Interview: Jörg Friedrich
Leesys GmbH, COO
Packing things, dragging boxes, just don't forget anything and then reassemble everything in the new apartment. Such a move can be a real challenge. And now imagine that a factory with almost 600 employees is moving - without interrupting production. That's what happened when the telephone plant moved from its Leipzig location in Stötteritz to its new location in the Hertzstraße in Leipzig- Heiterblick in 1999.
Mr. Friedrich, you were in charge of this large-scale project. That was 20 years ago. How exciting was the move to the green field in the new home in the Hertzstraße? With what feelings do you think back to that time?
Looking back, this was the "hottest time" in my working life. Accompanying the construction of a factory on a "green field" is only possible once in your life, if at all. The plans for the new building were implemented in the shortest possible time, and the building application was approved in just six weeks. After the ground-breaking ceremony for the new factory building in March 1998, the new production plant was built within only ten months. The move also took place in record time. Within two weeks the complete production with five assembly lines and eight SMT assembly lines as well as the administration were relocated. Around 350 truck transports were necessary for this. That was an exhausting, but also very nice time.
Until the move to the current location in the Hertzstraße in 1999, power supplies were manufactured at the location in the Melscherstraße in addition to substations. Why did it become necessary to look around for a new location and to build a new one?
Success needs space! The location in the Melscherstraße in Leipzig-Stötteritz was a multi-storey building where, shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the takeover of the location by Siemens AG, the main focus was on the production of Private Branch Exchanges (PBX) systems and power supplies until 1997. With the start of production of the business phones in 1997, the location was no longer able to cope with the demands on production cycle times and the associated material supply. The production world had changed completely compared to the time when power supplies and PBX systems had to be manufactured. Whereas the testing time for power supplies alone was 20 minutes, the cycle time for telephone production was only 20 seconds. This was associated with a huge material throughput. Significantly more material was required in much shorter time than before. Over several floors, this enormous consumption of material could not be managed logistically, because Siemens had planned to have five million telephones built annually at the Leipzig site in the future. The Leipzig site was Siemens' only ISDN telephone plant worldwide. The location of the old plant in the middle of a residential area also became increasingly problematic. The arrival of trucks at the goods receiving department led to a number of problems.
In the new plant in the Hertzstraße, the entire production process was now combined on one level, thus creating optimum conditions for the requirements of modern production logistics. The material flow within the production halls is carried out by driverless transport systems (Automated Guided Vehicles, AGVs). The high rack warehouse on 3,000 sq meters offers space for an automatic small parts warehouse with 30,000 boxes and an automatic high rack warehouse for 1,700 pallets.
A great deal of foresight was shown during factory planning. The building design, the production plant layout, the planning of the supply and the disposal as well as the linking of the production lines with each other makes it easy for us to adapt the production islands to the current requirements of our customers.
20 years ago, we pioneered Intralogistics 4.0 with the commissioning of the driverless transport system (Automated Guided Vehicles system, AGV system).
How long did the planning phase for the current plant take and ultimately the construction?
On November 26, 1997, the Group Executive Board of Siemens AG gave the go-ahead for the construction of the new plant. The building application was approved in just six weeks and on March 3, 1998, the then Lord Mayor of Leipzig, Dr. Hinrich Lehmann-Grube, Saxony's Economics Minister Dr. Kajo Schommer and Siemens Group President Richard Heim symbolically broke the ground. The topping-out ceremony was celebrated in September 1998 and we moved in January 1999. Only one year after the ground-breaking ceremony, Siemens officially opened the plant in the presence of the Saxon State Minister for Economic Affairs and Labor, Dr. Kajo Schommer, Leipzig's Lord Mayor Wolfgang Tiefensee and Dr. Volker Jung, Member of the Corporate Executive Committee of Siemens AG.
What were the major milestones in the history of the company? Even those decisions that, perhaps in retrospect, were trend-setting for the company's development?
We had good luck with the takeover of VEB Nachrichtenelektronik by Siemens AG in 1990. Alcatel and Philips were also in discussion at the time as takeover partners. As we know, the plants of our competitors in East Germany no longer exist.
The production of the telephone system HICOM100 and the EWSD printed circuit board assembly (PCBA) for Siemens was already started in March 1990. Three years later the location developed further and was no longer just an extended workbench with the establishment of its own development for power supply systems. Seen that way, our future as an provider of E2MS - Electronic Engineering and Manufacturing Services already began in 1993.
Until the move to the current location in the Hertzstraße in 1999, power supplies were manufactured at the location in the Melscherstraße in addition to substations. Since the start of production of the business phones in 1997, more than 28 million corded telephones have left the factory. In 2003, the first wireless modules came off the production line. To date, more than 95 million communication modules have been delivered. In our plastics processing, almost 240 million parts have "fallen" out of injection molding machines to date.
In 2010, the company expanded its range of products also for customers outside the direct Siemens environment. Electronic Manufacturing Services, plastic production and complete equipment, from small batch size series to large-volume mass production, were thus offered to a new market.
In 2012, the next logical step took place: The change of name to “Leesys - Leipzig Electronic Systems GmbH”. With the name "Leipzig Electronic Systems" a clear commitment was made to Leipzig, where the predecessor company was founded almost 100 years ago.
In 2014, Quantum Capital Partners AG from Munich took over Leesys and thus secured the future of the company.
In recent years, Leesys has consistently adapted to market requirements by building up expertise in product development over the past five years in addition to our existing expertise in process development. Process development covers all areas of manufacturing and testing electronic components. Product development, however, allows us not only to manufacture products for our customers, but also to develop them. This was an important step towards the further development of E2MS- Electronic Engineering and Manufacturing Services.
Do you remember an important story or a funny anecdote in connection with the construction of the plant?
Yeah, that makes me think of a Saturday in January 1999. On the agenda was the dress rehearsal of the driverless transport system (Automated Guided Vehicles, AGVs). Full of expectation, ten colleagues stood in the production hall staring spellbound at the "yellow taxis", waiting for them to set themselves in motion to move fictitious materials. But nothing happened. Perplexed faces!
An apparently endless hour later it turned out that a wrongly placed checkmark in the Electronic Resources Planning (ERP) system was responsible for blocking any material movement. One could have heard the stones falling from the hearts of everyone involved. After the fault had been rectified, the “yellow taxis” started to move as planned with great cheers.