AMNYTT 5/2020 - Page 98

MANUFACTORY Bodo Finken likes to meet his visitors directly at the door to “his” production facility. Because you can’t just walk in here. Those who work for or supply the automotive industry are very reluctant to show their cards – discretion is key in this industry. But with the Head of Production at your side, this hurdle is quickly overcome. And then there is the fact that it is quite different from a “normal” production facility. While other machine parks rattle and rumble, click and clack, sometimes loudly, rarely quietly, there is a concentrated calm near-silence in Schieder. All around, employees dressed in white coats devote themselves almost devoutly to the assembly of various charging connectors, cables, and vehicle charging sockets – the inlets. Surrounded by working material, mostly at workstations. Every handle fits, every tool is exactly where the hand that’s looking for it expects it to be. Humble beginnings “We started out in 2013 as a spin-off with 23 employees from the Business Area DC, that is to say the connector division. A major customer from the automotive industry had asked the Executive Board whether Phoenix Contact could also enter the field of e-mobility. At that time, we had just one large bus charging connector for the Chinese market. But because the number of inquiries for this field were increasing, we established the spin-off on January 1, 2013.” The number of employees was still very manageable, with 14 people in administration, logistics, and sales, along with nine production experts. The premises in the former furniture factory in Schieder were just as modest. “Here, this room we’re in right now, this was all we had,” says Bodo Finken as he gestures around the room. “The very first connectors were manufactured in Blomberg as pre-series. The colleagues who worked there were also our first employees here in Schieder.” Today’s pre-series facility looks very similar to the production facility that we started back then. “We, with our nine experts, initially produced batch quantities of one on a total of 12 simple, completely empty assembly tables – one meter wide, eighty centimeters deep, along with a few hand tools and roller containers with parts – depending on the item version or component. A few shelves, plenty of plastic boxes with material – that’s how we started our production logistics system. We were as happy as pigs in mud whenever a customer ordered a connector. And then we built the connector. And then another one for the next customer. Until they started ordering five of them at a time. I remember how hectic things got the first time a customer ordered 10 connectors. Back then, every employee was able to build each type of connector blindfolded.” Treacherous exhibits But this idyllic scene did not last long. A real run on the connectors from Schieder began in the very first year. This was due to Phoenix Contact offering a broad product portfolio from à Lab or workshop? Both. Fundamental research is carried out here 12