Irene Schwarz had dedicated her life to the company already as a child and shaped Engel for more than 70 years. Born in 1929 in Neu-Werbaß (today called Vrbas) in Serbia, Irene Engel came with her family to Austria in 1944, where one year later her father Ludwig Engel founded a machinery construction company in Schwertberg. She worked in the company from the very beginning. Over many years she was bookkeeper, financial director, controller and director of human resources all at the same time.
In 1951, she married Georg Schwarz, who also joined the staff at his father-in-law's company. Georg Schwarz was born in 1928 in Essegg (today called Osijek) in Croatia. His family history was also marked by displacement and flight as a refugee at the end of the Second World War. In 1945, the Schwarz family found a new home in Upper Austria. Georg Schwarz attended the technical school for mechanical engineering in Linz, and completed an apprenticeship as a machinist parallel to these studies.
Side by side in working and private lifeAfter the sudden death of Ludwig Engel in 1965, Irene and Georg Schwarz took over the management of the company that had 380 employees at the time. With entrepreneurial courage and a special intuition concerning industry trends and growing markets, they guided the company onto a path of growth that continues today. Early on they decided to establish foreign subsidiaries, opened two production plants in North America and already set the course for the system solutions business in the 1980s with the development and production of the company's own robots.
They led the company with farsighted vision and always kept the family succession in focus. In 1997, they turned over the operational management to the third generation. Currently, Engel is implementing the next generational transition, and the senior directors were also involved in the process.
Both of them were actively involved in the business well beyond their 80th birthdays. At the start of the new millennium, they oversaw the step into Asia with the founding of the production plants in Korea and China, and when flooding destroyed the production facilities at the headquarters in Schwertberg in 2002, they also joined in actively tackling the task of rebuilding.
Quality, customers and staff always in focusIrene and Georg Schwarz always set their goals on top quality and on fulfilling the needs of their customers worldwide, and still today, the management and staff in the company orient themselves on this excellent example.
Georg Schwarz was full of passion for sales, but above for production. He always strove to orient the Engel production plants on state-of-the-art technology and new possibilities. He placed the same demands on the company's own products: he wanted Engel injection moulding machines to open up production possibilities that no one else could offer their customers. Very early, he made a name for himself as a visionary in the world of plastics. He gave his staff much freedom; he demanded and fostered innovation. Thus he was a decisive factor in advancing the development of the first tie-bar-less injection moulding machine worldwide. Thanks to continuous development and consequence in securing patents, the tie-bar-less technology has remained a unique selling proposition for Engel until today.
Irene Schwarz understood how to connect entrepreneurial vision with the practical details. Economy and modesty were her guiding philosophy, and the financial security of the company was her top priority. In the process, she never lost sight of what was in the interest of the employees. She gave special attention to the optimisation of internal processes. Wastefulness was a thorn in the flesh for her long before the first ideas from lean management philosophy appeared in Europe.
Country and industry honour accomplishmentsIn their company, the plastics industry and beyond, Irene and Georg Schwarz were highly appreciated as businesspeople, but also at a personal level.
The government of Upper Austria honoured their contributions in the plastics industry and their exemplary service for the company and the region with the Decoration of Honour in Gold. Georg Schwarz had also been also awarded the Grand Decoration of Honour in Gold of the State of Lower Austria and the Grand Decoration of Honour in Silver of the Republic of Austria.
In 1978, Georg Schwarz was appointed Honorary Senator of the University of Leoben and in 1992 Honorary Senator of the Vienna University of Technology. In 2009, his name was added to the Plastics Hall of Fame. This has its headquarters at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell, USA, and represents the highest honour awarded in the international plastics industry. Georg Schwarz was a member of the board of the Federation of Austrian Industries for many years, and also represented the Austrian Chamber of Commerce.
Irene Schwarz was appointed Honorary Senator of the University of Leoben in 2006, the first woman in the history of the university.
For Engel, the deaths of Irene and Georg Schwarz mark the end of an era. They leave behind a void that cannot be filled.
For a number of decades, Irene and Georg Schwarz led the company together. At the end of March and the beginning of April, both senior partners of Engel Austria passed away aged 86 and 88 years.