Optimisation with a vision

Pfeifer already covers 80 per cent of its energy demands with renewable energies. But that's not all: Especially in an energy-intensive sector like the timber industry, the goal is to consume energy as efficiently as possible or to save altogether. With its bustling Department for Energy Management and Environment, Pfeifer sets comprehensive steps towards this vision.

Pop quiz: What are the essential factors in making sure production never stops? State-of-the-art technology? Manpower? No, the correct answer is: Heat and power. Nothing works without power, literally. Yet, energy is expensive and bad for the environment. This is why Bastian Schrems loves to talk about optimisation potential. At Pfeifer, he is responsible for energy management and the environment, making decisions aimed at minimising production’s impact on the environment and maximising value creation per energy unit used. Which is an important task as areas such as energy efficiency, sustainability and data-based optimisation are rapidly gaining importance in times of climate change, international competition and advancing digitisation. With its Green Deal, the EU has already set the course for sustainability, making companies face many challenges – but even more opportunities – in the years to come. And to come out on top, Pfeifer is already active in energy efficiency networks and associations. The Unterbernbach site has been taking part in the EnBW Energieeffizienz Bayern 4.0 network since 2020, contributing to achieving German’s / Europe’s climate and energy policy goals.

Energy efficiency on top of priority list

From new investment and maintenance issues to process optimisation: Pfeifer's energy experts are involved in all projects relevant to energy consumption. “Optimisation has a high priority within the Group,” says Bastian Schrems about generous investment freedom to identify energy efficiency potential: 

“In its role as an owner-operated family business, Pfeifer can and wants to firmly establish a sustainable investment policy within its corporate strategy. This increasingly proves to be a competitive advantage. For sustainability is also something that makes us stand out.”

Integrated production at its site is the most important consequence of this strategic orientation. This means that the value creation chain is deliberately closed as 100 per cent of round timber are processed on site. The benefits of this zero-waste principle are clear: The company’s own biomass stations produce carbon neutral heat and power which are mostly used by the company itself, but also fed into the public grid. Refinement into various wood products on site additionally reduces truck travel in the plants’ vicinity. Promoting rail transport is another way for the company to signal how it embodies sustainability. Via the company's own rail systems, 3 Pfeifer sites have already been connected to the inter(national) freight transport network. To secure the site's long-term existence, Pfeifer will invest approx. 16 million Euros into Lauterbach’s connection to the rail network in 2020/2021. The volume of goods transported by means of freight trains and inter-model transport has been on the rise for years which allowed the company to save huge amounts of carbon emissions.

A methodical approach wins the day

One of Bastian Schrems’ recipes for success is the intelligent use of synergies and to transfer lessons learned from one site to another. All German Pfeifer sites are ISO 50001 certified (a globally valid standard by the International Organization for Standardization, which is intended to support organisations and companies in establishing systematic energy management). Knowledge and experience from this process also benefit the Austrian and Czech sites. According to Schrems, the benefits are transferred during targeted energy audits: “A systematic approach that is applied uniformly to all sites provides a high level of transparency and supports the sites on their way towards using energy more efficiently and environmentally friendly.”

One of Bastian Schrems’ recipes for success is the intelligent use of synergies and to transfer lessons learned from one site to another.

Up to 70 % less energy loss

This approach is already bearing fruit. Unterbernbach, for instance, is currently implementing a technology that has already had a profound effect in Uelzen. It is capable of preventing up to 70 % of energy loss which means that, effectively, the plant ends up using only 30 % as much energy as before. This optimisation of only one system saves 3 gigawatt hours of power annually in Uelzen. And the energy expert finds savings potential everywhere. From seemingly simple measures such as regular machine maintenance to replacing certain components to using innovative technology. A win-win for environment and company alike – after all, energy costs are the third-largest item for wood processing companies. Thus, finding optimisation potential remains the order of the day at Pfeifer. And using the top-down principle, sustainability as a strategic corporate objective is also supposed to become even more firmly established in the minds of the workforce: "All departments and thus all employees are called upon to participate daily in dealing responsibly with energy and the environment."

"All departments and thus all employees are called upon to participate daily in dealing responsibly with energy and the environment."


Bastian Schrems graduated in Environmental Technology from the Technical University of Central Hesse and in Sustainable Energy Policy from Carleton University in Ottawa (Canada). After working as an environmental manager for a large Swedish consumer goods manufacturer, he joined Pfeifer in 2014, contributing his know-how as an energy management and immission control officer ever since. Since March 2020 Bastian Schrems has been fully committed to the area of energy management and environment in the framework of the Power Stations, Energy and Environmental Management Unit (Leadership: Marco von Sturm) and is responsible for all 8 Pfeifer Group sites in Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic. His motto is: Have respect, but don't be afraid of the far-reaching changes that are coming.