This week (17 August 2020), Professor Klaus Fischer - owner of the fischer Group - is celebrating his 70th birthday in the same year of his 45th anniversary with the company and 40th as its General Director.
The milestone year comes in the same year that fischer set up two new subsidiaries: a fischer fixings system subsidiary in Vietnam and a fischer automotive site in Serbia - both sites will see production open this year. 2020 has also seen the firm win multiple Germany Brand Awards.
Freshly graduated as a Dipl.-Eng. (FH), Prof Klaus Fischer joined the company at the age of 25 as head of the test facility. Sales in those days totalled 102 million Deutschmark (approx €51 million), generated by 1,000 members of staff. Now, more than 5,200 people worldwide work for the family-owned business from the northern Black Forest, generating annual sales totalling €887 million (2019).
Klaus Fischer joined the management team and in 1980 took on overall responsibility. Professor Klaus Fischer expanded the fixings division, consolidating its position with the take over of then second largest fixings manufacturer in Germany, Upat GmbH & Co. KG in Emmendingen, in 1993.
Next to plastic plugs, heavy-duty metal anchors gained in importance. The principal focus was on chemical fixings systems, a development driven by the purchase of the Baden-based foam and silicone maker Rocca Chemie in 1997. Today, the Product Center Chemie in Denzlingen is one of the company’s key success stories: From product development and the production of individual components through to the in-house manufacture of the automatic assembly machines and to the production of the injection resin and the cartridges including the labels, everything is “made in Germany” – a unique selling point not offered by anyone else.
Klaus Fischer also successfully drove the company’s diversification. The fischer CBOX, a storage system for music cassettes, marked the first move into the automotive supply business in 1982. Today, fischer automotive systems, specialising in kinematics systems such as ventilation outlets in car interiors, is the second most important division of the Group of Companies. Its customers include all the major manufacturers of the international automotive industry. The company’s divisions also include fischertechnik.
"Innovation, accountability and reliability"
In the 1980s, Fischer initiated a corporate mission statement with three central values: innovation, accountability and reliability, three pillars that the company's continued development rests. After travelling to Japan in the '90s, Prof Fischer developed lean production and continuous improvement.
"We launched the fischer ProcessSystem 20 years ago. Based on the Japanese Kaizen philosophy, the aim is to avoid waste in all corporate divisions, to continuously improve processes, and to consistently focus all company processes on external and internal customers. Our staff and workforce play a key role in this approach. These are the people with a wealth of experience and expertise. They know precisely where the weak spots are in the processes, and they know what must be changed to improve them."
fischer Consulting launched in 2004 as a separate corporate division, specialising in process optimisation.
In 2016, Klaus Fischer reinforced the activities of the Group of Companies in the field of electronic devices with the acquisition of LNT Automation GmbH. The new company division encompasses the development, production and sale of capacitive touch systems such as multi-touch solutions made of glass and the corresponding controller units. LNT Automation manufactures custom electronic solutions at its headquarters in Nellmersbach near Stuttgart, and at its production site in the Czech Republic. In future, the solutions will play an increasingly important role at fischer.
fischer invest heavily in staff training, In 2010, it established the Klaus Fischer BildungsZentrum in 2010 as a centre for lifelong extracurricular learning and training. It has since recorded 12,000 registrations for around 800 events. The fischer fitness centre was opened at the Waldachtal headquarters (Freudenstadt district) in 2015, where the company’s employees and retirees can use free of charge almost 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
In the same year, Prof Klaus Fischer set up the Klaus Fischer Foundation for Furthering the Education of Children and Young People. The Professor's commitment and support to education (and international causes) - as well as his achievements with fischer - have seen him awarded multiple accolades over the years, including the Global DIY Lifetime Award in 2016.
“We think in terms of generations, not quarterly figures," says the Professor. Work on important current issues, like digitalisation and e-commerce – have long been underway at fischer. Seeding future innovation, this spring saw the inauguration of the fischer InnovationCampus at the headquarters in Tumlingen, where several of fischer’s startups are located. More of these new ventures are expected to follow.
The family firm is now represented by 49 subsidiaries in 37 countries and exports into over 100 countries. Over the coming years, Prof. Klaus Fischer plans to focus even more on the future and visit his overseas subsidiaries more often. “But I won’t be involved as much in the operative business, which I have already stopped doing. If I notice anything then I approach my successor, Mr Marc-Sven Mengis, with whom I have an excellent working relationship”. Klaus Fischer’s objective is to “work much, much less”.