“When I took over responsibility in 2002 we started to analyse the strategy of the material handling (Foerdertechnik) and explosion protection (Explosionsschutz) businesses.

“What we found was that the material handling strategy was wrong. We were working in standard and special crane markets with the same products. When a wire rope hoist is good for a cost-leading position, it is not possible to make successful engineered solutions.

“In 2002 we decided to go into special solutions and opted to cut down our standard crane business. We invested in making quality cranes for high temperatures, low temperatures and explosion protection for special crane situations.

“With this, we positioned the company in a niche where KCI Konecranes and Demag have not been so successful. KCI Konecranes had opted for a cost-leading approach. Demag was also working in both areas, and is moving into a cost-leading position because it has seen that it cannot be efficient in both.

“So there was a niche, and we went into it. The company has been in a good way since. We had Euro 1.1m profit last year, and this year will be higher.

“Then KCI Konecranes came to us, and discussed the possibility of using the company as a second platform for engineering standard and engineered products. When we understood that KCI Konecranes wanted to run the material handling division as a whole company, with its own brand, its own sales force, product line, and factories, we said, okay, we can discuss this.

He declined to say how long the company has been in talks with Konecranes.

“Stahl Foerdertechnik would benefit from synergies on the purchasing side. This makes sense – it gives Foerdertechnik a better chance to grow than it would in the Stahl group.

Schomaker said that the money gained by selling off Foerdertechnik would also help fund a complementary acquisition for the explosion-protection division to build up its systems solutions business.

“They will not integrate Foerdertechnik into the Konecranes organisation as they have done in the past [with other acquisitions]. They will run Foerdertechnik as a separate company. The only thing that changes is the holding company: it is the same management, the same employees, the same sales force, the same products.

Schomaker said that there is only a small amount of overlap between the Stahl and KCI Konecranes range, and said that it was not a problem. Even the light crane system business could run alongside the Konecranes ones. “Ours is in another area of weightings, and offers other possibilities and flexibility than the Konecranes product. Ours has strengths, KCI’s has strengths. When the volume is okay, there is no reason to cut down other product,” he said.

“It is hard for the employees in the Foerdertechnik business. We have invested time to organise the communication process. We have had meetings with a lot of employees, and they have understood that the decision could become positive.”

The management team will continue to be headed up by Thomas Peukert, who Schomaker brought in 2002. “KCI Konecranes will be very interested to get him,” he said.

“The memorandum of understanding is a decision to negotiate a contract. The company is not sold. The process is open to the organisation. We don’t want a suprising situation – we want to develop in the last few weeks together. It is better for the company and the employees to actively go into the move.”

“Now we have meetings together so that our people understand KCI Konecranes and it understands us. These are short meetings – we cannot go into details. We must build up trust. We are doing these meetings at the moment. Then we will negotiate a contract.

I could not imagine that the company will go back,” he said, “because I see that the company goes into a good future with the deal.”