Festo is one of those "mittelstand" companies that seem to be the real engines of the German economy. "Mittelstanden" are companies, usually family owned, or closely held, that are medium sized enterprises. Unlike the Siemens of the world, these companies usually are niche players and they often dominate their niches. They are renowned for being long-term driven, and heavy R&D spenders. I'm here in Germany to attend a press conference about Festo and their offerings in process automation...something Festo is not well known for. I am curious about what they have to offer.
Today, though, Festo laid on a walking tour of the town of Esslingen, a medieval center of manufacturing and trade that is the home of the Festo factory. Esslingen is one of the suburbs of Stuttgart, like Zuffenhausen, where Porsche cars are made...although Zuffenhausen is completely on the other side of Stuttgart, and I won't have time to visit the Porsche Museum this trip. Some of you may be aware that one of my cars is a Porsche Boxster, so you can understand the enormity of my sacrifice...(sigh)
While we were walking through Esslingen, which is built on the Neckar River (in fact the town's name is Esslingen am Neckar), we found this curious mix of modern sustainable energy project and medieval manufacturing. These water wheels are powering a kindergarten and several other buildings with renewable, green power.
Tomorrow, the press conference begins.