This is how Susanne Gutbrod describes herself, with a twinkle in her eye. This is because, as the daughter of Horst Gutbrod, the original founder of the company, she is the last remaining member of the founding family still working at what is now voestalpine Automotive Components in Dettingen.
Swabians are known for their prowess, diligence, and reliability. And these characteristics have also always distinguished the Gutbrod family from Dettingen an der Erms. In 1963, the head of the household, Horst Gutbrod, founded a small metal processing company in the childhood farmhouse home of his wife Erne close to the Swabian metropolitan region of Stuttgart, marking the beginnings of what is now known as voestalpine Automotive Components Dettingen. His daughter Susanne Gutbrod still works at the company to this day, and has witnessed firsthand its impressive evolution since those early days.
From home to hall
Susanne Gutbrod grew up in the very same place where the company was founded. When her father started the business, she was just two years old, and so the knocking and hammering of manual punching machines was part and parcel of everyday home life. Just like those all-important business calls, which would often be put through to her father at the dinner table. “We children would sit there, quiet as a mouse, while our father would talk on the phone,” explains Susanne Gutbrod. In the 1970s, the company went from strength to strength, and Susanne Gutbrod’s brothers Frank and Jürgen joined the ranks as apprentice toolmakers. While Frank looked after major customers, Jürgen would go on to be responsible for the main suppliers. For many years to come, father and sons would meet every morning at 9 o’clock on the dot to talk business over breakfast. At the end of the 1980s, Susanne Gutbrod followed in the footsteps of her brothers and joined the company, starting out on the reception desk and in the back office. Over the years, Horst Gutbrod took a step back from his responsibilities, but continued to be involved in the family business as an advisor. In his early 50s, after 35 years of hard work, he finally handed over the company to his children, who made the prudent decision to join the voestalpine Group in 2007.
Open to growth
Horst Gutbrod started out with very little and turned it into a great deal with the support of his family. “When you create something yourself and play your part in nurturing it, you appreciate it even more. It’s very satisfying,” says Susanne Gutbrod. Although the transformation from family business to Group-managed subsidiary was a very challenging time for Susanne Gutbrod, she still managed to hang onto her openness, optimism, and playful nature at work.
"For me personally, it’s important to always look ahead to the future and keep an open mind when it comes to people, conversations, and changes, even if something feels a bit foreign to you at first"
voestalpine Automotive Components is now the Competence Center for Cold Stamping in the Metal Forming Division. With cutting-edge progressive die and transfer technologies and innovative manufacturing processes, the company produces around 350,000 parts daily, including ready-to-install stamped and formed parts, complex modules, and safety and impact protection components for renowned automotive manufacturers.
Susanne Gutbrod grew up in the context of this remarkable development. The now 62-year-old successfully completed her high school and college education, and then dedicated all her time to raising her twin boys. In 1988, she joined the family business, managing orders in the back office and manning the reception desk. “I still vividly remember when the first computers were introduced back in the 1990s,” she explains. “Manually processing each and every order became a thing of the past, and we could instead integrate them electronically into the company’s retrieval system via remote data transmission.” After experiencing a great deal of personal growth during her many years in the sales back office, her health forced her to return to the reception desk, but she used this as an opportunity to take better care of herself and gain a fresh perspective. When her brothers left the company in 2003 and 2010, Susanne decided to stay.
"The company is like my father’s and my brothers’ baby, It just spurred me on to continue to fly the flag and be my own woman. I’m grateful for the opportunities and encounters I’ve enjoyed, and all the good and even tough times I’ve experienced that have led me to where I am today."
In 2015, her journey led her to the administrative office of the Management Board, where she works to this day. Her decades of experience and knowledge of people, processes, and relationships make her an essential part of the company.
Facing the future together
In 2023, voestalpine Automotive Components in Dettingen is celebrating its 60th anniversary: A fitting occasion to look back on the past few decades and look forward to the future together. “Only by working together and harnessing the dedication and creative power of many committed employees could we, as a founding family, build something so successful,” says Susanne Gutbrod. “Because we’re simply stronger when we work as a collective. This is now also evident in our exchanges with the other plants and the awesome power of technology, which is proving instrumental in ensuring the company’s continued existence.”
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Our path to a green future
We are upping the pace of emissions reduction. greentec steel from voestalpine is Austria’s largest climate protection program. Starting in 2027, this program will reduce Austria’s annual CO2 emissions by almost 5%. 2024 marks the start of the partial shift from the blast furnace to the electric arc furnace (EAF) route—once unresolved funding issues in Austria are clarified.