Linz am Rhein, Rhineland-Palatinate / Görlitz, Saxony, August 30th, 2022 – For almost a decade, Hilmar Knoll successfully guided the fortunes of BIRKENSTOCK's largest production facility, which produces nearly 100,000 shoes a day at peak times. Yesterday, the native of northern Hesse officially handed over management of the plant to his successor Richard Cesar. The new managing director has a big task ahead of him: he will be taking care of the next chapter in the plant's growth story as part of a four-year investment offensive with a total volume of 59 million euros.
When Hilmar Knoll picked up the phone one morning in 2013, he was not to suspect that this was the moment that would usher in the most formative phase of his already impressive career. A headhunter on the other end of the line told Knoll about Birkenstock's interest: the long-established company, which was already manufacturing in Germany at the time, had become aware of Knoll because the passionate marathon runner had recently caused a stir in the industry by setting up European running shoe production for one of the major sporting goods manufacturers.
Two fans of "Made in Germany" find together
At a time when most German shoe manufacturers had more or less relocated their production to Eastern Europe or Asia, Birkenstock and Hilmar Knoll were two partners who firmly believed in the competitiveness of European locations. And in the years to come, Knoll, who had learned the business from scratch after graduating from high school with an apprenticeship as a shoe technician, was to set many impulses in his role as managing director of the Görlitz BIRKENSTOCK plant. With foresight, an unwillingness to compromise and a firm belief that an innovative combination of manual work and automation can also be used to successfully manufacture shoes in Germany, Knoll set production technology standards and made a contribution to BIRKENSTOCK being one of the most successful footwear brands in the world today, which still produces almost exclusively at German sites and is the largest employer in the German shoe industry.
"I would like to express my sincere thanks for the support and trust from the company's management, from my team and from the workforce. In all these years, I have had many experiences that have left an impression on me. What I will remember most is the inexhaustible willingness of the plant employees to keep developing and to learn every day. When we started 8 years ago, the production plant in Görlitz was not much more than an extended workbench where simple products were manufactured. Today, I am proud to see that with collaborations with luxury houses like Dior, Rick Owens or Jil Sander, very complex, high-end products are made here in Görlitz," says Hilmar Knoll.
BIRKENSTOCK CTOO Mark Jensen also bids farewell to Hilmar Knoll with words of appreciation: "It has been an honor to work with Hilmar Knoll and I thank him on behalf of BIRKENSTOCK for his exceptional performance. Hilmar has led the BIRKENSTOCK factory in Görlitz through good times and also through challenging times over the past eight years with tireless dedication, his collaborative leadership style and an unwavering enthusiasm for "Made in Germany". One example of this is how, under his leadership, we restored production in Görlitz to pre-pandemic levels in record time following the 50% cutback caused by Corona. I wish Hilmar Knoll a fulfilling retirement."
Successor Richard Cesar takes over ordered house
Hilmar Knoll hands over the management of the factory to Richard Cesar. The new head of the Görlitz plant has more than 20 years of professional experience, half of which he spent at ECCO in a wide variety of management positions. Most recently, he was responsible for production at the Danish shoe manufacturer's site in Slovakia and was also a member of the Management Board. After a short introductory and onboarding phase, Hilmar Knoll has now officially handed over the helm to his successor. "I am taking over an ordered house from Hilmar Knoll. What he has achieved at the Görlitz site over the past eight years impresses me. I look forward to building on this high level in the coming years and taking the BIRKENSTOCK plant in Görlitz even further forward. Our goal is to support the company's growth plans with a world-class production facility and to meet the global demand for high-quality shoes produced in Germany," says Richard Cesar, Managing Director of BIRKENSTOCK Görlitz.
Richard Cesar is taking over Görlitz at a time of continued strong growth: Over the next four years, investments of 59 million euros will flow into the site in Upper Lusatia. The aim is to further increase production capacity in order to better meet the growing global demand for BIRKENSTOCK products. His tasks include converting the current EVA and PU production lines (which will be moved to the competence center once the new BIRKENSTOCK plant in Pasewalk, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, is completed) to production lines for footbed and cork-latex sandals. Among other things, there are plans to implement eight additional production lines for final products and three new sole production lines. In addition, Richard Cesar's team will tackle numerous building infrastructure projects. All of this will enable a significant increase in production numbers: In the footbed production area alone at the Goerlitz plant, daily production is expected to increase from 80,000 pairs today to 120,000 pairs.