There must be people who want to take responsibility
by Dagmar Dieterle
Talking to Erwin and Simon Telöken, general managers of TEKA Absaug- und Entsorgungstechnologie GmbH, an internationally renowned manufacturer and supplier of extraction and filter units from Velen in North Rhine-Westphalia for 25 years.
marketSTEEL: How old were you when the company was founded in 1995? What did the market look like?
Erwin Telöken: 32 years old, just like my business partner and TEKA co-founder Jürgen Kemper. Times were different compared to today. Extraction technology itself existed. But the human being and the health hazards for employees through welding fumes etc. were not paramount. One rather looked at the machines. Unlike today, occupational health and safety in general and the issue of clean air in industry were not yet so firmly anchored in people's minds. The legal situation was also not yet as differentiated as regards limit values etc. The same has long been true for a long time for air pollution in public spaces.
marketSTEEL: What was characteristic for the first years after the foundation of the company?
Erwin Telöken: They were characterized by strong growth and enormous expansion, both in terms of the size and international orientation of the company. We quickly built up a dense and sustainable dealer network that we can still count on today.
marketSTEEL: How has the daily business developed over the last decades?
Erwin Telöken: The market has not changed significantly. More is sold on the web, but good advice is still important. As far as the sale of extraction units is concerned, we work according to similar principles as before. The first contact with the customer is and remains essential. It is important for a good advisor not just to sell a product, but to recognize and serve the needs of the customer. Sealing the contract by handshake is unfortunately a rare thing nowadays- and not only since Corona.
Simon Telöken: I can't help but smile when you talk about your beginnings. Cruising with a map, stopping at a gas station to send a fax... times have become much faster. Although, my father is not someone who is and thinks in an old-fashioned way, but in everything, especially in technical things, has always been highly innovative and modern - until today. I can still remember that he had some of the first Palm and Blackberry pocket computers that were on the market.
Erwin Telöken: Times are different. But much has remained the same. You have to take other paths, for example with regard to digitalisation. But much of what was true in the past is still true today. A good consultant is not a chaotic person, but structured to the maximum.
marketSTEEL: What does it take to be successful on the market for 25 years?
Erwin Telöken: To put it in a few key terms: Good employees, good products, good customer service. Honesty is also an important basis for success. After all, you don't just want to sell the customer a unit, you want to build a long-term customer relationship based on trust.
Simon, what childhood memories do you have of the company and your father's work?
Simon Telöken: When I was about 5 years old, we drove to the Hannover Messe in a Fiat. That was an adventure as a kid. As a teenager, I first helped with the construction of exhibition stands, as I did at “Schweißen und Schneiden” in Essen. All in all, I remember that my father was not around very much. But the company was under development and in the end: no pains, no gains.
Erwin Telöken: Yes, we had to work long hours. Many things fall by the wayside and there was hardly any time for the family.
marketSTEEL: You have first worked in other companies. Why didn't you just go into your father's company?
Simon Telöken: I did my apprenticeship as a metalworker in another company and gained a lot of experience in other companies before I joined TEKA - and I'm glad I did. You have a different view on many things in your own company, you are not so blinkered to your own business.
Erwin Telöken: And you learned here from the ground up, passing through various departments, especially in service and sales, before you joined the management. This is the only way to earn the respect of the employees. These are also life experiences that are incredibly important.
marketSTEEL: What is more difficult, starting up or successfully continuing a company?
Simon Telöken: It is easier to feather the nest. I have been with the company for ten years now. I have a huge respect for what my father and Jürgen Kemper have built up. It was a great challenge for me to follow in such big footsteps. But I have also learned that everyone has to find and go his own way.
Erwin Telöken: As the founder of the company, you are there from day one, shaping everything. You had to find your place first.
Simon Telöken (smiling): That's right. There were two of you at your first staff meeting. I had to hold mine with 150 employees.
marketSTEEL: Are there other topics at home?
Simon Telöken: It is a challenge to turn one’s back on TEKA when we see each other outside the company. But since my father's stroke almost two years ago, we're doing better.
Erwin Telöken: We had to work hard at the beginning, sometimes day and night. For the second generation it is different. They can do things differently in life.
Simon Telöken: At least you try to do things differently.
marketSTEEL: What consequences did your father's stroke have for the company and for you, Simon?
Simon Telöken: My father has always been the creative type. When someone like that is not available anymore, it’s a huge loss for a company. And that just before the EuroBlech. I had been with the company for about eight years. But until then, let's just say, well-protected. Suddenly I had to jump into the first row. That was a lot of responsibility all at once. It helped that we have a very good staff that I could fully rely on.
"Outside" I had to fight. My father is known for his clear announcements. Many who knew him, but not me yet, expected a copy of him.
Erwin Telöken: Everyone has to find his way. And you did. Not everybody can be in employment. There must be people who want to take responsibility.
Simon Telöken: For me personally, I can say that as long as I get up every morning and enjoy my work, I come to TEKA with enthusiasm.
marketSTEEL: What challenges do you see for the industry in the future?
Erwin Telöken: Modern air pollution control today does not only include the extraction and filtering of pollutant-laden air. Rather, it is also a matter of constantly monitoring the air quality and networking with other machines in production. The future belongs to the "Smart Factory" and this affects all business areas of a company. Especially the cooperation with other small and medium-sized companies can be a driver here. For this reason, we have been involved for several years in the "Industry Business Network 4.0” which aims to implement Industry 4.0 openly and across manufacturers.
marketSTEEL: What expectations do you have of the new company location?
First of all, the bundling of all parts of the company at one location with 46,000 m² of floor space has many synergy effects. In addition, we intend to systematically embed digital processes in all areas of the company - from management to service - in line with the "Smart Factory" concept.
Photos: TEKA general manager Erwin Telöken (right) and his son Simon Telöken
More informations: www.teka.eu
TEKA Absaug- und Entsorgungstechnologie GmbH has been for 25 years one of the leading manufacturers of extraction and filter units for the industry, commerce, craft enterprises and laboratories in Europe. As a reliable partner and expert for pure air at the workplace, TEKA supplies medium-sized companies from the metalworking industry, the electrical industry and the laboratory technology at an international level. TEKA units provide for healthy room air and thus comprehensive health protection for the employees and they do their part in protecting the environment. The product range includes mobile and stationary units, special versions, complex system solutions for the cutting industry and the VAC series for powerful extraction from welding torches. The product portfolio is supplemented by cutting, welding and oxygen cutting benches as well as vision protection and sound-proofing elements. About 140 employees work hand in hand in the development, manufacturing and sales department in order to provide custom-made solutions by means of intense consulting, service and assembly services on the international market. Almost all TEKA products meet the safety requirements for the highest welding fume separation category and they are certified with the “W3” quality certificate according to DIN EN ISO 15012-1. TEKA is a successful pioneer in the field of Industry 4.0 which the company proves with its Airtracker family for digital room air monitoring and SmartFit boxes for system networking. By actively participating in the "Industry Business Network 4.0" (IBN 4.0) TEKA is committed to the development of facility standards.