After an initial short study at the Technical University of Clausthal-Zellerfeld Gerd Michael Langer went to Essen to study Industrial Design, where he graduated in spring 1977. His graduate work was a multi-purpose boat with an advanced design, ideal for suntanning, fishing, water skiing and rescue operations. His advanced design with positioning the drivers motor bike seat midship was copied manyfold and looked like an oversized Jet Ski which came on the market many years later. Also the hull design with many safety features and various applications was outstanding. The first test runs were made by the DLRG (German life saving society) on the lake Balteney in Essen and considered its qualities to be superior to any boat of such size they had ever driven before.
However, before taking his final exam in the Industrial Design program, Langer was required to complete a six-month internship. He secured an internship with Chemical Plants of Marl-Huels, of which BSA was a corporate client. Marl-Huels was a leading producer of plastic resins in Germany with a staff of 25,000. Because of the relationship between BSA and Marl-Huels, Langer became the first student allowed to work in the Research and Development Department of that firm, on a strictly confidential basis.
During that six-month internship, Langer observed that the Marl-Huels vacuum-injection procedure could be beneficial in BSA’s business. Compared with the old chaff-spraying system, the vacuum injection molding was more environmentally friendly and achieved cohesiveness with even-wall thickness. Consequently, one of the first things Langer did when he rejoined BSA at the end of his internship was to install a new vacuum-injection procedure for the production of plastic barrels.
With academically top grades—also for this examination paper—Gerd Michael Langer joined his father in the family owned company BSA in Marktschorgast, Germany.
Langer remained with BSA until the fall of 1978, when he and his then wife moved to Canada, settling first in Lethbridge, Alberta, and moving five months later to Calgary, Alberta where he remained until the spring of 1988.
As one of his initial projects, Langer installed his first stable complex, constructed and delivered by BSA, at a German-speaking Hutterite colony. The Colony was quite impressed by the complex, and eventually word spread to other colonies. Langer listened to the Hutterite colonies and worked with them to improve several other stable concerns. For example, in order to achieve an ideal stable climate, which is a precondition for a maximum rate of milk yield during extreme winter and summer temperatures, he developed a special air conditioning system based on elaborate thermodynamics which, even in the event of a power failure, would maintain the required air exchange. This system was included in every Hutterite stable project thereafter. Eventually, the air conditioning system was integrated into pig stables as well.
In order to ensure the air conditioning system was installed and operated effectively and efficiently in each stable project, Langer assumed the general sales and distribution of Dutch EMI ventilators in Canada. The EMI ventilators were an integral part of the ventilation system.
Langer noted that the capacity of the largest tank wagons distributed by BSA was too small for North American farm use. He designed other larger hitch-hanger manure spreader tanks, which were built in Airdrie, Alberta and equipped with the BSA eccentric worm pumps from Germany. His design was user friendly, and integrated improved technical and innovative aspects.
As time past, Langer’s innovative ideas became renowned, surpassing the American standard. He was approached on several occasions by individuals and groups who expressed great interest in participating in his ideas, his products and know-how. None of these joint ventures ever came to fruition, but the caliber of parties interested in working with him was quite impressive. If nothing else, the efforts expended during the various negotiations fortified Langer in his confidence and knowledge that his designs were insightful, and had great potential.
In 1982, Langer met Jerrold Amonson of Hol – Sim Farms in Calgary. Amonson wanted to bring the European Simmental cows to Canada for breeding purposes. Unlike Holstein cows, Simmental cows are both milk and meat producers, and are often referred to as the “dual purpose” cow. They negotiated an agreement whereby Amonson would provide the funding and Langer would design the large-scale farm project. The intent was to develop the most modern and most efficient stable complex worldwide, capable of housing 2000 Simmentals for dairy production and breeding purposes. The complex was also to house a greenhouse, a facility capable of producing fodder 24 hours a day, and a component for the production of milk and cheese, and meat.
After eighteen months of worldwide analysis, planning and drawing, a written application for a research and development project was sent to the Canadian Ministry of Agriculture, Ottawa, Canada. The project was so convincing that the Ministry agreed to grant half of the costs, almost $15 million Canadian to subsidize the project. Amonson turned out to be a fraud, bilking the Canadian government out of its money, and almost jeopardizing Langer’s career and reputation in Canada.
During the Amonson-Langer association, Langer also agreed to travel to Germany with Amonson and later once more with Amonson's business partner, a Mr. Müller, to introduce Müller to his father's company BSA. However, when they arrived in Germany, Langer received a call from his Calgary office advising that the RCMP was investigating his relationship with Amonson. The Amonson-Müller relationship proved to be suspicious and this time almost compromised Langer’s reputation in Germany.
On his return to Canada, Langer contacted the RCMP and got informed about the several fraudulent actions that Amonson and his father had committed before and during the time that Langer had known him. As it turned out, Langer was one of more than 20 other companies duped by Amonson. Calgary Herald reporter Bob Beaty followed the Amonson fraud cases and published at least more than 30 news articles on the topic. At one point, Beaty won first prize for news coverage of white-collar crime in Canada.
One day, Langer received a call from Mike Brennan, a representative of the Government of Alberta. Brennan advised that Amonson had attempted to sell the design of Langer’s stable project to him as his own one, unaware that Brennan knew otherwise. Brennan called Langer to report him of Amonson’s activities. He also offered to introduce Langer to a Dr. Stenason who might be able to help with the funding of the stable project.
Langer called Beaty for more insight. Beaty explained that Stenason was the President of CP Enterprises, sat on the board of eleven of the largest business enterprises in Canada, and had recently moved his operations from Montreal to Calgary. Arrangements were made by Stenason to visit Langer’s Calgary production plant so Langer could introduce the stable project. Stenason was impressed and the two men agreed to work together furthering the stable project. Not long after that meeting, Langer was stunned to read in the Calgary Herald that Stenason had died of arteriosclerosis at the age of 55. Once again, Langer’s dream of building his stable project came to an end.
Having read the reports of Amonson’s antics in the Calgary Herald, Dr. Curiel, a Mexican doctor, who was in Calgary completing a pathology internship, was intrigued to learn that Langer’s project was designed for both extreme cold and extreme heat and he wondered whether the system might work well in Mexico. Curiel contacted Dan Stanton of the Alberta Ministry of Agriculture. Stanton arranged a meeting with Langer, Curiel and Pier Luigi Siccardi, an Italian immigrant who specialized in genetics and was an assessor for high performance dairy cows. Six months earlier, Siccardi had selected a herd of expensive Canadian high-performance dairy cows to be transported to the University of Mexico City to further the local breeding program. He was curious to learn of the ongoing health of the cows. Curiel’s father was a union boss in Mexico City, and a close friend of the Mexican Agricultural Minister, Eduardo Pesqueira Olea.
Arrangements were made to forward paperwork for Langer’s project to Mexico by government courier to ensure secure delivery. Two weeks later, Stanton heard from the Mexican Ministry of Agriculture announcing that the project was quite suited for the Mexican climate. The Ministry reported that they had an ideal place for the project, and that funding was secured. Langer was asked to meet with Eduardo Pesqueira and his officials to discuss the project in more detail. The Alberta Department of Agriculture made arrangements for Curiel, Siccardi and Langer to fly to Mexico City, and the government of Alberta paid for their travel arrangements.
Unfortunately, Langer and Sicardi did not have the meeting as agreed upon with Pesqueira and his officials the day after their arrival. Mexican bureaucracy became an obstacle. However, he and Siccardi did meet with veterinaries of the animal breeding station of the University where they learned that the cattle selected by Siccardi appeared to have been exchanged for animals that were emaciated and diseased. Langer explained to the gentlemen that the purpose of their visit to Mexico was to promote his stable project to Pesqueira. The cattlemen were interested and invited Siccardi and Langer on a tour of the largest stable complex in Mexico.
The complex was located about 40 km outside of Mexico City, built and paid for by the Mexican government. About 22,000 dairy cows were collocated in allotments of 180 animals each. The allotments and the cows were leased to local farmers. In order to have an overview of the entire complex, lookout platforms had been strategically located throughout the complex. The complex resembled a chessboard with streets used to remove accumulating liquid manure from the respective manure pits and milk from the respective allotment tanks. Instead of using the liquid manure as fertilizer it was dumped into giant lagoons to evaporate. The food for the cattle grew in vast fields, which were watered with untreated sewage pumped from surrounding villages into this area. Many cows were ill and the milk production was minimal. The employees of the animal breeding department of the local university hoped that Langer’s project would be approved, and that strong, healthy animals could be shipped directly from Canada.
The meeting with Pesqueira finally took place the day before Langer and Siccardi returned to Canada. Since the Government of Alberta was paying the cost of their visit, Langer and Siccardi felt obligated to return to Canada as planned. Langer gave Curiel the authority to meet again with Pesqueira and his officials on his behalf, and Curiel reported back to Langer when he returned to Canada about a week later. Pesqueira, Curiel reported, took the position that, as Alberta was so rich, the Alberta Government should fund the first project, and the necessary deliveries for the fulfillment of the project could be managed from Calgary. On a go-forward basis, however, all further projects would have to be built by Langer at a production plant located in Mexico and Langer was expected to personally oversee all future work.
The Province of Alberta declined. It was not interested in funding a Mexican project. Langer also declined stating that he was not prepared to work in a country where corruption was a daily occurrence, and no one respected punctuality, two faults that were common place during his visit to Mexico and neither of which he can tolerate. As it turned out, their decisions were fortuitous. Two months after the trip to Mexico, a television article revealed that the Chief of Mexican Police had frozen millions of US dollars on banks in the States.
In February 1983, Langer Manufacturing Ltd. was to attend the agricultural trade fair in Tulare, California and two days later attend another fair near Seattle, Washington. Because the Tulare and Seattle fairs were scheduled so close together, Langer did not find a transfer agency that could deliver the necessary exhibit materials from Tulare to Seattle on time. Langer decided to transport the exhibits himself, accompanied by John McLean, his Sales Manager. En route from Calgary to Tulare, Langer and McLean encountered a rare winter blizzard, the type that occurs in the Mojave Desert once every 100 years. Although many vehicles became stuck in the snow, Langer managed to drive straight through the blizzard, stopping just outside of Tulare for the night. Langer and McLean were exhausted after the long, challenging drive.
The next morning, Langer and McLean arrived at the Canadian Pavilion at the Tulare fair with sufficient time to set up the exhibits in a timely manner. The day went well, ending with a visit from State Senator Rosanne Vuich and her entourage. During introductions, Langer and Vuich found common ground and enjoyed conversation about Europe. At one point, Vuich asked whether Langer could dance. He replied that he loved to dance. He soon regretted the enthusiasm.
Vuich arranged for Langer and McLean to join her for the first evening to a huge winery. They enjoyed a lovely buffet and wine, listened to live music, and were introduced to many distinguished individuals. Dancing followed and Vuich insisted that Langer teach her the foxtrot. Using his best efforts, Langer danced Vuich around the room well into the early hours of the next morning. Similar evenings followed during the remainder of the fair. It was exhausting for Langer and McLean to stand at their booth all day, and spend the evenings socializing. When the exhibit ended, Langer and McLean were relieved to set off for Seattle and the promise of a good night’s rest.
In Seattle, Langer and McLean set up the exhibits and headed for their hotel room, while the other exhibitors headed for the welcoming party. The Seattle fair went very well, especially the first day when an interesting visitor came to the exhibit: Bob Harris. Harris was an inquisitive, distinguished, older gentleman who spent a significant amount of time with Langer, asking all manner of questions about Langer and his business. On his departure, Harris said that he was not a farmer but a logical thinking human being, and that he had to think about a few things, but would return again in two days, and he did.
On his second visit, Harris advised that some years prior he had bought some land near the exhibition ground on which were located two silver mines. He suggested that, if Langer was interested in working with him, he would sell the mines to Bob Harris, personelly acquainted with Hunt, who was known as the “Silver King of America”. He knew him from the time when he was still sales manager for Lear Jet. Harris was prepared to invest the money received from the sale of the mines in one of Langer’s stable projects, with an option of further projects. Harris further suggested that he would enhance the landing line on his ranch and buy a Lear Jet so their association could be fast and flexible as they promoted further projects throughout North America. Langer agreed. The upgraded runway would make flights from Calgary to Seattle quite short, allowing that the plane could land and be taxied right to Harris’ front door.
Sadly, this dream was short-lived too. The relations between Russia and America changed during the Gorbachev-Reagan regime. Suddenly, the cold war was over and borders re-opened. Cheap Russian silver flooded the world market. Harris didn’t believe that the political situation would last long and wanted to wait until the price for silver recovered. However, before the market could recover, Harris suffered a basal skull fracture when on his premises a falling branch struck him in the head. He remained in hospital for quite some time, and never fully recovered.
On the final occasion, Langer investigated the possibility of a business venture with one of the biggest potato farmers in America, a gentleman who managed his business empire from Potlatch, Idaho. Bob Travis had made his fortune growing worldwide potatoes for McDonalds’ French fries, an operation that was now run by his sons. He also operated a large stable complex for dairy cows. Travis wasn’t happy with the design of his stable complex and was interested to hear about Langer’s project. Travis had hoped to get his sons interested in this project but they were focused only on the potato farms and Travis was not prepared to start at his age another new project.
Langer’s dream of marketing his advanced farm project to the world never materialized, but he embraced his experiences in Canada and went on to advance his career in Germany.
In December 1987, Langer took his family, including a new wife, stepchildren and his three month old son Kirk Michael Langer, to Germany for Christmas. They enjoyed a great visit with his parents in the family home in Bayreuth. During that visit, Langer reviewed the status of operations in Canada with his father, and they agreed that it was time to return to Germany. In the spring of 1988, after ten years in Canada, the Langer family moved to Bayreuth so, among other things, Langer could apply his creative skills in a new way, and focus on ideas that would give BSA a competitive edge.
One of the first things Langer addressed when he returned to BSA was a new booth for trade fairs, one where visitors to the BSA booth could enjoy actual hands-on testing of displays that illustrated various motor functions. The booth attracted significant attention and resulted in increased business for BSA.
For almost 20 years, Alfa-Laval managed over 50% of the BSA distribution network and, as BSA was quite centrally situated in Europe from a site-specific point of view, it was decided to conduct all future European meetings and training seminars at BSA. Both corporations contributed capital investment for this facility, and the set-up of the new conference room and showroom. Langer was appointed to design the facility, including the conference room and showroom, and to oversee the construction. It was also his responsibility to furnish the premises, including installation of all necessary audio-visual equipment.
Once the conference room was set up and operational, Langer revised the automatic feeding station for dairy cows, which was produced by BSA for Alfa-Laval. He observed that the Swedish design, which was production-geared, had too many components and could be more efficient. He designed a new prototype, which was accepted from the mechanical point of view. The sales staff admired Langer’s new casing design, but the Alfa-Laval managers thought it to be too futuristic.
Langer went on to design an advantageous drag-hose system for BSA by which manure would be spread close to the ground. The European Union, wanting to reduce ammonia emissions produced by the agricultural industry, was subsidizing such spreading techniques. Langer’s drag-hose system was a success as it required less and simpler components than conventional devices.
The next big project Langer worked on was a state-of-the-art biogas digester. Together, BSA and Herold (another family-owned business) invested 1.3 Million DM and patented the new technology. Unfortunately, before the project could be launched, the German government decided that only conventional biogas plants could be subsidized. That brought an end to all new designs, including Langer’s, and further investment into the design ceased. In the meantime, however, Langer’s design caught the attention of Prof. Schaeffer, Head of the Research Institute of Herbology at the University of Kassel, during a search at the Patent Office. Schaeffer, a professor emeritus, worked with his colleague Mr. Goetz, whose engineering office for alternative energy was located in Kiel, Germany. Together, Schaeffer and Goetz supervised a pilot project located on the University’s campus that studied gas yields produced by a conventional facility. With Langer's small test unit they were able to produce in 10 days the same amount of gas per cubic meter fermenter with the existing fermenter over a period of 70 days. Although Prof. Schaeffer achieved such phantastic results with Langer's design, finanical institutions were not prepared to invest into a 500 kW facility, which Mr. Goetz and Prof. Schaeffer had planned.
In 1997, Langer married his present wife Sabine and together they welcomed the arrival of their daughter Janine Langer later that year. Sabine and Janine are very active in the Bayreuth community.
Before the old patent expired, Langer successfully remodelled the Herold rotary lobe pumps with an outstanding and innovative design of the positive displacement pump that produced the lowest pulsation rate and energy consumption worldwide. He again had his new design patented globally and was happy that he was the first to patent the idea.
Since Langer assumed control of Herold in 1997, both he and the company have seen the German and global economies rise and fall. Despite the struggles of a challenged economy, Herold, under Langer’s leadership, managed to stay positive and flexible, always looking for new ways to market the products manufactured at the foundry in Gefrees and creating new and innovative ideas for manufacture and distribution. When it comes to business, Langer’s ideas of research and development are always foremost in his thoughts, as is his need to maintain a productive facility that employs a staff of almost 100 employees, and supports and promotes the local economy.
Langer not only looks to the world market for new ideas. He observes his surroundings too. He is always conscious of the working conditions of his staff and is constantly looking for ways to improve those conditions. His knowledge of ergonomics have allowed an aging staff to continue working in a far more comfortable and safe environment.
In 2012, at the age of 63, instead of planning for his retirement (as were many of his friends), Gerd Michael Langer decided to expand Herold’s business by adding another building on the Gefrees factory site for the operation of an advanced melting installation. The grand opening of the building was scheduled for July 2013, but Langer’s plans were interrupted when he learned that he required surgery on his knee. Not one to be held down, he underwent the required surgery and an additional slipped disk treatment and managed to escape from his hospital treatment just in time to oversee the opening ceremony of the new melting installation and tell the story of Herold's success since his acquisition in 1997.
At this celebration, Mr. Trunk, President of the German Chamber of Commerce, emphasized Langers outstanding personality and creativity and presented Langer with an award for Herold’s decade-long, co-operative membership in the Gefrees community. Harald Schlegel, Mayor of Gefrees, praised Langer for his endurance in the face of critical, worldwide economic conditions, and the vice president of County Commissioner Hübner delivered a eulogy of Langer’s achievements and exceptional ideas.
Not long after that, while on vacation in Croatia, Langer met with an accident requiring that he be airlifted back to Bayreuth. His broken hip resulted in a hospital stay to stabilize the break by implanting an artificial joint, and an extensive stay in the Bayreuth Rehabilitation Centre where he had to learn to walk again.
The knee surgery and the other accidents kept Langer out of the office for more than half of 2013, but he continued to work from home and, in January 2014, Herold unveiled a newly designed bionic cutter for biogas digesters at the world's largest biogas exhibition held in Nuremberg, Germany. Interest in the bionic cutter was overwhelmingly positive. In February 2014, Langer finally returned to the office full-time and continues to lead Herold with his innovative ideas and dedicated leadership.
Gerd Michael Langer often reflects on the challenges that he faced during the ten years that he lived in Canada and how those challenges helped shape his determination and perseverance. His favourite anecdotes illustrate his struggles and frustrations around the marketing of his advanced farm systems, which he initially developed for medium-sized barns of the Hutterite Colonies, and eventually to embellished a state-of-the-art high-tech farming project. Langer shares his experiences here, but warns that, while they are written to the best of his recollection, readers must excuse any inaccuracies that may be tainted by the passing of time.
Herold & Co. GmbH Hauptstraße 12 95482 Gefrees Germany / Deutschland
Telephone: +49 (0) 9254 970-0
Fax: +49 9254 970-40
Register court: Amtsgericht Bayreuth
Companies' register: Amtsgericht Bayreuth Nr. 446
CEO: Dipl. Ind. Designer Gerd Michael Langer
VAT No: DE 132359794
Matthias Haas E-Mail: email@example.com
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