Festo AG & Co.

Riding10 miles southeast of Stuttgart brings me to Esslingen am Neckar. Seeing as how the Nectar River runs through the city it doesn't take a genius to figure out it translates to Esslingen on the Nectar River. I'm here to visit Festo AG, a family-owned concern that manufactures pneumatic products, power tools and offers courses in vocational training. The company has over 4,700 employees and sales last year of 1.2 billion DM's.

I assume the head office would probably be somewhere around the downtown area. Boy am I wrong. There's a light drizzle as I make my way up a switchback road going up very large and steep hill (or a small mountain). Normally you don't hear me complaining about hills or mountain because I like 'em but, I've been trying to beat this nasty summer cold and it's hard riding because I have this hacking cough.
The head office/factory complex sits on the backside of the steep hill (or small mountain) and before entering one has to be cleared by the guard manning the gated entrance. The guard doesn't speak any English so he points me to the reception area in the five-story administration building.

I meet with Eberhard Veit whose business card reads: Director-Strategic Product Management. He's also one of the six members which make up the Board of Directors.

The visit is short and sweet. The main reason being I have no voice (that nasty summer cold is the culprit). Veit strains to hear my questions, which pretty much, come out in a whisper. Actually it gets quite comical as Veit answers "what?" to everything I say because he can't hear or understand what's coming out of my mouth. Heck, if I was in his shoes I probably would have told me to "take a hike".

Gottlieb Stoll (1897-1971) founded Festo back in 1925 and that explains why there's a portrait of him in the reception lobby. Stoll also had an interest in geology that explains why there's a six foot in diameter petrified tree trunk in the reception area.

This head office/factory site was built in the 1960's with additional buildings added on in 1982. Easily the most unusual item to be found here is the giant inflatable structure sitting right outside the administration building. It's about the size of two convenience stores and looks like a magnified version of those inflatables, which allow kids to climb inside and bounce around. I ask Veit, "What's up with the inflatable structure outside?" Veit says it's a permanent structure and is used as a display room for the company's various products. Hmm, that makes sense; a company that manufactures products using air and air compression having a showroom inflated with air.

Nothing special about Veit's second floor, middle office which includes one real plant and a family photo. There're two cafeterias, no recreational facilities, smoking is allowed in offices and there's a formal dress code. The logo is Festo's name in blue lettering. "Any significance to the color blue?" I ask. Veit answers, "blue is air".