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ESMT Case Study

Heraeus: Mid-size company striving for global market leadership

ESMT Case Study No. ESMT-316-0174-1
Strategy and general management
Solar cells, manufacturing, chemicals, marketing, strategy, Asia, China, Germany, mid-size company, firm structure, hidden champions
JEL Code(s)
L65, L10, L22
The case study describes developments at Heraeus, a successful mid-size company from Germany that markets a wide range of high-grade precious metal products worldwide. It presents the developments of the segment that is active on the market for silver pastes for photovoltaic systems. This market had experienced strong shifts in demand since 2011 – firstly from Europe and North America to Asia, particularly China, and secondly from standard products to customized product solutions. Due to these developments Heraeus had lost its market leadership and recruited Andreas Liebheit as the new head of the segment, who was to get it back on a successful track. The participants will discuss what strategic decisions Andreas Liebheit should make to counter the market developments and what implications these decisions will have in particular on marketing and sales, the global organization structure and leadership culture of the segment. Beyond the strategic aspect, the case can serve to explore what conclusions Heraeus should draw on a company-wide level from the developments of the segment.
  • Analyzing situation and trends on a technology-driven, global B2B market.
  • Understanding challenges and opportunities of small/medium companies (‘hidden champions’) when competing with big corporations in niche markets.
  • Reflecting options of changing business strategy and reviewing their implications, in particular regarding:
    • the global distribution of the internal value chain of a company
    • leadership culture when shifting the business focus from the western hemisphere to Asia
    • HR requirements when moving from product to solution business
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