Wah­lers Forst­tech­nik: Three decades—three gene­ra­tions

Ponsse and the Ger­man dea­ler Wah­lers Forst­tech­nik have grown toget­her during their 30-year coo­pe­ra­tion. The foun­da­tion for this was laid by Einari Vidgrén and Hans Wah­lers.

The linear dis­tance between Stem­men, Wah­lers Forsttechnik’s headquar­ters, and Vie­remä, Fin­land, is 1,540 km. By land, this is a dri­ving dis­tance of 2,318 km. When a part­ners­hip works over such a long dis­tance, it is mainly due to the people invol­ved.


In 1934, Johann Wah­lers and his wife Erna foun­ded a blacks­mith shop in a small vil­lage cal­led Lauenbrück in Lower Saxony. Especially in the period after the Second World War, this was a tough busi­ness. It took a lot of impro­vi­sa­tio­nal talent to keep the far­mers’ mac­hi­nes ope­ra­tio­nal. His son, Hans Wah­lers, wor­ked in the blacks­mith shop as a child. He trai­ned in this pro­fes­sion, gai­ned out­side expe­rience, and retur­ned to his parents’ busi­ness and pas­sed his mas­ter craftsman’s exa­mi­na­tion. The times were event­ful. Tech­no­logy was deve­lo­ping rapidly. And the blacksmith’s job desc­rip­tion chan­ged: the focus was no lon­ger on shoeing hor­ses and the manu­fac­ture or repair of simple agricul­tu­ral equip­ment, but on the sale and main­te­nance of complex mac­hi­nes, such as loa­ding equip­ment. In addi­tion, Wah­lers took over a repre­sen­ta­tion of the trac­tor manu­fac­tu­rer Deutz. Wah­lers also specia­li­sed in the con­struc­tion of fairground vehicles.


Hans Wah­lers took over his father’s well-establis­hed busi­ness in 1971. The rea­son he got invol­ved in fore­stry tech­no­logy was a fully equip­ped ser­vice vehicle that enabled him to carry out dif­ficult repairs directly on site. It was just what he nee­ded to help the Scan­di­na­vian fore­stry cont­rac­tors who were wor­king with their mac­hi­nes in nort­hern Ger­many to clear the damage caused by a large storm. The occa­sion was a severe hur­ricane named Quim­burga, which raged across nort­hern Ger­many in Novem­ber 1972. It was the stron­gest hur­ricane of the 20th cen­tury, destro­ying 17 mil­lion cubic meters of tim­ber in Cent­ral Europe. Inci­den­tally, among those fore­stry cont­rac­tors was one cer­tain Einari Vidgrén from Vie­remä, Fin­land, who had made his way to Ger­many with his first forwar­der.

When the storm wood had been proces­sed, refo­res­ta­tion began. This pro­ved to be very dif­ficult due to the large mass of log­ging resi­due. Hans Wah­lers knew how to remedy the situa­tion. He deve­lo­ped the Räum­fix for moun­ting on fore­stry trac­tors — a device that is still built today and sold worldwide.


It was a good thing that Einari Vidgrén had made the move from being a fore­stry cont­rac­tor to being a manu­fac­tu­rer of fore­stry mac­hi­nes. At the Elmia Wood Exhi­bi­tion 1993 in Swe­den, the two sig­ned a part­ners­hip agree­ment between Ponsse and Wah­lers Forst­tech­nik. When pro­duc­tion of the Bea­ver discon­ti­nued, the import, sale and ser­vice of Ponsse har­ves­ters and forwar­ders became the basis of the busi­ness. An impor­tant and unique sel­ling point was the Ponsse Opti, which was the only sys­tem on the mar­ket that met the requi­re­ments of com­mercial class sor­ting that were valid at the time.


Hans and his wife Lola Wah­lers were very lucky with their daugh­ters. Anne and Monika both saw their future in the family busi­ness. Howe­ver, he was just as lucky with his sons-in-law Ralf Dreeke and Mic­hael Rath­jen, who also saw it the same way. They took over the mana­ge­ment of Wah­lers Forst­tech­nik in 1999. A sig­ni­ficant step in the same year was the con­struc­tion and ope­ning of a second com­pany headquar­ters in Uffen­heim-Lan­gens­tei­nach, con­ve­niently loca­ted on the A7 highway. From there, Wah­lers Forst­tech­nik took care of the sout­hern Ger­man mar­ket. In 2007, the com­pany was rebuilt in Stem­men in the north, and both loca­tions have since been moder­ni­sed and expan­ded seve­ral times. In 2015, a third loca­tion was added in Ilme­nau, Thu­rin­gia Under the forward-thin­king lea­ders­hip of Ralf Dreeke and Mic­hael Rath­jen, Wah­lers Forst­tech­nik has grown into a com­pany with 130 emplo­yees and is the lar­gest Ponsse dea­ler worldwide.

The two com­pa­nies fit toget­her very well: both are family-owned, and both always focus on the cus­to­mer. Ger­many is a par­ticu­larly inte­res­ting mar­ket for Ponsse. From tim­ber har­ves­ting in wet areas to steep slo­pes, eve­ryt­hing occurs there. The con­tact with the deve­lo­pers in Fin­land is cor­res­pon­dingly close, and they value the opi­nion of their Ger­man sales part­ner. In addi­tion, many com­po­nents for the Ponsse mac­hi­nes come from Ger­many.


Ralf Dreeke and Mic­hael Rath­jen are gra­dually with­drawing from day-to-day busi­ness. Howe­ver, they con­ti­nue to work Ralf Dreeke, Einari Vidgren, Hans Wah­lers ja Mic­hael Rath­jen Wah­lers-Pons­sen celebra­ting Ponsse´s and Wah­lers 10 years coo­pe­ra­tion in 2003 for the industry and main­tain cus­to­mer con­tacts. Marius Dreeke, son of Anne and Ralf, and Gerit Koch, hus­band of Mar­lene Rath­jen-Koch, daugh­ter of Monika and Mic­hael, have taken over as mana­ging part­ners. Both have been wor­king in the busi­ness for a long time. Gerit is pri­ma­rily res­pon­sible for sales, Marius for admi­ni­stra­tion and inter­nal proces­ses.


The course for this was set last year by chan­ging the mana­ging part­ners. A cur­rent pro­ject is the even bet­ter deve­lop­ment of the Austrian mar­ket, which already belon­ged to the Wah­lers sales ter­ri­tory, but was also ser­ved by ser­vice part­ners. In 2019, a sub­si­diary was foun­ded there, which moved into a lar­ger works­hop a year later. A sales­per­son and six ser­vice emplo­yees now work here, lar­gely inde­pen­dent of their Ger­man col­lea­gues.

In addi­tion, a decent­ra­li­sed ser­vice struc­ture is cur­rently being establis­hed. The IT requi­red for this was no small invest­ment. At pre­sent, four mobile mec­ha­nics start their tours from where they live. They receive work orders directly on their com­pu­ters. They also keep a small spare parts ware­house.

Wah­lers and Ponsse is a part­ners­hip that fits. Across all gene­ra­tions, this has resul­ted in somet­hing that is not just a busi­ness rela­tions­hip, but a friends­hip with a com­mon goal. What Hans Wah­lers star­ted is being con­ti­nued by the third generation—much to the delight of senior boss Lola Wah­lers also in view of the upco­ming 90th Wah­lers anni­ver­sary in 2024.