Made in Germany: Which companies still produce in Germany

10-06-2019 20:06

It almost looks like a greenhouse. Endless rows of white flowerpots and a green garden hose. But when Manuela sweetness presses the spray gun, no water flows from it, but a beige mass. "This is Schlicker," she explains as she patiently fills up shape after form for decades. The plaster pulls out the moisture in a few minutes. "Now the shard has formed," says the worker. She pours the extra mass and gets a small, dull pink shimmering pot from the mold. Handmade in Germany.

One floor down, only a few people lose themselves in the hall. A steel press machine spits out a bowl. An orange metal arm grabs it and holds it in turn on several rotating rollers to perfectly clean the edge. After that, the robot stops the shell for further transport and grabs the next one. High tech in Germany.

Study of the stern and the HWWI

Beneath every cup and every plate that leaves the porcelain factory in the Thuringian town of Kahla, the world-famous words "Made in Germany" are praised. But what are these letters worth? How much is actually produced in this country? And why do companies rely on their home, where it is cheaper to produce almost everywhere in the world? That's what he wanted star together with the Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWI). More than 300 companies participated in the study, 173 received the "Trust in Germany – Made in Germany" award.

Striking: It is often small and medium-sized enterprises that belong to a family, are home away from the major centers and usually have a few hundred or a few thousand employees. Some are known, such as the leisure fashion manufacturer Trigema, whose owner Wolfgang Grupp advertises T-shirts before the "Tagesschau". Schüco windows or Niederegger marzipan are also known. But who knows that the oil spray nozzles of the Wagner vehicle parts factory are in millions of engines? Or that the TII-Group is the world market leader for heavy transporters, for example for wind turbines? Or that the clothes in textile factories all over the globe float through the halls thanks to Dürkopp conveyor technology?

Kahla boss Holger Raithel relies on the combination of manual work and automation. Whether modern square or traditionally round - the cleaning robot can process almost any design fully automatically.

Kahla boss Holger Raithel relies on the combination of manual work and automation. Whether modern square or traditionally round – the cleaning robot can process almost any design fully automatically.

On average, the 173 companies manufacture 87 percent of their products in Germany or purchase their primary products from here. "This number surprised me," says Professor Henning Vöpel, head of the HWWI. But how do the companies manage that?

Holger Raithel arranges the white porcelain coffee cup on the table in the executive office. The 47-year-old is managing partner of Kahla. He has 2000 different products on offer, 35,000 parts are made here every day. "You can only do that with a clever combination of craftsmanship and high-tech," he says. The straw flowers for the underglaze of the Blue Saks decoration have been hand painted and stamped on dishes since 1844. "I am very proud of our long history, but loving manual labor alone would not work today." Therefore rattles down in the hall also a fully automatic flatware line and Taßendruckgussanlage. The family Raithel has invested 35 million euros here in the past 25 years. "But the biggest chapter is our employees."

Because of the professionals, the "Porzelliner", as the Kahlaner call here, Raithel's father Günther took over the company in 1994. Previously, a successor company of VEB Feinkeramik had gone bankrupt. 2000 people had worked here before the turnaround, today there are 250. "We are the survivors," says porcelain enthusiast Süße, meanwhile 57.

Middle class in China desires western brands

300 meters away from her workstation, diagonally across the street in the "special price DIY store", the Kaffeepott costs 1.99 euros. The Lidl opposite has four drinking glasses for 4.99 euros on offer. Sweet jug will be in the store after burning and glazing for 26.95 euros. Are customers really willing to pay so much more?

Holger Raithel nods. "We export to 60 countries," he says, "and deliver to China." In the realm of cheap porcelain, the growing middle class wants western brands. The rice bowl is indeed a few centimeters smaller than the German cereal bowl – but both have the same shape.

"Design with added value" is what the company boss calls his concept, which is implemented by several in-house designers. Instead of the classic Sunday service with coffee pot, there are multifunctional, almost arbitrarily combinable dishes. Sheets of plates are coated with silicone to prevent rattling and slipping on the yacht. Coffee mugs get a velvety coating that adorns and insulates – the process is patented. And canteen dishes are implanted into a dishwasher-proof chip so that it can talk to cash registers. Pretty smart.

Light switch assembly at Gira: CEO Dirk Giersiepen has invested millions in a new high-bay warehouse

Light switch assembly at Gira: CEO Dirk Giersiepen has invested millions in a new high-bay warehouse

Kahla is in the tariff, trains and has a works council. The renewed kiln plant saves 40 percent gas, a photovoltaic system glitters on the roof, and a zero-waste campaign is currently underway to prevent waste. For 25 years the company writes black numbers. Only in 2017 there was a loss after a failed large order. "We had to master that," says Holger Raithel, "and have done it thanks to committed people."

For HWWI boss Vöpel this fits into the picture: "Family-run medium-sized companies have a higher responsibility and loyalty to the location," analyzes the professor. "And they look at other location factors, perhaps not so easily guided by pure cost arguments, but by stability and sustainability."

The error of the British about "Made in Germany"

"Made in Germany" – that was what the British had come up with in 1887 in order to brand competing products from Germany as inferior. That started backwards. Today, it is the world's most popular label of origin, according to a survey among 43,000 consumers in 52 countries, despite the diesel scandal and BER airport posse. But corporations such as Henkel, Adidas or Siemens, which rose to global brands with the seal of approval, now employ a large proportion of their employees abroad. Today it is often no longer advertised with "made" but with "engineered in Germany". The so marked German technology is often produced, where it is most favorable, above all, the wages are lower.

In the green hills of the Bergisches Land a spaceship seems to have landed. The outer skin is divided into black, white and gray stripes. The construction is as edgy as the light switches from Gira, which are mounted here. Dirk Giersiepen stands in his new high-bay warehouse, whose steel struts seem to be lost in endless distances. He proudly shows where there is room for 150,000 small parts and 6000 Euro pallets. Ten storage and retrieval units whiz as if by magic through the alleys, which are up to 21 meters high. The owner family in Radevormwald invested a double-digit million amount in a new factory for production, logistics and development. "This is already a commitment to the location," says the managing partner.

The factory in Radevormwald employs people from 27 nations. Operator Ahmadu Bah is from Sierra Leone.

The factory in Radevormwald employs people from 27 nations. Operator Ahmadu Bah is from Sierra Leone.

Gira is known for purist switches and sockets, but now offers every conceivable smart home technology. "If we made mass smoke detectors, that would not be possible here," says Giersiepen. The company has 7000 different articles in the catalog, which are made up of 30,000 parts. Special models are only manufactured in a quantity of 200 and delivered on time to the construction site. "This does not work if you have to direct the arrival of containers from low-cost countries," he says – from low-wage countries.

Loyalty to the "team"

In the past, Dirk Giersiepen would probably have been called a patriarch. The 58-year-old manages the company in its fourth generation. When he walks through the hall, he asks the assembly worker if the move worked or offers the IT manager tickets for the 1. FC Köln. The group employs 1700 people, including 200 engineers. The boss wears a suit, but leaves the tie in a start-up manner. Gira should be modern and yet preserve its values. This includes the good handling of the "team". Of course, paid according to IG metal tariff. You do not like to talk about profits here, but you can be sure they're neat.

There are stickers in several places in the factory. "Made in Germany – made by diversity". Gira is a member of an initiative of more than 50 family businesses committed to anti-populism. Dirk Giersiepen gets a little pathetic when he talks about it: "I found that Germany's 2015 record of so many refugees was very appropriate." But of course he also knows that his main customers, the electricians and their employees, are often migrants today. The situation is similar for Gira himself: "People from 27 nations work here and we do not tolerate xenophobia."

It has a special irony: Nationalism and isolation would be detrimental to the success of "Made in Germany" on world markets. Dirk Giersiepen puts it this way: "It does not mean 'Made by Germans'."

You can find the entire list of companies here,

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