⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀Siemens originated in Berlin. But though it was founded in the capital in 1847, the company soon had its sights set beyond the city limits. It expanded into international operations early, and is quite unmistakably a global firm today. Yet even now Germany is an important market, and an indispensable production site for the company’s worldwide business. This is the story of Siemens’ locations in Germany from the 19th century down to today.
When Werner von Siemens designed his pointer telegraph in 1847, he and his partner Johann Georg Halske laid the foundations in Berlin of the Telegraphen-Bauanstalt von Siemens & Halske. Within only a few decades, the original ten-man workshop in a rear courtyard in Berlin had grown into one of the world’s biggest electrical equipment companies. All the same, Siemens still retains close ties with its home country. And Berlin, the place where it was founded, holds a special status. As a “Siemens location,” it can look back on probably the most kaleidoscopic history of any site in Germany.
As the 1890s began, more than 3,000 people were already working for Siemens in Berlin and in Charlottenburg, now a borough of the metropolis but then still a separate town. By that point the little rear-courtyard workshop in what is now Berlin-Kreuzberg, where Siemens had opened for business with ten employees, was already long in the past. By the turn of the century, even the Berliner Werk (Berlin plant) on Markgrafenstrasse, where the company had moved in 1858, and the Charlottenburg plant, built in 1884, no longer offered enough space for the company’s thousands of employees. The ongoing boom in the electrical industry’s market led management to seek a new option in 1897 – they took the first steps toward building one of the biggest, most modern industrial sites in the world. That was the birth of Siemensstadt.
From the very start, Siemens & Halske set its sights beyond the Berlin region in its work of selling and installing electric telegraphs and lines. In light-current technology, a centralized sales organization, managed from Berlin, still proved adequate for the first few decades after 1847. But as the 1880s began, the rise of heavy-current technology compelled a reevaluation. The increasing significance of private customers in this line of business, with the associated growing customer base, called for a decentralization of sales structures. At first, Siemens transferred sales operations to outside partners, usually specialized engineers situated in cities, who would re-center their services on the new heavy-current technology and open up engineering offices. The emphasis was on selling and installing dynamos, electric arc lamps, and later on, incandescent lamps as well.
But one drawback of this sales system – known as the “agency business” – was the lack of proximity to the customer. Most importantly, there was a shortage of important feedback about the quality of the delivered products and installation work. So from 1885 onwards, the chief priority was to create a dense network of company-owned sales offices, known as “Technical Offices,” which could establish a close relationship with the customer and offer comprehensive consulting and planning services. Siemens set up the first of these Technical Offices in Munich in 1890. Many more followed: Düsseldorf and Cologne in 1890, Dresden in 1892, Dortmund, Leipzig and Erfurt in 1897, Hamburg in 1898, Kiel in 1901, Rostock in 1904. More than a few of these offices would provide the nuclei for subsequent Siemens locations, especially in Germany but later in other countries as well.
Bavaria, especially its cities of Munich and Erlangen, holds a special position in the history of Siemens locations in Germany. After World War II, this was where the company’s headquarters were relocated. Of course, the start of Siemens & Halske’s history of business activities in Bavaria reaches all the way back to 1856, when the company made a supply agreement for pointer telegraphs with the directors of the Royal Bavarian Railway. But the real nucleus of Siemens here was the founding of the Technical Office in Munich in 1890. The former royal residential city gradually evolved into the heart of Siemens in Bavaria, embracing a variety of sites through the city.
Siemens in Munich
Erlangen and Nuremberg
Along with Munich, Erlangen and Nuremberg also evolved into important Siemens sites in Bavaria. In 1873, precision mechanic and telegraph maker Sigmund Schuckert had set up a small workshop for dynamometers and measuring equipment in Nuremberg. In 1903 the production facilities of “Elektrizitäts-Aktiengesellschaft vormals Schuckert & Co.” were merged with the heavy-current equipment departments of Siemens & Halske to form Siemens-Schuckertwerke. In the early 20th century, Nuremberg joined Berlin as one of Siemens’ most important production sites for heavy-current equipment. As to Erlangen, the company’s origins there go back to 1877. That was the year when university mechanic Erwin Moritz Reiniger founded a workshop for precision mechanisms and electrical equipment; after several corporate combinations, in 1932 Siemens-Reiniger-Werke AG emerged, specializing in the production of medical measurement equipment and x-ray tubes. After 1945, Erlangen also became the headquarters of Siemens-Schuckertwerke, and an important site for production and industrial research in heavy-current technology.
Other sites in Bavaria
As well as the core sites in Munich, Erlangen and Nuremberg, there were – and still are – a number of other Siemens sites in Bavaria, a good many of which can look back on a history that began before corporate headquarters moved to the state in 1949. They have all helped make Bavaria a Siemens “powerhouse” in Germany. A selection of them are introduced below.
Sites in Berlin and Bavaria have played key roles in the historic evolution of Siemens in Germany. All the same, the rest of Germany has also been extremely important to Siemens’ business, at first primarily as sales locations, when numerous Technical Offices began being established from 1890 onwards, but later also as production sites. Over the course of its history, the company also came to organize its German sites regionally according to operational criteria, but the histories of the other sites below will be organized by geography.
Germany’s “new” states have traditionally been part of the Siemens market ever since the Telegraphen-Bauanstalt von Siemens & Halske was founded in Berlin in 1847. The first sales structures date back to the end of the 19th century. Siemens opened its own office in Dresden in 1892; Technical Offices followed in Leipzig (1897), Erfurt (1897), Chemnitz (1899), Magdeburg (1901), Rostock (1910) and Cottbus (1929). The electrical equipment company also maintained several production sites – including the plant for x-ray tubes in Rudolstadt, in Thuringia, which still stands today and now belongs to Siemens Healthineers. In the late 1930s, Siemens had some 30,000 employees in territory that would later become the Soviet Occupation Zone and then the German Democratic Republic. When the partition of Germany was declared in 1945 and the two Germanys were founded in 1949, the Siemens name officially vanished from East Germany. Important production sites were expropriated, and the former Technical Offices were forcibly divorced from the company. The former Siemens plants and Regional Offices were integrated into the Socialist planned economy, becoming “state-owned enterprises” (Volkseigene Betriebe, or VEBs). Henceforth business relations between Siemens and East Germany’s centrally administered economy would be negotiated by the Regional Office in West Berlin.
After the German Democratic Republic was dissolved in 1990, it proved fortunate that Siemens had systematically intensified its business relationships in this territory, especially during the 1980s. Now earlier contacts proved valuable as cooperative efforts with East German partners blossomed. In 1991 Siemens took over all or part of a total of 15 former VEBs. Half of these were production operations; the others were sales and service companies. By October 1992, the companies had been integrated into the existing structures of Siemens AG. Although the company did not achieve all its ambitious goals, after three decades Siemens can now look back on a varied yet successful evolution. Since 1990 the company has invested some three and a half billion euros in the new states, and created ultramodern locations. Today, there are eight Siemens AG sites in the new states (aside from Berlin), including three production operations and five sales and service locations in Rostock, Magdeburg, Chemnitz, Leipzig and Dresden. There are also the Rudolstadt site of Siemens Healthineers, and the Görlitz, Cottbus and Erfurt sites of Siemens Energy.
In the 21st century, Siemens is more globalized than ever, with 385,000 employees working in more than 200 countries and regions. All the same, Siemens’ heart remains in Germany. This is the place from which the company guides its affairs. In fiscal 2019, 116,000 employees here generated more than twelve billion euros in revenue, at more than 50 production and fabrication sites throughout the country. Today Siemens can look back on a history of almost 175 years in Germany. Over that time, the Berlin-born company has changed its regional identity and location structure a number of times and adjusted to circumstances, starting with the establishment of its first sales network, then the relocation of headquarters from Berlin to Munich and Erlangen, and ultimately both the partition and the reunification of the country. During this eventful history, there were certainly times when some sites had to be shut down, so that not all of the locations discussed above are still in operation today. Nevertheless, both regionally and nationally, they have made significant contributions to the company, and thus remain an integral part of Siemens’ long history.
At present, the company’s structure in the business mecca Germany is organized into six Business Regions: the South region, with Bavaria; the East region with Berlin, Brandenburg, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia; the West region with North Rhine-Westphalia; the Central region with Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland; the Southwest region, with Baden-Württemberg; and finally the North region with Bremen, Hamburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein. Along with the production sites, more than 11,500 employees at 39 Regional Offices and sales units and more than 100 service support points keep us in close contact with our customers. They are the face of Siemens in Germany today.
Dr. Ewald Blocher