Running on ATR control technology
When the wind turbine blades rotate, the car park barrier goes up, the luggage conveyer belt at the airport moves along, and the freezer cabinets at the supermarket keep the food at the right temperature – these technical achievements of daily life that we take for granted are all controlled electronically by systems we cannot see directly. ATR Industrie-Elektronik GmbH is a specialist in control systems like these – whether they are hidden in switchgear cabinets or built into the devices themselves as control systems engineering. Timo Amels, Managing Director of ATR in Krefeld, summarizes the activities of his company in three words: “We network, operate and control”. And that is also what is behind the company name: ATR stands for “Antriebs- und Regeltechnik”, or drive and control technology. Up to 70 staff in the 3,200-square-meter hall and the offices in Siempelkampstraße work on the switchboards, up to 300 meters at a time. If you lined up all the switchgear cabinets made in a year, it would stretch for six and a half kilometres. And if you come from Krefeld, you know that would be like going up and down the Ostwall three times. ATR is one of the leading switchgear cabinet manufacturers in Germany.
Seen from the outside, these switchgear cabinets look like “mousy grey cupboards”. But it is what happens inside that matters. Accurate and precision work is required here, as well as 100% quality control. Despite the mass manufacture of these cabinets, these technically complex systems are basically all unique, and put together based on the customers’ exact requirements. ATR does not have its own development department; instead it collaborates with the customer’s design engineers. For many companies that has the appeal that know-how remains inside the company and safeguards their development departments. This skilled contract production without internal engineering is what makes this Krefeld-based company so successful.
The history of ATR, however, actually began 22 kilometres further west: A qualified engineer called Peter Siemes founded the company in 1970 in Viersen-Dülken, virtually in his own apartment building. The family-run company grew continuously from one extension to the next, before relocating to a hall in the Mackenstein industrial park. Even back then, the company cooperated with the Siempelkamp Group, which had operations worldwide. Since 1988 ATR has been a member of the Siempelkamp Group that manufactures switchgear and develops and produces measurement and control electronics. In 2006 the founding family withdrew from the company completely, and in 2007 ATR relocated to Krefeld on the Siempelkamp company grounds.
But how do you get people’s attention with grey switching cabinets and minute control technology? Good work, the ensuing commercial success, and customer satisfaction would be one way. But at ATR they decided to present themselves in a different light. The portrait of the child on the packs of Brandt rusks delivered the idea. The new ambassador of ATR was a bright, blue-eyed girl with sandy blond hair. She welcomes visitors to the homepage with her mischievous smile, and she can be seen on every ATR vehicle through town and country. She gets a lot of attention at trade fairs in particular, amidst the otherwise plain, grey technical environment. “The girl doesn’t fit in with the product, but she has an extremely high recognition factor,” says Stefani Bovie, head of commercial management and logistics. “And it is neither my daughter, nor the daughter of the founder,” Managing Director Timo Amels, she adds smiling. Within the company the advertising girl was baptized Amélie.
Technical products also call for a bit of emotion. ATR generates a turnover of about 28 million euros with this inconspicuous technology. A significant share of that is made from the control components in supermarket refrigerator units. The commissioning company, an international cooling technology specialist, exports refrigerator and deep-freeze units to all corners of the earth. They are not only found in most supermarkets in Europe: they are also delivered to Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Thanks to the high order volume, ATR gets good conditions for its material procurement, which means production in Germany, a country with high labour costs, remains competitive.
And since engineers like to take advantage of the opportunity of a personal consultation, having the company based in Krefeld is ideal for German and West European mechanical engineering companies. Of course, since the Lower Rhine is a border region, customer relations with the Netherlands, Belgium and France also play a strategic role. But it isn’t just the geographical location of the Lower Rhine that ATR appreciates; it is also the large labour market with highly skilled and qualified staff and the fast connections to other places delivered by the well-developed transport infrastructure.
Apprentices at ATR have the possibility of learning the trade of industrial electronics technician. The company welcome applicants from the rural region round Krefeld, since they mostly bring with them a positive and healthy attitude to work. Timo Amels, a business studies graduate from Krefeld, studied in Aachen and Florence and also worked in Paris. He values the good balance of industrial infrastructure and free-time activities on offer in the Lower Rhine region.
ATR Industrie-Elektronik GmbH
Ein Unternehmen der Siempelkamp Maschinen- und Anlagenbau-Gruppe
Tel.: 02151 / 926 100
Fax: 02151 / 926 101