Family-owned Optibelt continues to exceed customer expectations with durable and quality designs 

Founded in 1872, the Arntz Optibelt Group is a family-owned company, in its fifth generation with more than 150 years’ experience under its belt. The company develops sophisticated drive solutions for customers all over the world. Its products are used where durability and quality are required, in the machine engineering, automotive, and agricultural engineering sectors, as well as in the household appliance industry. 

Optibelt production facilityWith some 2400 employees worldwide, from its headquarters in Höxter, North Rhine-Westphalia, Optibelt runs eight production sites in six countries. High-quality craftsmanship is not left to chance. The owner families of Optibelt think in terms of generations, not in quarterly or yearly periods of time, embracing innovation, but not experimenting at the expense of quality. With this philosophy, Optibelt has secured its place as a strong brand on the global market. 

“We started with a very new technology at the time,” begins Karl Asendorf, President of the Americas, “and had the most precise V-belts available in the market.” A V-belt is a wedge-shaped belt manufactured out of a rubber compound, reinforced with a tensile cord specifically engineered to transmit power into movement and can be found in driving mechanisms.  

“We invented and developed our own production method,” continues Konrad Ummen, Managing Director. “In the beginning, this range of V-belt products was standardized for use in a range of industry segments. Over the years and in line with internationalization and working with OEM customers, we were able to develop further innovation into the product range, so that today, for the industrial market at least, we offer the widest range of transmission belts from extremely short to long products.” 

“We are very adept at fulfilling the needs of our customers,” Karl elaborates. “OEMs always want to improve power transmission on a smaller drive. So, we develop specific products to meet those needs, using different technologies and materials from a manufacturing point of view. We have a large R&D team and a modern facility where we can really test and design these products for our customers.” 

“We have to differentiate a bit between automation and digitalization,” Konrad continues. “Digitalization incorporates a very broad picture, starting with ERP. We pretty much operate all our sites today on a modern, integrated SAP system. We have also implemented a machine monitoring system across our production sites that provides data to enhance transparency and drive efficiencies in terms of production and capacity utilization. With our very broad product portfolio, we need to maintain a degree of flexibility unlike our high-volume competitors. That said, we do incorporate a significant level of automation across raw materials, rubber compounding, and semi-finished production processes. We’re also trying to integrate several processes into one by using a more sophisticated and modern machine to produce finished goods. We continually strive to improve our in-house processes, and particularly in terms of machinery development. Much of the equipment we use must be developed in house as the specialist plant we use isn’t always readily available to purchase on the open market.” 

Alongside developing processes, the company places equal importance on progressing its people. “We refer to ourselves as the Optibelt family,” Karl explains. “Our leadership team strives to be transparent and receptive to others’ opinions and ideas. We have an open-door policy and will always do our best to develop our people. Many of our long-term employees started on an apprenticeship program and have gone on to be integral members of the team.” Selection of Optibelt drive belts

“Indeed,” affirms Konrad, “we champion diversity in the workplace and encourage our trainees to develop beyond their training programs and locality. Colleagues support each other in our different locations and work internationally to achieve cohesive operations. As far as we’re concerned, training is key and is particularly crucial in the current climate of labor shortages across the sector. Being headquartered as we are in the German countryside, we channel our efforts into recruiting locally and encouraging young people to see the advantages of working in the manufacturing industry. We champion the sector across all our sites and highlight the many opportunities for progression.” 

“Every country and culture are unique,” Karl adds. “So, we tailor our programs to suit local needs. We offer flexibility, which is positively received by our workforce. Equally, in terms of social, environmental, and financial sustainability, we have a strong team working on our strategy for continued stability and success for our people, products, and planet. We review our progress on an ongoing basis.” 

Konrad adds: “If we look at environmental sustainability, we review and audit how our investments in photovoltaic energy, for example, are progressing. We made significant investments across our European sites and strive to navigate the complexities of our sustainability activities.” 

“It’s a challenging time, worldwide,” Karl continues. “Coming out of the pandemic, consumer patterns changed. So, for instance, people had more money available and initially, would buy items, such as a new lawnmower. That desire then changed in line with the easing of restrictions and more people then spent their disposable income on going on vacation. Changing consumer habits have affected some market segments, but in the Americas, I would say we’re continuing to experience growth. We’re rolling on month-by-month and I’m very optimistic about the year ahead. Supported by our new facility in Mexico, we’ll be better positioned to react to the needs of our customers.” 

“As we’re specialized, we’re still seeing several really good opportunities to grow our position in different markets,” Konrad elaborates. “From e-bikes to HVAC drives in data centers, these kinds of interesting and niche segments all require several transmission parts, and we want to be here to meet those needs. While there are numerous new technologies being introduced, good traditional technologies still exist too, and people still need our products, so that’s promising in itself,” he concludes.