Rhomberg Group: Transition to a Technology Company Gains Momentum
Record year for both business divisions – Construction focuses on product and process excellence – Rail technology drives expansion of rail infrastructure internationally – Investments in circular economy
Bregenz, September 8, 2021 – Just a year ago, it was uncertain how the pandemic would reflect in the financial figures of the Rhomberg Group. Now, as of the balance sheet date of March 31, 2021, another record result has been recorded. With an operating performance of 811 million euros, the previous year's turnover of 782 million euros was exceeded. Growth in the past fiscal year was driven by both business sectors: The construction sector increased by around nine million to 345 million euros. And the Rhomberg Sersa Rail Group, in which Rhomberg holds a 50% stake, was able to expand its turnover by 17 million euros to 466 million euros. The number of employees increased cumulatively by a good 12 percent from 3,032 to around 3,400, with about 40 million euros being spent on capital investments.
For the managing directors DI Hubert Rhomberg and Mag. Ernst Thurnher, this positive development is further evidence that "construction and rail are and remain among the most stable and fastest-growing sectors of the industry." The demand for qualified personnel is therefore steadily increasing. The company presents itself as an attractive employer with diverse prospects. "Through our transformation from a traditional construction and rail company to a technology company, we no longer only address construction professionals, although we are still actively looking for them for our core areas," says Hubert Rhomberg. "However, we are increasingly on the lookout for IT professionals and tech-savvy individuals who are keen to solve problems and create innovative products."
Impetus for growth market Eastern Austria
In Vienna in particular, the signs point to expansion. The opportunities in the Vienna-Lower Austria region, where those responsible currently see the greatest growth potential, are to be exploited even better in the future. "Our existing location will therefore be upgraded and strengthened in terms of personnel," informs Ernst Thurnher. The goal is to increase the turnover of the Viennese company to 100 million euros. Once again, innovative product developments are expected to drive success. For example, the wooden modular construction "WoodRocks", thanks to high prefabrication, optimized planning, and lean management, offers great potential for the construction of multi-story, flexible living space.
A focal point is the prestige project around the Vienna broadcasting house. In early July, the revitalization of the first building section directly on Argentinierstraße began. The modernization of the building is intended to be the prelude to a comprehensive further development of the historically significant broadcasting house property. The plan is for a use that offers a balanced mix of residential property and offers in the cultural sector – for example, with cultural and educational institutions – and in the work area, i.e., creative facilities, start-ups, or investors.
In addition to the broadcasting house, more than 3,300 buildings in the federal capital are listed as historical monuments. A renovation is usually highly complex, and costs often skyrocket. The company "DenkMalNeo", founded by Rhomberg Bau and the German restoration specialist JaKo Baudenkmalpflege, offers owners of historical monuments in Vienna and the surrounding area competent support from a single source – and at a fixed price. "From planning to execution to marketing, we have the expertise of all trades in-house," reports Hubert Rhomberg. "This allows us to provide comprehensive, competent, and reliable advice, breathe new life into buildings with a history, and also offer cost certainty."
Partner for revitalization and affordable housing
In Vorarlberg, the renovation experts from Rhomberg Bau are also in demand. New life is being breathed into the traditional Posthotel Taube in Schruns, where Ernest Hemingway once stayed. At the beginning of the year, after intensive planning, the extensive general renovation and expansion of the house began. Within two years, the existing building will be carefully revitalized, and a two-story wellness area and an underground car park will be added.
In September 2020, the groundbreaking ceremony for the first developer project by Sohm HolzBautechnik took place in Alberschwende. In cooperation with Rhomberg Bau and Wohnbauselbsthilfe, the "Schwarzen" residential area will be built by summer 2022. Two of the four wooden buildings with shingle facades will be built by Sohm as developers and sold as condominiums. Rental and rent-to-own apartments for Wohnbauselbsthilfe are being created in the other two buildings. Rhomberg acts as the general contractor, with Sohm responsible for the timber construction work.
Sustainable buildings for the Lake Constance region
Rhomberg Germany is developing a developer project in Friedrichshafen. "In Hünistraße, we are upgrading a commercial area to attractive, inner-city living space with 25 units," says Ernst Thurnher. "Among other things, the plan is to remove the complete surface sealing and plant a 'green lung' with high biodiversity."
In neighboring St. Gallen, in the municipality of Teufen, Rhomberg is building a modern apartment building under the catchy name "Mulino Lustmühle". Eleven high-quality residential units in the middle of the green offer quality of life for young and old. This is the first property project of Gallusberg AG, a subsidiary of Rhomberg Bau and the Swiss Morant Group.
And for the Zurich Freilager AG, the joint venture Goldbeck-Rhomberg is transforming the Embraport, the largest logistics hub in the Zurich region, into a beacon for green logistics. On behalf of Zurich Freilager AG, the specialist for economic system building solutions is constructing a three-story logistics building and a four-story office complex that meet the highest standards for sustainable construction. An energy center supplies the buildings and subsequently controls the energy flows of the entire area, which will be comprehensively revitalized by 2025 and adapted to the needs of modern logistics.
Last but not least, Rhomberg was also active in the area of "nature conservation measures", which includes measures to protect against natural events and clean-up work after disasters. For example, a large-scale flood protection project was implemented in Lochau. "It can be assumed that this business area will unfortunately gain in importance in the future," the managing directors agree.
Rhomberg Sersa Rail Group: from Chamonix to Sydney
The EU declared 2021 the Year of Rail. Not only in Europe is the globally active joint venture Rhomberg Sersa Rail Group successfully driving numerous projects to expand rail transport. With the Koralmtunnel, the 33-kilometer-long centerpiece of the Koralmbahn between Graz and Klagenfurt, the ARGE partners PORR and Rhomberg Bahntechnik won a follow-up order. After the construction and commissioning of the fixed track, the rail technology specialists will be responsible for and execute the rail technical equipment of the infrastructure project. On the largest construction site to date, Rhomberg is thus actively involved from the shell construction to completion. The proportional order volume is around 110 million euros.
In neighboring Switzerland, Sersa Switzerland completed the penultimate construction phase of the cogwheel railway line from Chamonix to Montenvers. Since 2012, the rail technicians have been working in sections on the renovation of the infrastructure, with the project completion scheduled for 2022. In addition, the Swiss colleagues from SBB and Zentralbahn in Lucerne were entrusted with the renewal of the local freight station. By April 2022, as part of the introduction of a second track and the refurbishment of existing rail facilities, among other things, 35 switches are to be installed and 4,200 new track meters are to be laid.
The rail technology division has also firmly established itself in Germany. Together with the construction company Züblin and the DB Bahnbau Group, Rhomberg was awarded a contract as part of the major project "Stuttgart 21" with an investment sum of 142 million euros. At the new Stuttgart rail hub, among other things, 41 kilometers of fixed track, 72 switches, and two crossings are to be realized. Hubert Rhomberg particularly emphasizes the section between the Fildertunnel and the Neckar crossing at Wendlingen: "Since we are already responsible for the fixed track on the high-speed line between Wendlingen and Ulm in another ARGE, we can ensure the seamless connection of the new sections." In the UK, Rhomberg Sersa UK secured a contract to lower the track in the Yarm Tunnel on the railway line between Northallerton and Eaglescliffe with a convincing preliminary plan. And finally, in Down Under, RKR Engineering and Rhomberg Rail Australia demonstrated their expertise in modernizing the platform of the Sydney Harbour Bridge on behalf of the railway company Sydney Trains.
Circular economy: valuable material instead of waste
Not just figuratively, everything is on track at the Resource Center Rheintal (RCR). A container terminal is currently being built there to transport gravel, sand, and other building materials increasingly via its own rail connection. Already, 100,000 tons are delivered by rail every year, and in the future, it will be 250,000 tons. The truck share will drop from 150,000 tons to just 20,000 tons. This means saving at least 25 truck trips every working day.
Responsible handling of resources is an essential part of the "Rhomberg DNA". Rhomberg's big goal is to optimize the material cycle in Vorarlberg so that hardly any waste is created, but rather valuable material, says Hubert Rhomberg: "In addition to continuing the quarry, we are investing more than twelve million euros in processing plants and infrastructure at the Hohenems site to ensure local supply in the country with high-quality resources." Another 13 million euros are being invested by the Rhomberg participation MIGU-Asphalt on its company premises in Lustenau. By March 2022, the existing asphalt mixing plant will be demolished and completely rebuilt. A new office building with a storage hall and workshop is also being built. In the future, the company will be able to process a significantly higher proportion of recycled material and save up to 1,000 tons of CO₂ per year.
Rhomberg is particularly proud of the new wet processing plant, which is expected to go into operation on the RCR site in autumn 2022: "Thanks to this plant, we can accept almost any excavation and process it in such a way that hardly any material has to be deposited." In total, the plant – currently probably the most powerful of its kind in Austria – will wash, separate, and recycle 200,000 tons of excavated soil every year. Real circular economy is within reach.
On digital paths into the future
There are numerous ideas, initiatives, and projects throughout the company that shape the overall picture of Rhomberg as a pioneer in terms of sustainability, innovation, and digitization. And new ones are constantly being added. For example, since last December, Rhomberg Sersa has been a partner of the research institution EuroTube, which is researching and developing possibilities for a sustainable high-speed transport system. With speeds of 1,000 km/h, rail vehicles will then glide through vacuum tubes – revolutionizing land transport. "Our contribution will be to create the basis for this future project through targeted optimization of our fixed-track technology," says Hubert Rhomberg.
The digital construction site is already a reality for Rhomberg Sersa: In five digitization projects with Swisscom, the rail experts are currently testing and planning how rail construction can be made safer, more economical, and more efficient. Microsoft recently awarded Swisscom the global "Internet of Things" partner award for this cooperation. "The 'digital construction site' was able to prevail in this category from a total of 4,400 applications worldwide," the entrepreneur is pleased about the success. "This is a great confirmation of our efforts to advance innovative technologies in practice by incorporating our construction know-how into our own hardware and software solutions."
On the way to becoming a modern technology provider with a focus on construction and rail, the Rhomberg Group is picking up more and more speed. To be able to shift up a gear, personnel investments were also made in the "Data Intelligence" area. The aim is to analyze and optimize the family company's data management, thereby creating the basis for process and service excellence in operational business and establishing new business models as a third pillar.