Is it really the German Engineering which lies behind the success of Herrenknecht - the Tunnel Boring Machine company

Is it really the German Engineering which lies behind the success of  Herrenknecht - the Tunnel Boring Machine company

Herrenknecht stand at a trade fair (Bauma)



NOTE: My article has been censored by I was told to reveal my source (person) or delete the parts mentioning the things I heard from my source. If I did not do it, I was told my article would be deleted. claims they have been threathened with lawsuit.

First of all, I cannot reveal the name of my source without the consent of that person. I will try to reach that person but that person is very unlikely to give a consent. Because a- still very active in tunnelling business (what would that person gain other than trouble by being named for things talked in a friendly conversation which took place around two years ago?) b-If can be sued, that means my source can and will also be sued. My source is very unlikely to be wanting to be taken to court. As I said I will try to contact my source.

I have only mentioned what I have been told. Nothing more, nothing less.

At the end of the day, did not stand behind me and censored my article as soon as they were shown the lawsuit card. I want this known.

I have replaced the sections censored by with a white banner like this one:

Censored by

This is sad. This is a shame.



Mr Martin Herrenknecht, the founder and the head of the Herrenknecht company gave a speech at 2019 World Tunnel Congress in Naples (the Sir Alan Muir Wood Lecture). The very fact that, it was an opening speech at the tunnelling world's most prominent event, emphasizes the dominant position Herrenknecht occupies in today's tunnelling world.

Herrenknecht is indeed the dominant company now, Whether it will remain so or not, can be the subject of another article. But the thing is; Herrenknecht is the dominant tunnelling company of the last 20-30 years. We all know that mechanized tunnelling, or more precisely the Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) tunnelling, is much older than that.

Generally, in every relatively old industry segment, there will always be some dominant players which will set high barriers to the market entry for new companies. Actually the only way the new entrants make into a  market dominated by the established players is a shift in the technology. It can be for example a new way of building tunnels or a new machine design to bore the tunnels.

Is it the "German Technology"?

So, how did Herrenknecht -a relatively late comer to the market- do it?  Is it the much-hyped German engineering which catapulted Herrenknecht to the front of the pack? "The pack" which included the then-industry giants The Robbins Company, Lovat, Hitachi etc?

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Actually it was the Martin Herrenknecht's successful business strategy that brought the enourmous success to the Herrenknecht company, helped by the German conservatism at home and the much coveted German engineering hype in Europe and Worldwide.

Enter the Business strategy...

A few years ago, I have met a German engineer/manager who claims to have worked for Herrenknecht.

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No doubt, once powered by the bleeding-edge technology, Herrenknecht did not stand still. They have relentlessly developed it further and increased their portfolio of technologies fuelled by the increased revenues flowing in from increased sales.

Only the technology?

But can only the technology explain the success of Herrenknecht? Not really.

The story of Herrenknecht is also the success of marketing helped with the worldwide perceptions about  Germany and specifically about the German engineering.

First of all, Herrenknecht had a near-monopoly dominance in its home markets (that is to say, Germany, Austria and Switzerland). This is not surprising, given the proximity of the company manufacturing base to these markets. Of course it does not harm that you would expect German politicians to prefer German machinery (not very indifferent than that of the situation in USA or nowadays in China, I would say). Add that Herrenknecht building a strong networking in Germany and countries in the region.

It is almost natural that most tunnelling projects in the Central and Northern Europe would go for Herrenknecht TBMs, as Germany historically always has had a very strong influence on these countries.

European Dominance

As for other countries in Europe; even those producing or capable of producing their own Tunnel Boring Machines, the situation was not very different either. You would expect that politicians in Italy, Russia, Poland, Turkey, Czech republic etc would favour their own manufacturers against Herrenknecht.

But not so. In those countries there is a strong inferiority complex against the Germany and German engineering. I am afraid there is no politically-correct way of stating this. It is what it is. In those countries, decision makers seem to believe that whatever comes out of German companies is better than anything they are capable of producing in their own countries. Hence they provide a very fertile ground for Herrenknecht marketing and networking. Thus the result. Herrenknecht dominates the tunnelling market accross the continent.

Worldwide Dominance

Like in many other parts of the industry, generally when you dominate the market in Europe or USA, you tend to dominate the rest of the World. This is likely to change in the coming 20 years, but so far, this is how it has traditionally been, also in the tunnelling market.

In the last 20-30 years when USA and Canadian companies largely focused in their own country and seem to have been content with whatever share of the markets they have been handed out in other countries with the remnants of their waning reputation without having to put much fight. So came the decline of companies like Lovat, Robbins etc. This has presented huge openings and opportunities for the Herrenknecht also outside the Europe.

The rest has followed, making Herrenknecht what it is today.

All in all, Herrenknecht is a success story. A great company lead by a business-savy director and with very effective marketing. It is that totality of great business strategy executed by Mr Martin Herrenknecht has made Herrrenknecht what it is today.

And then?

Then came the China. Actually the Chinese are still not here. They are still "in the coming". From what we have seen, it will be a different ball game from now on. But then, it is not the subject of this article...


image by mailtisap, WCC


  • Dirk's Tunnel Exchange
    By Dirk's Tunnel Exchange

    pretty interesting, to say the least...

  • Julian Buch
    By Julian Buch

    One way or another, Herrenknecht did it. It is a great European company.

  • Keith Keloe
    By Keith Keloe

    Martin Herrenknecht is a monumental figure, similar to James Robbins, in the world of tunnelling. And as a company, Herrenknecht is still the most important European Tunnel Boring Machine manufacturer still standing on its own feet.

    Look what happened to others: Wirth sold to Chinese. NFM, I hear, is bankrupted. SELI is split and more and more looks like a TBM assembly business than a hard-core manufacturer. And what have we got left? Herrenknecht.

    There is nothing wrong with giving the benefit of doubt to Herrenknecht or favoring it a bit. It is European!

  • Lutz Genscher
    By Lutz Genscher

    All companies use technologies "not invented home". It is very normal. It is very 21st (or even 20th) century. If anybody finds this strange, they must be living on another planet, in another age or they simply have no understanding of the technology world.

    Herrenknecht is a great European technology company. Congratulations to those who put their hard work into making it such a company.

  • Michael C. Murray
    By Michael C. Murray

    One strange situation my friend. Why don't you take down your whole article in protest?

  • S. Disar
    By S. Disar

    No Michael. It would mean that my article would sink in oblivion all together. I want it to stand for what did. I want it to stand as a statement.

  • Roberto Calvi
    By Roberto Calvi

    Hey! I am Italian and I do not feel inferior to Germans or anybody. I want that part to be censored too! :-)

  • Roberto Calvi
    By Roberto Calvi

    kidding man!

  • TunnelContact Member Services
    By TunnelContact Member Services


    We have started with the intention of bringing together tunnelling people, providing a platform for them to interact more with each other, learn from each other, help each other by networking.


    As you know, currently we are in beta mode. Meaning that with limited number of (invited) users, we are testing our software, our procedures, our settings. This is because, it is easy to fix the issues when the community is small. We aim to be big in tunnelling but we would like to go there with organic, healthy growth, rather than a big-bang with many problems. is not an alternative to already existing publications in the tunnelling world. On the contrary, we plan to bring them together in our platform. One big difference with our platform is that, users can post content. Let it be a blog, a discussion post, a video, a short twitter-like flow posting etc. These postings completely reflect the views of their respective authors. Having said this, it is very common that the platforms are also held liable by offended parties, probably because it is easier to go after them, rather than individuals.For this reason, we need keep a check on the postings.

    How are we checking?

    Not that we are checking every single post. This manual-checking will even be more impossible in future, when the postings exponentially increase. One of our tools for this check is based on reporting. You might have noticed that for most postings, it is possible to bring the content to the attention of the site admin by reporting an irregularity.

    And finally "the blog":

    Regarding Mr S.Disar's blog entry which is the only published one so far on our beta site, we have been approached via Twitter. A person (hereafter 'complainer')  who is affliated with the subject company of the blog said that the contents of the blog are incorrect and that the whole thing can come up to a legal process. One of the points of the complainer was that the story depended on the sayings of a unnamed person, thus amounted to gossip.

    So we have decided that, either Mr S.Disar modified his blog (he chose this option) or we had to take it down.

    Here are our reasons:

    1- Mr Disar's blog quotes some sayings of an "engineer/manager". Mr Disar does not want to reveal the name of the person (which is one of the points raised to us by the complainer for marking this blog as 'fake news').  

    We are not claiming that Mr S.Disar is making it up. In our opinion his source exists but there is always a possibility that his source may have lied (why not?). The thing is, there is no way it can be checked without that person coming forward, providing some evidence or some other person doing the same. Hence, there is no way for us to verify if the reported parts of the blog are correct (as claimed by the author) or incorrect (as claimed by the complainer).

    2- We know that in journalism, reporters often protect their sources by not releasing their names. And it is often a necessity even in democratic societies for various reasons. But please make no mistake. We are not Washington Post here nor Facebook with an army of lawyers. If a big corporation sues us, we will simply be overrun, regardless of anything being correct/incorrect.

    3- is a platform for tunnelling people speak out their minds. Hence a blog tells the opinions of its author. You might argue what falls into free speech and what not. Again, we do not want any lawsuits. We cannot -repeat cannot- afford to go through such a process.

    All the best.


  • TunnelContact Member Services
    By TunnelContact Member Services

    To add:

    By the way, we have been informed that legal action was only mentioned as a possibility and never in the name of the subject company.

  • Alex Kesrit
    By Alex Kesrit

    TunnelContact Member Services You've got a lot of `But's.  But, but, but.... 

    You are not convincing at all


  • Adrian Olmex
    By Adrian Olmex

    what a shame

    this is what i call dominance

    we can not even talk here among ourselves.

    Almost mind control.

    what a shame

    can you scale up this suppression to the country level or Europe level?

    We think we live in democracies but

    Who are pulling our strings?

    without us realizing?

    Shell? Volkswagen? Siemens?

  • Santiago Morales
    By Santiago Morales

    Our admin chickened out!

    King's dictionary: Chicken out:

    Chicken out


  • Alex Kesrit
    By Alex Kesrit

    Most of the deals between companies are bound by Confidentiality agreements which are extended to employees by Non-Disclosure agreements. Hence, unless the companies or their bosses agree, nobody is going to come forward. That is. even if there was such a deal.