Is there a better venue for presenting inspiring stories than the building where they all started? Together with their team, Maria Würth and Carla Mannschedel aim to amaze visitors with their Kocherwerk design. And they have done just that, by preparing historical themes in interactive and digital formats.
Just a few months after the grand opening in the summer of 2021, Kocherwerk is already a resounding success with its presentation of the remarkable historical development and present state of the screw and fastener industry in the Hohenlohe region. This is largely thanks to the initiator of the project, Prof. Dr. h. c. mult. Reinhold Würth, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Würth Group’s Family Trusts, who approached the companies in the cluster with his idea for the first time in 2017. But it is also due to the extraordinary history of the region and the team led by Maria Würth and Carla Mannschedel from the Würth Group’s Art and Culture department. About four years later, Maria Würth said: “It’s great to see how excited people are about the exhibition and surprised in some cases by what’s hidden in this thematic cluster.”
The cluster is made up of around 30 companies from the Heilbronn-Franken region with over 10,000 employees. Companies with a hundred years of history and thousands of employees come together with young enterprises with a staff of 10 to 20. All 19 members of the non-profit association of patrons for the Hohenlohe Screw and Fastener Cluster (Schrauben- und Befestigungsclusters Hohenlohe e. V.), which was founded in 2018, now have room to share their history in a storytelling room at the landmarked red mill in Forchtenberg-Ernsbach. The mill itself has an exciting past: A mill in Ernsbach was first documented in 1378. In 1898, the former mill building became home to the screw and ironware factory L. & C. Arnold, the first screw business in the Kochertal valley. The red mill is therefore considered the cradle of the region’s fastening industry.
“HERE YOU CAN EXPERIENCE HISTORY FIRST HAND WITH OUR WHIMSICAL EXHIBITION.” Maria Würth
This was possible thanks to the innovative presentation of the topic. Products from the fastening cluster can be tested hands on in the laboratory, while an interactive quiz on the screw wheel entertains visitors of all ages. Visitors can listen to recorded interviews with the founders in the comfortable sofa lounge, providing a glimpse into the histories of the companies. A workshop serves as a multifunctional space for conferences and events, where it is also possible to work on modern workshop trolleys and workbenches.
The two project managers are particularly fond of one exhibit. “The card for the inauguration of the exhibition means a lot to us,” said Maria Würth. Carla Mannschedel explained why: “It presents the member companies of the association in short videos and describes the fundamental idea behind Kocherwerk in combination with the videos: It is meant to be a modern club house run by many different companies and acting as a meeting point for all of those companies and their workers, as well as for the citizens of Heilbronn-Franken.”
This modern club house is now significantly bigger and more impressive than planned at the start of the project. “Originally, we were thinking more of a small exhibition with exhibits and plaques,” explained Maria Würth, who is also part of the association’s board. “Now it has turned into an interactive, cross-cutting exhibition on 400 square meters of space. We would never have imagined that.” Both are happy with the effect Kocherwerk has on the visitors. Many see the visit as a defining experience and a major attraction. “The visitors are often from the region or know the companies and their employees. It’s nice to hear them say things like: ‘My grandpa worked at the company for 30 years,’” said Carla Mannschedel.
From the vision to the grand opening in four years
Reinhold Würth proposed the idea ten years ago, he then took the initiative in 2017, and in 2018 the Hohenlohe Screw and Fastener Cluster association became a reality. When Kocherwerk was opened in June 2021, 19 regional companies had already joined the association. “It was something completely new for all of us,” said Würth, “and at the same time a great fellowship between the different companies.”
It is not just the content of this historical, technological, and regional mix that makes a good impression. Recently, Kocherwerk received the 2022 German Design Award in the Special Mention category. “The functional and modern design radiates warmth, and its numerous interactive stations invite visitors to explore playfully. The venue stays true to its history and creates room for something new,” clarified the jury. It is another impressive signal that broadcasts the region and its industry out into the world.