Back Issue | Made in Germany – a Visit to MAGURA
The phrase “so German” doesn’t just refer to badly-dressed guys in Hawaiian shirts and classic socks-and-sandals combos on a beach in Mallorca. It also conjures up images of well organised, efficient, and pedantic people with an obsession for perfection. And that’s exactly why the term ‘Made in Germany’ has stood for extraordinary performance and high quality for so long — a feat once again proven by the German designed and engineered Magura MT5, which we tested for this issue of ENDURO. But what has led to this brand’s success? In order to take a closer look at the company, we headed to the deepest depths of the Swabian Alps where Magura’s headquarters are located.
The hall is lit in a sea of neon lights, the smell of plastic pervades your senses, and the only sound is the hiss of the injection-molding machines. Matching the beat of their rhythm, a new plastic part falls from the conveyer belt every few seconds into one of the countless blue transport boxes that surround us. Where are we? We’re in the small village of Hülben in the Swabian Alb, not far from Bad Urach, inside one of Magura’s three production locations.
The region around Stuttgart is a veritable hotbed of innovation and development; the presence of well-established brands like Porsche, Mercedes, Siemens, and Bosch is testament to this. And it was perhaps this very same Swabian aptitude for invention that prompted Gustav Magenwirth to start writing Magura’s success story way back in 1893. The company’s name stems from a combination of the initial letters of his surname and the company’s hometown of Bad Urach.
Over the decades, the once tiny metal-production firm has grown into a globally operating, medium-sized company, which alongside the processing of metals has specialised in hydraulic engineering, plastic technology, and electronics (e.g. Magura eLECT), with offices in Asia and the U.S.A.
Here in the Swabian Alb, the company is split into three distinct parts: the plastic processing plant in Hülben, the assembly hall in Hengen, and the headquarters in Bad Urach, home to the development and service departments as well as the tool-making division. Our tour begins in Hülben, where just last year Magura presented their innovative Carbotecture composite technology. The plastic processing plant has numerous injection-molding machines lined up in an orderly fashion. While some of them are spitting out top-secret components for the car industry, others have spent years churning out mounting plates for the brake pads of the now legendary HS33 brakes.
“For more than ninety years Magura have been supplying the motorbike manufacturer BMW. Since 2012, that has included plastic clutch levers, as these are far better in terms of weight and strength than their metal counterparts,” explains the factory manager proudly. Every day a lorry comes to collect the blue boxes in which the finished parts are so carefully stowed away. Now they’re ready to be assembled in the neighbouring village.
We head the same way, swapping Hülben, with its population of 3,000 to the even smaller village of Hengen (pop. 900). with its 900 residents for Hengen, which with a population of almost 3,000 feels like a metropolis in comparison. Awaiting us is an ultra-modern assembly hall, which, at first glance, is more reminiscent of a computer chip facility. We’re kitted out in anti-static clothing before we’re allowed to enter the slightly pressurised hall, as the products cannot be exposed to any possible contamination. An electronic vehicle approaches from the left, transporting the now-familiar blue plastic boxes. “That’s what we call the train. Once an hour it comes along to all the assembly stations so that they never run out of parts,” explains Magura’s marketing manager Götz Braun. This is where the whole process comes together to produce the final product.
We stop beside an assembly station where the staff are working in sync to link individual parts of the brakes before putting the still-empty brakes into a machine with robot arms. Spread over several stations on the production line, the Magura Royal Blood Mineral Oil brake fluid is injected before the sealing screws are tightened. The brakes are then considered fit for riding and are packaged for delivery around the world. Not only ‘typically German’ with their decent provision of guarantees and warrantees, Magura are proud of their five-year leak-proof guarantee for brake levers and cylinders. Now that is what we call a good bit of signature Swabian diligence.
It’s precisely this attention to detail that has its roots in Bad Urach, the third stop of our tour. This place, where legend has it an unassuming baker first invented the pretzel, is also home to the headquarters of this family-run company. The mishmash of the headquarters’ architectural styles betray the company’s eventful history and its various expansions; sixties-style lattice windows border the eighties-esque detailing, and they’ve been joined by a very modern structure that is certainly more 21st century. We’re greeted by Fabian Auch, the fourth generation of his family to manage the company Magura Bike Parts, who guides us through the various departments. We follow the same path that many of Magura’s products follow, beginning at the source: the development division. This consists of a team of creatives who are permanently busy striving to develop new innovative technologies across the firm’s vast spectrum of competences.
From small parts like brake pads to complex, electronically-controlled suspension systems, this is where the ideas are scribbled on paper and the first prototypes come to life. The workshop for tool-making is kept in-house as well, where all the moulds for the plastic manufacturing and the variety of finishing machines have their origins. We cross the decadesold parquet flooring from hall to hall in the service department. This is where all the issues from clients and dealers arrive; then they’re organised and dealt with in order of receipt. Directly behind this area, we find rows upon rows of shelves lined with some pretty retro-looking products. Götz Braun explains that while they can’t provide replacements for every single product they’ve ever sold, they do still have the majority on hand. And, in true German style, they’re in impeccable condition in those oh-so-familiar blue plastic boxes.
As we leave the company grounds once again, we all agree that being German is not too bad – providing it’s the ‘typically German’ stereotype of efficiency that we’ve seen here rather than just the sunburnt tourist socks-and-sandals look. And while we’re thinking about it, we might even go and buy some of those blue boxes for our office, as it’s about time we tidied up.
Words & Photos: Christoph Bayer