Kaup has learned many lessons in business. He says the most valuable one is honesty "and that most customers appreciate high quality that lasts a long time - even if initial output is slightly higher".

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