CiS ELECTRONIC provides perfect connections – all the way into space

The first thing you see when visiting CiS is a grand piano; the Japanese piano maker Kawai has its German headquarters in this building. Indeed, many Japanese have settled in the green Europark Fichtenhain in the south of Krefeld, situated right on the A 44. Right opposite is the headquarters of Canon Deutschland. But CiS – despite being in electronics – is a German company that moved its production to the Czech Republic back in the 1990’s. CiS does not want to compete with the large production runs of the corporations from Asia. The slogan “Kabelkonfektion in Perfektion” (‘perfection in cable manufacturing’) refers to the very complex and sophisticated products made with a great deal of handiwork despite the high level of automation in the cable preparations. It is less about large production runs, and more about diversity in applications. All the products are custom-made according to the needs of the customer’s equipment. In order to compete on the market for medical technology, for example, a high level of engineering know-how is necessary.

Customized cable manufacturing? For industry outsiders the product may seem an unassuming, everyday product. Yet, the biggest risk of faults and failure lies in the cabling of complex systems. When Managing Director Peter M. Wöllner talks about his company, he gets that spark in his eye. Now 58 years old, he worked in the electronics industry, first in an American, and then in a French firm. Now he commutes between the Lower Rhine region and his second residence in the Riesengebirge. Since 1995 the businessman has held the majority stake in the company, which he joined in 1980. The company emerged in 1975 from the engineering offices founded in 1972 by Arnfried Uhlig in Viersen. In 1995 the company relocated to Krefeld. The Fichtenhain site, as a fusion of parkland and the home of modern companies, was perfect. And the proximity to the motorway was especially important. But the path to Krefeld also had something to do with the city’s former role as a textiles location. Working with cables is very similar to working with textile threads. Hence, Krefeld was exactly the right place for CiS, to find suitable staff for cable manufacturing.

There was a small assembly site in Krefeld until 2003, and the warehouse until 2005: supplying customers all over Europe. When the Czech Republic became a member of the EU in 2005, there were no longer any customs duties. Today the products are sent out daily from Görlitz. The work is labor-intensive, but the cost pressure, especially from key accounts, is growing dramatically.

CiS gradually moved its production to the neighboring country, the Czech Republic, to the region Liberec (Reichenberg) in northern Bohemia. In 1997 the Czech subsidiary CiS SYSTEMS s.r.o. was founded in Nové Mesto p. S. (Neustadl in Mähren). CiS invests a great deal of activities in the training and further training of the staff in order to drive forward the high technological standard of product reliability, and the continuous optimization of all processes . Hence, CiS developed its own production system “CPS” and founded the first Meisterschule (‘master school’), based on the German model, in the Czech Republic in 2009. In 2010 CiS took over the production halls from Knorr Bremse in Hejnice. For Peter M. Wöllner, the Czech Republic is not just a lower-cost production location; he is also interested in good relations between nations. During the Third Reich the National Socialists subjugated the country. Many families are still coping with the trauma of the occupation to this day. After the war, many ethnic Germans were brutally driven out of their homeland. Wöllner wants to see reconciliation and understanding: “The new Europe offers us many opportunities for peaceful and successful cooperation.” For this reason, every year Wöllner makes the company headquarters “Villa Klinger” available for the well-know friendship seminar “Kraft aus Wurzeln” (‘strength in roots’).

But CiS is also expanding in Germany.  In 2011 the subsidiary newcab GmbH & Co. KG was founded as a joint project with the former managers and staff of a company that had slid into bankruptcy, PaderTeg GmbH, and NTT Navigations- und Tracking Systeme GmbH, thus pooling the experience from almost 40 years of know-how in cable manufacturing. Today 40 staff work for CiS in Germany, and 500 in the Czech Republic. Since the materials are purchased primarily in Germany and then shipped out again after processing, CiS continues to pay taxes on the company’s success in Germany.

Cables are mostly built into computers and machines. So you don’t see the many places where CiS products are used. In the beginning the engineering office was busy with the processing of satellite data, for TV weather maps, for example. Today it serves quite different markets, for example, engineering, automation, rail, air and space and medical technology. CiS cables can also be found in incubators, ventilators and dialysis machines. When it comes to anesthesia or respiration, the technology has to be 100% safe, there cannot be any technical problems.  Siemens, for instance, has awarded CiS ELECTRONIC with a certificate saying that the supplier CiS had proven that it was one of the “best”. The highway tolls for lorries are determined using CiS cables, each lorry with an On Bord Unit also has a product made in Krefeld.  However, the biggest challenge was a cable for the engine of stage II of the European Ariane rocket that had to function in the absolute vacuum of space. Together with its customers, the engineers at CiS in Krefeld-Fichtenhain work on complicated application problems like these – and solve them perfectly. For the neighboring Krefeld post sorting office, CiS contributed the over 150 various cable sets for the sorting machines built by Siemens. For military technology the cables and plugs are even subjected to special “rain tests”. Quality checks with special measuring and test equipment assure the high standards are reached reliably. CiS has been developing and perfecting the “CPS” (CiS Production System), which is based on the “Toyota philosophy”, for years. Cable manufacturing requires clockwork precision, e.g. for the soldering of wires as fine as hair to miniaturized connectors in 0.5mm grids. In the manufacturing halls of Hejnice and Ludvikov you can find the so-called “red table”, where the staff take a critical look at the products and problems from current production and initiate corrective measures to continuously improve them.

But it’s not just the products that are top-quality; it’s also the service. Whatever is ordered in the headquarters in Krefeld can be dispatched within 24 hours. “As a highly-respected brand manufacturer, CiS focuses on quality, speed and reliability in serving its customers. In the eyes of these customers, today CiS is one of the best on the market. In particular the customers value the active contribution by CiS to their “total cost of ownership” and hence the reliability of their products,” Wöllner explains.

At the beginning of 2012, CiS became a sponsoring member of the German World Forest Foundation initiative of the “Senat der Wirtschaft” (Economics Senate). This initiative helps solve climate problems long-term with concrete reforestation projects. This forest management it enables the CiS Group to act sustainably and in a climate-neutral manner and to be certified as such in future. CiS is therefore preparing a CO2 audit as the basis for active measures. As Peter M. Wöllner says, “We embrace our company’s responsibility for our future.”

As at: May 2012

Europark Fichtenhain A15
47807 Krefeld
Tel. 0 21 51  37 87 - 0
Fax 0 21 51  37 87 - 11