Verwaltungsgebäude Siemensstadt Berlin, 1925

Siemens in Germany 

A history of domestic locations

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. 

Birthplace of a global enterprise

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.

Siemensstadt

Technical Offices for closer customer proximity

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.

Siemens migrates south

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.

Munich

The sales office that opened on Munich’s Galeriestrasse on January 20, 1890, was relocated to a townhouse on Prannerstrasse in 1903, after the heavy-current business of Siemens & Halske merged with Elektrizitäts-Aktiengesellschaft vormals Schuckert & Co. to form Siemens-Schuckertwerke. This elegant address had been the local office of the former Schuckert company since 1897, and in 1903 it took over joint responsibility for all Siemens business in the Upper Bavaria, Lower Bavaria, and Swabia sales districts. Together with the adjacent building acquired in 1928, this was the center of the company’s business activity in Munich for decades. 

In 1927, Siemens-Schuckertwerke acquired Isaria-Zählerwerke AG. This electricity meter factory on Hofmannstrasse, founded in 1909, represented the kickoff for Siemens production in Munich. In order to be allowed to deliver telephone systems in Bavaria during these days, Siemens & Halske had to have a plant situated within the region. So following the Isaria takeover, meter production was relocated to the Nuremberg site, and the Munich plant – now as part of  Siemens & Halske – was retrofitted to make telephone equipment. Over the subsequent decades, the plant on Hofmannstrasse was continuously expanded. Additional production facilities were created for various company units, primarily in telecommunications, and came to dominate an entire part of town. 

In 1949 Munich became Siemens & Halske’s corporate headquarters, since the company’s traditional site in Berlin had become politically and economically too uncertain and unstable. In the fall of 1949, the new Munich corporate administration moved into the imposing Ludwig-Ferdinand-Palais on Wittelsbacher Platz in the city center. In 1957, Siemens sent a clear signal of its commitment to Munich as a location by purchasing this classicist urban mansion. By that point the electrical equipment company was already one of the biggest private employers in the Bavarian capital

Looking to enhance its international competitiveness, between 1971 and 1984 Siemens built up a “Think tank for Data Technology” in the Munich suburb of Perlach. This extensive building complex became home to both the Data Processing Group and the Corporate Technology Unit. Perlach evolved into a microelectronics center that attracted engineers, IT specialists and scientists from all over the world. Munich rapidly gained wide repute as an “electronics metropolis” or “the Bavarian Silicon Valley.” Siemens had already made a contribution to this development earlier by building production facilities on Balanstrasse and St. Martinstrasse, where it had been fabricating semiconductor components and computers, respectively, since 1957. So the think tank in Perlach fit seamlessly into this technological field in Munich.

In the late 1990s, Munich corporate headquarters were expanded with the addition of the “SiemensForum” on Oskar-von-Miller-Ring. This building complex filled in one of the last gaps that the war’s devastation had left in downtown Munich. The office building’s history had begun with an architectural competition back in 1983, but the project had been shelved in favor of another on Hofmannstrasse, so that detailed planning did not start until 1991. Construction began in 1997 on a building with space for some 1,000 employees, built around two interior courtyards. The first offices were ready for occupancy in June 1999; in September the new SiemensForum was inaugurated as a platform for dialog with the public and customers. 

In the summer of 2010, Siemens decided to redesign its Munich headquarters building. The highly energy-efficient building complex would be a contribution toward sustainable urban development. In close cooperation with the City of Munich, the company developed a project for a new building. An international competition among more than 100 architecture firms awarded the project to a Danish firm, Henning Larsen Architects, in 2011. Two years later, demolition on the old headquarters building was complete and work had started on the new one. The new Siemens headquarters finally opened in June 2016. 

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.

Operating throughout Germany

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.

Siemens in Germany today

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. 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.

On the path into the future

The Germany location remains an important field of activity for Siemens as a global company – two large, forward-looking investments of altogether over one billion euros are a clear signal of this. 

Siemens Campus Erlangen und Siemensstadt² Berlin

Dr. Ewald Blocher