The foreground needs a background

Where have we come from, and where are we heading? Only those who are aware of their own background and development, their key milestones and special characteristics, can shape the future successfully.
Siemens’ characteristics

Shaping the future

Siemens has played an impressive role over the past more than 170 years in shaping the technological evolution of Germany, Europe and the whole world. Unlike many other companies, it has found ways to overcome and learn from challenges and crises. Playing an active role in shaping the future has always been a major goal of every head of the company, from Werner von Siemens to Joe Kaeser. That ambition has turned the 10-man operation at Schöneberger Strasse 19 in Berlin into a great international corporation.   How does Siemens differ from so many other companies? The answer: Siemens has always been innovative, customer-oriented, quality-driven, international, responsible, able to withstand crises, and able to change. These traits have kept it strong and unique, in good times and bad. Join us on an exciting journey through our company's history. Experience what has made Siemens the world-class company it is today. Because every foreground needs a background.

From the dynamo machine to MindSphere

Pioneering technologies have been the foundation at Siemens for over 170 years. If the road wasn’t always smooth, that was simply what made learning and improvement possible. Come see some of the important innovations and challenges that channeled our development.

Background information: How megaprojects get built – Ireland and Egypt as successful showcases 

When Ireland gained its independence in 1922, most of the country still had no electricity. Apart from a few major cities like Dublin and Cork, the country was “totally untouched, electrically speaking.” 

In 2015, Egypt declared war on power failures, and awarded Siemens its biggest contract of all time. The mission: generate power to serve 45 million people. 

Ideas are of little value in themselves. The value of an invention is in its practical application.
Werner von Siemens, company founder, 1851
Focused on quality and the customer

From maintaining the Russian state telegraph network to a digital hub in Singapore

The customer is the focus of everything we do – and has been for more than 170 years. But a customer orientation has to be learned, acted upon and constantly re-checked. Company founder Werner von Siemens already realized that “the one who supplies the best quality is the one who stays on top, and I always prefer to advertise with results rather than words.”

From Berlin to London, St. Petersburg and the world

Siemens became an international firm at an early date. Today, the company is at home in some 200 countries around the world – a global player through and through. It assists with the economic and sociopolitical development of many countries, provides aid in reconstruction – with such work as helping to rebuild infrastructure destroyed by war – and doesn’t head for the hills when things get difficult, whether politically or economically.
The time of national isolation is over; we must recognize that we have come to depend on each other in today’s world.
Carl Friedrich von Siemens, youngest son of the company founder, 1931
Tested in crises, able to change

From the first sales difficulties to the compliance crisis

Companies have to prove their mettle in crises and be able to change. Every large company has been confronted at some point during its history with declining margins, stagnating growth, falling stock prices, sales slumps, financing problems or similar issues. Yet it’s often those special challenges themselves that make a company grow; Siemens has also understood how to treat crises as opportunities.

Losses after the two World Wars and subsequent rebuilding

Like the German electrical equipment industry in general, Siemens’ international business expanded steadily up to 1913. But the outbreak of World War I in 1914 brought a profound disruption that had especially dire consequences for the international business. Not until 1923 was Siemens able to regain a foothold internationally – at first in Japan, and then in China and Ireland. Yet this stronger international focus would not last long. It ended abruptly once again with the outbreak of World War II. Once again Siemens lost a large share of its foreign markets, patents and trademark rights. The consequences of the war were a serious threat to the company’s survival. The loss of assets was even calculated at twice as high as the loss after World War I. On top of that came the irreplaceable intangible damage: the loss of intellectual capital, of faithful employees and of business partners and customers.

How did corporate management respond? It counted on international growth, and the company underwent a slow but continuous upswing that carried it back into the world markets. In parallel, it recovered not just its confiscated international companies, but its ownership rights in patents and trademarks. The crisis that had threatened the company with almost total destruction had been overcome. Adaptability, trust in its own strengths, and recourse to its technological core competences helped Siemens out, as did the persistence and endurance that had already characterized the company’s founding generation.


From the first profit-sharing to the “Business to Society” concept

Trust and the acceptance of responsibility have always been the glue that binds people together worldwide – in politics and society, but also in economic contexts. After all, “business is built on trust.” 

An ownership culture as a guideline

Responsible management that leaves sufficient freedom for creativity is based on trust in employees’ ability to do their job and their sense of personal responsibility. That’s the core of the ownership culture that Siemens has kept in mind since its founding. After all, it’s the employees whose products and work sustainably consolidate customers’ and society’s trust in the company. That was already important to the company’s founder. And it’s reflected in a large number of social policy measures that are still in existence and that employees can rely on.

Measures for environmental protection

Striking a balance between ecological, economic and social objectives is a guideline of Siemens’ sustainability strategy. It aims to use innovative products and solutions to improve the company’s own environmental balance and that of its customers, in ecological terms. It builds on long-term value added through innovative products and solutions, in economic terms. And in social terms it commits to the well-being of the company’s employees and environs. Principles of environmental protection are equally mandatory for both employees and suppliers.

One way in which Siemens shows how seriously it takes its sense of responsibility is that in 2001, it joined the United Nations Global Compact, the world’s largest and most important initiative for responsible corporate management. On the basis of its 10 universal principles on human rights, labor standards, environmental protection and corruption prevention, the Global Compact pursues the vision of a sustainable global economy for the benefit of all people, societies and markets.


The foreground needs a background

Innovativeness, a commitment to quality and customers, internationality, crisis-tested strength, adaptability and a powerful sense of responsibility – these characteristics have guided Siemens throughout its history. Over the course of more than 170 years they have made it the company it is today. By keeping its background constantly in mind and acting upon it, Siemens makes an important contribution toward shaping the future for the long term.

“Whatever we do, it must add lasting value and deliver benefits – for shareholders, for employees, for customers, and for our partners in business and in society.” That appeal by then President and CEO Joe Kaeser is closely allied with the conceptual world of company founder Werner von Siemens, who impressively established the prime imperative of his still-young company when he said, “I won’t sell the future for short-term profit!”


Coming equally from the two poles of Siemens history, in this way the past and the present inscribe a forward-looking principle in the company’s DNA: shape the future for the benefit of those you work for, and who are relying on you. Or – as Werner von Siemens wrote to his wife Mathilde in 1854:

There’s a powerful magic in ‘I want,’ if it is meant in earnest and if there’s some conviction behind it!