When asked whether Schubert would open a location in North America, Gerhard Schubert often answered: “When the time is right!” In 1998, it was time, and this was largely due to the recently developed SMB machine generation (Schubert/Machines/Building Kit). The concept of a maintenance-free, easy-to-operate modular system made from standard components laid the technical foundations for providing customers from across the pond with outstanding support from Crailsheim – without incurring prohibitive travelling costs. Another prerequisite was an entirely different type of technology. Even back then, video and audio transmissions could be carried out over long distances, colloquially known as video conferencing. In today’s era of Teams and Zoom, it has become a matter of course, but looking back, it is astonishing that the technology was more or less forgotten for decades. But Schubert wouldn’t be Schubert if the potential of such technological innovations had remained untapped. And so, all that remained before the launch on 1 July 1998 was to select a good location, in this case Dallas, Texas, and for both sides to brush up on language skills.
Anniversary celebration at the 2023 Pack Expo Las Vegas: Schubert employees and visitors gather at the Schubert booth to celebrate the company’s 25th anniversary.
On board right from the start
A few members of the original team came from the Rodico agency, which had previously represented Schubert and other companies in the US. This was how Douglas Granowski was introduced to Schubert technology and, after a brief stopover at a competing company, applied for a position at the new Schubert spin-off in 1998. Thanks to his previous work at Rodico, his name was already well known in Crailsheim and an initial meeting was arranged in North Carolina. Doug Granowski remembers: “I was invited to dinner by company founder Gerhard Schubert. He asked me if I wanted to work for the company and I told him that was why I had come to meet him. Gerhard Schubert then simply said: “Fine, then you’ll be working for me from now on! Let’s enjoy dinner.”
Douglas Granowski is a long-time employee and a key player in the Schubert North America success story.
The very first Pack Expo was a resounding success
Schubert’s plan to establish a presence in North America was very well received – right from day one with its own company, local customer service and training for machine operators and customer maintenance personnel. Schubert’s flexible machines immediately drew the crowds to its stand at the first Pack Expo in Chicago in autumn 1998. There, an SNC F44 picker line amazed the visitors with its capability to pack 15,000 trays per day, each containing 12 chocolate bears. Even then, the enormous potential that the North American market held for Schubert’s packaging systems was clear, and this was confirmed by impressive results over the following years.
For Doug Granowski, his employer Gerhard Schubert remained extremely special throughout his time with the company: “Schubert showed me great loyalty right from the beginning. There are also many exceptional people working here – from top management all the way through to the machine assembly team. I knew I would never leave Schubert. They would have to let me go.” Above all, however, he still derives great satisfaction from his job. As an engineering manager, he enjoys solving problems down to the last detail and then seeing what has been achieved.
After all this time, he is still fascinated by Schubert: “I am extremely proud to work for one of the top companies worldwide. I’ve never had a second thought about selling one of our machines to a customer. I stand one hundred per cent behind our technologies and our services.”
Innovation in action: A Schubert packaging machine at the Pack Expo stand impresses visitors.
Expansion of the team and locations
Schubert North America, as the subsidiary has been known since October 2015, has grown continuously over the past 25 years. The headquarters are located in Charlotte, North Carolina. Toronto, Ontario, Canada is home to another location. The North American team has been expanding steadily and currently has some 60 employees. CEO Hartmut Siegel is already working on the next milestone, as the Charlotte site is now being significantly expanded: “We are scaling up our site for our North American customers,” he explains.
The future is taking shape: A rendering of Schubert North America’s future headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Ideally positioned for the future
“In addition to our new offices, an assembly hall will be built on 4,000 square metres of floor space, where the final assembly and commissioning of the packaging machines will be carried out. We will also have a service workshop,” says Harmut Siegel. One of the key benefits: "Previously, customers often had to fly to Schubert’s headquarters in Crailsheim, Germany, for machine approvals. In the future, approvals for selected machines will take place directly on site in Charlotte,” reports the CEO. With a total surface area of some 30,000 square metres, the new site also has plenty of potential for additional buildings and future growth.
Schubert’s success in North America can also be attributed to its excellent training and service programme, as well as the high level of consulting expertise of team members such as Doug Granowski. Hartmut Siegel is confident: “Our American customers rely on this expertise in combination with our innovative packaging technology. That’s why they are already excited about future prospects with our new technical capabilities and services in Charlotte!”
But it isn’t only the customers who are optimistic. “Let me put it this way,” says Doug Granowski, “SNA has tremendous potential and I know for a fact that our future will be incredibly bright.”
Marking a significant milestone: Hartmut Siegel, CEO of Schubert North America, celebrates the company’s 25th anniversary.