Villeroy & Boch is one of the oldest manufacturing companies in Europe, still controlled by the founding families, though with a public listing. Its specialty is ceramics, divided into bathroom fittings and tableware. At the time of writing the case study, demand was falling for traditional ceramic dining sets, but the business was continuing to grow as a whole. It was displaying considerable ability to automate and modernize in production, gaining efficiency improvements, and to use innovative designs and digital media to appeal to younger customers. It has committed to reduce its environmental impact through lower energy usage and recycling. It retained many features of responsible ownership, for example staying committed to the community in which it originated, maintaining significant manufacturing presence in Germany, and significant philanthropic activities in the region. There were hundreds of family owners, with the 10th generation starting to become involved in the business.
The case illustrates the potential for high levels of innovation and effective marketing to the millennial generation even for an established business with a traditional cachet for many of its products. There are also lessons for share ownership and governance in a complex family shareholding arrangement where the families are in the 10th generation of ownership.