Driven to the Top of the Textiles Industry
The Mönchengladbach company AUNDE is a prime example of a successful structural change in the textiles industry. Founded in 1899 as Achter & Ebels, it managed, from 1982, to transform itself from a sole proprietorship for cloth to an international group for automobile textiles and leather, vehicle seats and precision-engineered springs. As a result, Achter & Ebels became the AUNDE Group. The company headquarters are still in Mönchengladbach. Since 1978, Rolf Königs has been AUNDE's frontman and guarantor of success. As CEO and chairman, he not only looks after the company but is also involved in many associations and industrial organizations on a voluntary basis and is committed to social and sporting ideas.
It all began with steam power in 1899. Looms in people's houses were replaced by mechanic weaving mills. Achter & Ebels was founded by Conrad Ebels and Viktor Achter. They initially had just 12 looms in Alsstrasse, which were used to produce durable fabric for menswear. Later, fabric for womenswear was added to the range. Because the company founders were also early car enthusiasts, they started developing technical textiles for automobile seats as early as the 1920s. The company expanded. In 1908, Achter and Ebels bought a large piece of land for a new factory well away from the city. This enabled them to rapidly develop into a major factory covering all the stages of textile production. They started out with 87 looms, and just five years later the figure had risen to 150. In 1927, with 500 employees, Achter & Ebels was already the biggest private textiles company in the fabric industry on Germany's Lower Rhine.
After the Second World War, the textiles industry suffered a crisis. From 1950 to 2010, the number of textiles companies in Germany dropped by 81%, from 3,791 to 732, while the number of employees fell even further, by 89%. Increasingly expensive and large machines replaced work by hand. The textiles industry shifted from a labour-intensive industry to a capital-intensive one. In 1978, Rolf Königs put AUNDE on a new, decisive track and managed to restructure the company: The fabric manufacturer became a system supplier for the automotive industry. Its specialist knowledge made it a success throughout the world. Taking a cool-headed approach, Königs expanded AUNDE to 21 countries, always keeping close to the customer and the local market. This tactic took AUNDE right to the top. In the technical textiles segment, the market share of German companies is 45%, according to Deutsche Bank. And AUNDE is up among the leaders. Until 1982, there was only the Mönchengladbach site. In 1986, AUNDE took over the Spanish seat manufacturer Esteban, followed in 1991 by the company Isringhausen in Lemgo (Germany), an internationally recognized manufacturer of seat systems and technical springs. Today, it has 86 plants in 25 countries.
The company, which had started out purely as a manufacturer of textiles, expanded into producing car seats. And leather has also been used for making its car seats for some time now, too. From VW and BMW to Fiat and Daimler, all reputable automobile manufacturers in the world get their textiles, leather or seats from the AUNDE Group. At the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter plant in Düsseldorf, the seats are manufactured directly on site. This means that Daimler can receive the ordered seats "just in sequence" with an ordering time of three hours. The AUNDE Group is among the 100 biggest automotive component suppliers. The quality requirements of textiles in cars are tremendous and go far beyond making the fabric light-resistant and fire-proof. At AUNDE, the workforce strives to continuously improve products by taking a zero-error strategy. This pays off, as there are very few complaints. The next challenge for AUNDE will be the even stricter quality requirements of the aerospace industry.
But AUNDE invests not only in products and processes, but also in training and qualifications for young people. Between 1980 and 2011, AUNDE trained 1,280 apprentices to become skilled workers in the German federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia; in Mönchengladbach alone, the figure was 443. But there are also 537 employees in North Rhine-Westphalia who have already celebrated 25, 40 or 50 years with the company. In Mönchengladbach, the figure is 193, of whom 40 still work at the company.
In addition, AUNDE has an excellent track record in doing business sustainably. For example, water consumption from its own wells has been reduced by 96% since 1985. By 2010, oil consumption had dropped by 92%. The great degree of innovation in the company has helped reduce emissions radically. With strategic skill and an absolute will to succeed, Rolf Königs has transformed the company into a global player. He is also successful in sport: Since he became honorary president of the football club Borussia Mönchengladbach, the club has managed to pay back its debts of millions of euros. AUNDE and Königs are a very special team – and a very special Mönchengladbach success story.
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