On the 19th February 2021 Rolf Haelbich, a good friend and mentor for many of us has passed away in Shanghai, China. EP Equipment and many in this industry pay tribute to a man who worked in our industry all his life and inspired many people along the way.
I met Rolf when I was a young, Junior Product Manager at Jungheinrich Profishop. He was introduced to me as this tough head of factory who has trimmed the special built division of Jungheinrich to become what it is today. I was a little scared when I was supposed to prepare some documentation for him regarding Jungheinrichs cooperation with EP Equipment.
A few days later an unknown number called me. Rolf was on the phone. He had many questions before he wanted to travel to China and meet with John He to see the EP factory. But the fear was gone. This was a man passionate about forklift trucks, passionate about finding new solutions and questioning the status quo. I was impressed and happy that I would be able to work with him for a project surrounding an order picker we wanted to build.
A few weeks later when Rolf came back from China he called me and said:
“Bennit, this guy, John He is a real visionary. Someone who wants to change the world. If I would be younger, I would join EP. That’s an exciting company”.
Little did we know then 😉
Several years later, Rolf went to China to lead the Jungheinrich factory in Qingpu and I visited Rolf in my position at EP Equipment. At the end of the meeting I made a joke and said to Rolf (over 65 years of age at that time):
“Rolf, if you ever want to work for a cool forklift company, call me!”
Around 8 month later Rolf called me. He was ready for yet another challenge. At an age where most people want to enjoy retirement, Rolf wanted to find out how it would be working for a Chinese company, with Chinese colleagues, changing the industry.
Just a few month later, Rolf (while his family stayed in Shanghai), went to Anji, the hometown of the EP factory and I met a man with the passion and fire of a 30 year old. Speaking with hand and feet, trying to make a point, and helping EP to improve quality control. While he has always been a person to look up to, this is where I felt: I want to be as passionate as Rolf when I am 65 years old.
He lived among the Chinese colleagues, showing me proudly how you can pay via wechat in any small shop and that I needed to try this weird looking breakfast in a corner shop. He was right. It tasted amazing. Rolf Haelbich was a person with some rough edges, but always fighting for a cause. Someone with a clear ethical compass and a mind that was visionary and passionate about a better future.
One day he called me and he sounded different. When he told me about his illness and the outlook, my heart stopped for a second. This was not the right time. This man still had so much ahead of him. So much power and energy. Sadly it was not meant to be.
Every conversation, every project, your family your friends, you dedicated all your energy. Thank you for being a great friend, mentor and support. Rolf, we will miss you, you will always have a place in EPs history and personally in my heart.
Bennit & the whole EP Equipment family