Storz & Bickel x THE LÄND.

Based on an interview with Jürgen Bickel, Managing Director of STORZ & BICKEL GmbH.

storz-bickel einstiegsbild

Global success with medical hot air generators

When Jürgen Bickel stands on the flat roof of STORZ & BICKEL GmbH in Tuttlingen today, he can without a doubt be proud of his company’s international success. After all, until its breakthrough, this medical technology company founded in 2002 had to meet not only the challenges faced by any start-up, but also deal with all sorts of prejudices. This is because STORZ & BICKEL produces hot air generators for the vaporisation and consumption of medical herbs, including medical cannabis.

But let’s go back to the beginning. In 1996, Markus Storz came across an article reporting that medical herbs do not necessarily have to be burnt to be consumed. Vaporising the herbs in a hot air generator is in fact much gentler on the active ingredients. It was an idea that fascinated Markus Storz, inspiring him to create the first prototype of what was to become the VOLCANO Classic. This hot air generator remains the company’s flagship product to this day, and is the best known device on the market.

“At first, our venture did of course have a negative touch. As my mother put it at the time: You build hash ovens?”

But the products of STORZ & BICKEL GmbH are now used worldwide for the medical treatment of cancer patients, for example, and have become the gold standard in hot air generators. This is something that bears witness not only to the entrepreneurial but to the humanitarian spirit of the two founders.

And this is one reason why they were presented with the Dr. Rudolf Eberle Award of the state of Baden-Württemberg in 2003 for their achievement and their innovative medical product. This innovation prize is awarded to small and medium-sized companies from industry and trade for unconventional solutions that are open to technology and result in innovative products, processes and services.

The 110-volt vaporisers conquered the American market that same year. The company has been represented there since 2005 by the subsidiary STORZ & BICKEL America, Inc., based in Oakland (California). Jürgen Bickel describes their ISO certification in 2009 as a huge breakthrough – the official recognition of STORZ & BICKEL devices as medical products. This was an accolade and a door-opener at the same time, for both the marketing and image of the company.

“Our partners supported us both with the certification and in the optimisation of our first product drawings, which were not always so precise.“

According to Jürgen Bickel, a decisive role in their success story was also played by the state of Baden-Württemberg as a business location. Surrounded as it was by other renowned manufacturers of medical technology and globally active automotive suppliers, STORZ & BICKEL could draw on the infrastructure, experience and know-how of a whole network of companies and experts right from the start. Despite international expansion, around 85% of all their suppliers are still in Germany, and around 20% are based in or near Tuttlingen. And with good reason, Jürgen Bickel finds.

“The companies in our region are chiefly concerned with producing technical excellence. This mixture of quality aspiration and openness to new ideas was particularly helpful to us at the beginning.”

STORZ & BICKEL benefits to this day from this close cooperation and the exchange of ideas with neighbouring suppliers and partners. As well as creating logistical and distribution synergies, the broad client portfolios of neighbouring companies also ensure that the purchasing of production parts within Baden-Württemberg is profitable. The company currently employs around 170 people of different nationalities at its site in Tuttlingen. The company is currently seeking to expand its workforce in the areas of hardware development and marketing, as well as in production and quality management. Not far from Lake Constance, where, as an amateur sailor, Jürgen Bickel likes to spend his time in summer.

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