We – Which means both every individual as well as all Zeppelin employees as a whole are responsible for implementing our mission statement. We act across departments and countries in the interests of our customers.
Create – We plan, organize, shape, repair, calculate, analyze, manufacture, process and advise. Individually, considerately and reliably, for every customer.
Solutions – We find a lasting solution to meet the needs of every customer. This increases customer satisfaction and ensures our success.
…the integrity of our employees. As ambassadors for our culture, they epitomize our values of fairness, respect and transparency with respect to compliance, and they put these values into practice in their day-to-day work.
…the excellence of our employees. As reliable, dynamic partners, they recognize the needs of our customers and, with their wide-ranging knowledge of our products and services, are able to deliver outstanding solutions.
At the heart of this Zeppelin system of values are ten "Grafensätze". They link our unique company history and the values actively lived by Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin to the culture practiced in the Group today.
On August 4, 1908, Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin set off on a 24-hour test flight with his airship LZ 4. After a successful voyage, the airship made a stopover near Echterdingen, where it was caught in a squall. It struck a tree and burst into flames. Graf Zeppelin could only stand and look at the ruins of his life’s work, as his private fortune was virtually exhausted. But when the news of the Graf’s fate reached the general public, they were more than ready to help. Many people showed their solidarity by launching an appeal for donations, which raised the huge sum of six million marks. This money allowed Graf Zeppelin to continue his airship project and he established the company Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH, as well as the Zeppelin Foundation.
Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin was able to clear a giant hurdle – thanks to his fellow human beings, who believed in him. By way of a thank-you, and to give something back to the community, he established the Zeppelin Foundation. This is now a shareholder of the Zeppelin Group, which puts part of its profits back into the Foundation to be used in support of charitable and community initiatives. This readiness to help and solidarity give the Zeppelin Group a solid foundation. We work hand-in-hand, are mutually supportive and think beyond departmental and national boundaries. A collaboration built on trust that has the confidence of our customers, business partners and the public is only natural, as far as we are concerned. We show our motivation in everything we do, and achieve our aims because we are not afraid of hard work. Together we create the best solutions.
One of the milestones of aviation history was the foundation of the first passenger airline in the world, in 1909. Deutsche Luftschiffahrts-Aktiengesellschaft (DELAG) operated the commercial airships built by the Friedrichshafen-based Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH. A total of 34,000 passengers took off in Zeppelin airships between 1910 and 1913 alone. A genuinely pioneering achievement that made flying possible for many more people. It also laid the foundation for the first scheduled intercontinental flights. The most successful rigid airship was the LZ 127, “Graf Zeppelin”. It is thanks to Graf Zeppelin’s efforts that it was possible to set up a regular non-stop transatlantic flight connection between Friedrichshafen and Lakehurst, near New York. He overcame boundaries and after the First World War, was able to unite former enemies.
Mobility does not just mean covering distances. It also signifies willpower, courage, flexibility, a willingness to change and overcoming boundaries. As Zeppelin employees, this is exactly how we see things. Wheth¬er in the workshop, in field service or in the office – in our day-to-day business, we sometimes face obstacles that need to be overcome. These could be delivery times, availabilities or budgets. Here at Zeppelin, we have one thing in common: We have the know-how and ambition to clear hurdles and can always find a suitable solution. And more than that, we have the confidence to forge new paths for products and services. This also requires the courage to embrace change. We impress our customers with the premium quality of our products and solutions, and stand up to our competitors.
“But I have a clear objective and my calculations are correct.” With this as his creed, Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin set about building the first steerable airships. But Graf Zeppelin and his airship project were viewed with skepticism, especially to start with. He was mocked in public for the most part, and people described him as the “fool from Lake Constance”. Kaiser Wilhelm II even called Graf Zeppelin “the biggest Southern German idiot of all time”. But the tide turned with the successful maiden voyage in 1900. Kaiser Wilhelm II promptly changed his opinion and called Graf Zeppelin the “greatest German of the century”. It was only much later that the Graf was respected and appreciated.
Here at Zeppelin we are appreciative, respectful and fair in our day-to-day dealings with one another. This applies to colleagues, customers and business partners in exactly the same way as competitors, shareholders and the general public. We show our social skills as employees of a foundation-owned company. We treat one another as equals and accept one another without any form of discrimination. No-one is judged by gender, nationality, religion or culture. We benefit equally from years of experience and youthful flexibility – because we remember that Graf Zeppelin was already over 60 when he launched his first airship. His head engineer, Ludwig Dürr, was in his early twenties at the time.
In 1908, Graf Zeppelin established the Zeppelin Foundation and the company Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH. By so doing, Graf Zeppelin made possible the emergence of the Zeppelin Group. In the decades that followed, he also realized his idea of a steerable airship with a number of companies containing all the necessary skills for a long-term commitment. For example, the need for extremely robust engines and transmissions led to the foundation of what is now ZF Friedrichshafen, and MTU (now Rolls-Royce Power Systems), as well as Dornier Flugtechnik, the basis for today’s EADS at Lake Constance. The colloquial name for these companies is “Zeppelin’s heirs”. Graf Zeppelin set up all the companies so that they had the innovative products to exist in the world markets for the long term, independently of airship construction. It is not least thanks to this far-sighted strategy that the succeeding companies achieve sales figures in the billions and employ more than a hundred thousand people worldwide.
“Zeppelin’s heirs” provide secure jobs, and the dividends and taxes allow them to support projects with a social, cultural and educational focus. Thanks to the shareholder structure, actions in the Zeppelin Group are not geared to short-term profit targets, but are instead guided by long-term and sustainable strategies. It is thanks to the entrepreneurial personality of Graf Zeppelin that today we can continue to develop Zeppelin under the unique auspices of the foundation ideal. This shareholder structure brings our customers considerable advantages: They can rely on the high quality of our product and services portfolio in the long term. This is signified by the Zeppelin name itself, and by the names of each of our manufacturing partners. Our business partners can always rely on this. This is also the basis for a partnership with Caterpillar that has lasted for more than 60 years.
Hugo Eckener (1868–1954) was part of Graf Zeppelin’s inner circle and this airship commander was well-known to the general public from his non-stop flight over the Atlantic in 1924. He later became a manager of the Deutsche Luftschiffahrts-Aktiengesellschaft (DELAG). The National Socialists were hungry for power and wanted to use Eckener’s enormous popularity and the symbolic power of the airship for propaganda purposes. But Eckener was a liberal-minded man who was a critical opponent of Nazi ideology right from the start, and he resisted to the best of his ability. He also found fault with Joseph Goebbels’ demand for the airships to drop propaganda material. After this refusal, Goebbels ordered that the name of Hugo Eckener could never again be mentioned in the newspapers and on the radio. But despite this, Hugo Eckener remained steadfast until the end of the war.
We uphold a culture of open and direct conflict at Zeppelin. As employees, we contribute our experience and opinions, right from the start. We argue our points objectively, straightforwardly, and with great respect for others. With regard to compliance, we also avoid conflicts of interest and dependencies. People who work at Zeppelin show backbone, strength of character and courage. Part of our understanding of management is that a decision that has been made is not “set in stone” for ever, but is regularly examined. We recognize the need for changes and are resolute in carrying them out. And here too, we aspire to always be fair and straightforward in our actions.
One of Graf Zeppelin’s great abilities was that he could inspire and win over young and talented individuals such as Ludwig Dürr, Hugo Eckener or Claude Dornier to work on and support his project. Initially, Hugo Eckener in his role as newspaper correspondent for the Frankfurter Zeitung, was one of Graf Zeppelin’s greatest critics. But despite this, he succeeded in convincing Eckener about his airship project – and thus began a collaboration that was to last for decades. Eckener took charge of the Deutsche Luftschiffahrts-Aktiengesellschaft (DELAG), which was founded in 1909. One of his major successes came in 1924, the crossing of the Atlantic by a Zeppelin airship to Lakehurst near New York.
We convince our customers about our ideas by presenting logical and coherent arguments. The basis for this is that our employees deal considerately and openly with one another. We fill important key positions with the right people, matching specialist competences to the required functions. Our guiding principle is as follows: “It is not the best eleven at their sport that play, it is the best team”. Each individual should be able to contribute their skills, and deal fairly with their colleagues. We engage in an open, solution-oriented dialog. We also make sure that our feedback is appreciative and improves the situation. We respect the decisions made on this basis, in order to achieve the best possible outcome.
On August 13, 1898, the Imperial Patent Office in Berlin granted Graf Zeppelin a patent for a “steerable airship” (dirigible). His airship designs were thus legally protected and formed the technical basis for the LZ 1 and the airships that followed. In this initial phase, Graf Zeppelin had many challenges to overcome. But despite repeated setbacks, he firmly believed in his project: He was quoted as saying, “in order to succeed at something, you only have to want to, and believe you can”. And it worked, because more than 25 airships were completed by 1914 alone.
The know-how obtained from airship construction brought about the birth of the Zeppelin Group as we know it today. At the end of the Second World War, Zeppelin Luftschiffbau GmbH did not have its own product, so containers, antennas and cabins were put onto the market as new products on a transitional basis. It was the expertise from airship construction, in other words the ability to maintain engines, transmissions and vehicles, which led in 1954 to the unique collaboration with Caterpillar. What started as a sales and service contract with Caterpillar for West Germany and West Berlin, developed over the decades into an international Group operating in 30 countries throughout the world at 190 locations. We now create pioneering solutions for construction equipment, rental, construction logistics, drive and energy systems, and plant engineering. And we had to keep starting over – after German reunification, for example, when a totally new sales network had to be set up in what were then the new federal states, or when antenna production was discontinued because of the advent of satellite technology. We confront the change in our environment and our markets with great initiative and perseverance. We maintain our course, even if something does not run according to plan straightaway, and look for suitable solutions. We are quick to identify opportunities for new business models and make use of the potential they offer us.
New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo – these were stops on a voyage with airship LZ 127 that took place in 1929. The Zeppelin airship circumnavigated the globe within 35 days, setting off from tranquil Friedrichshafen on Lake Constance and covering nearly 50,000 kilometers in six stages. The voyage was in keeping with the spirit of the times, as the emergence of mobility allowed people to cross great distances. The journey was announced by the world’s media, and was met with great enthusiasm by the general public. The passengers and crew were welcomed by a grand parade on landing in New York, and around 40,000 onlookers cheered the airship when it landed safely back on German soil on September 4.
At Zeppelin, we know that our enthusiasm for our work is the basis for our business success. Because it is our enthusiasm that ensures that we achieve remarkable things. A positive attitude, openness to new ideas, and curiosity are basic requirements. We work hard at improving our servicing and engineering for our customers, using innovative solutions and products from our manufacturing partners such as Caterpillar. Because we are committed to identifying the needs of our customers as effectively as possible, and putting together a customized proposal from our numerous and diverse services. The success of this combination of enthusiasm and customer focus is reflected in the satisfaction of our customers, who then also have confidence in our problem-solving ability for future projects.
Graf Zeppelin’s airship project was accompanied by a number of failures and low points. 12 out of 19 airships were destroyed in accidents before 1913 alone. But thanks to his pronounced willingness to learn and to change, he pushed ahead with constructing airships. So the LZ 4, which began operation in 1908, was a significant development of the “steerable airship” design for which a patent had been applied ten years previously. And Graf Zeppelin used the six million marks that had been collected in the wake of the Echterdingen accident in 1908 to establish Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH and the Zeppelin Foundation. He also introduced national airship aviation, as the next model in line, the LZ 5, was built as a civilian airship.
What sets us apart as Zeppelin employees is our courage to make decisions and forge new paths. This includes learning from mistakes, which fosters courage in business. Making an error, or sometimes making the wrong decision, is not a major problem. On the other hand, not learning from this error, or repeating the error, is a major problem. But this should not encourage us to innocently take risks without a sense of responsibility. It is more a question of exploring new approaches to a solution without fear. After a failure, it is important to bounce back and plan a new and improved attempt. Making decisions is often uncomfortable, not making decisions however, is dangerous. Failure must be seen as a chance to be stronger and smarter in tackling the objective. Establishing this culture of learning and knowing is a necessary requirement, if innovations are to have a lasting impact.
Despite his advanced age, Graf Zeppelin followed his idea of developing an airship with single-minded determination, and established a team of young and talented individuals around him. Like 21-year old Ludwig Dürr, who became an airship designer with Graf Zeppelin and the technical director of airship construction. In 1913, the Graf also engaged young Claude Dornier as head of the new test department for building flying boats. In 1910, Graf Zeppelin was able to win over Alfred Graf von Soden-Fraunhofen to his team. He was tasked with developing engines and transmissions for airships, subsequently taking over the establishment of a dedicated gearwheel factory. Graf Zeppelin found a suitable engine designer in 30-year old Karl Maybach, whose ideas had previously failed at Daimler, and who would later become the director of what is now MTU.
Today we take our lead from Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin in encouraging and developing our employees and talented individuals. He showed us how to attract good employees and build successful teams. Graf Zeppelin gave his employees the freedom to develop independently. The Graf’s attitude is still relevant today for encouraging our employees and is a crucial criterion in our commercial success. Thousands of people of different nationalities work together in totally different roles at individual companies all over the world. Our diversity is our strength. Furthermore, we are held together and brought ever closer together by our mutual understanding of values. And not only do we live these values every day in our working practice, we also take them with us outside the company – whether in dealing with our business partners, our customers or potential new employees.
The Zeppelin Group’s success is based on the GPS strategy, which stands for growth, performance, and stability. The common goal is to keep all these aspects in balance and to expand them further.
Growth targets constant growth in the Group. Based on established business models and new, future-oriented business areas, the company’s range of services is constantly expanded in order to safeguard its competitiveness.
Performance stands for the outstanding achievements of Zeppelin employees. They recognize their customer’s needs, use their skills in a targeted way, and offer perfectly tailored solutions.
Stability targets sustainable stability in the Group. Weighing up opportunities and risks in decision-making processes creates an environment that offers long-term stability, thereby safeguarding the company’s sustainability.