The printed circuit board pioneers

On 1 January 2017, one of the most innovative entrepreneurs in the region died, aged 85 years: Werner Peters. "He was a pioneer in printed circuit boards (PCB)", explains his son-in-law, Ralf Schwartz, Managing Director of Lackwerke Peters GmbH & Co. KG. "Right back in 1956, Werner Peters and the other two PCB pioneers, Fritz Stahl and Hermann Seul, developed the first printed circuit boards to be mass produced in Germany and thus initiated PCB manufacture in Europe generally." When Werner Peters took over the Lower Rhine paint factory in Krefeld in 1970, which specialised in lacquers for the electronics industry, this represented the beginning of his successful career as an entrepreneur, and that career was characterised by expansion and international success and led to a move in 1984 to newly built larger premises in Kempen. Since that time, there have been close links between the medium-sized company and the town. If anyone anywhere in the world asked him where the company headquarters were, he used to say: "In Kempen near Düsseldorf, close to the Dutch border", says Ralf Schwartz, who himself is from the neighbouring city of Krefeld.

If the word "paint factory" conjures up images of paint tubs and brushes, the truth is a long way from that image. The company run by Peters operates at a microscopically fine level, the owner says and pulls out his smart phone. "There are 28 layers of PCBs in my mobile phone." And these require very high quality conformal coatings. "A PCB is, in reality, nothing more than a printed wiring harness." Peters is the only company worldwide that provides the full range of products and services in coating materials for electronics. "For over 40 years, we have been developing ground-breaking, practically orientated solutions in close cooperation with our customers", as the company explains on its website. "Our highly specialised research & development team guarantees a never-ceasing drive to create new innovative products and improve existing ones."

It is estimated that 60 per cent of the products from this Lower Rhine company are used in the automotive industry, but the field of industrial electronics, robots, for instance, makes up a large part of sales. Just over half of the items produced are exported. Ninety per cent of printed circuit board production takes place in Asia. "We are represented by a number of companies in that part of the world", says Ralf Schwartz. The Hong Kong facility is managed by his nephew, Tim Schwartz.

Paint & lacquer factories serve a niche market. Annual output may be only 1500 tonnes, but this factory in Kempen is extremely successful. The Group with around 160 employees worldwide is a typical hidden champion. Its customers include some of the world's best known multinationals. "Peters is recognised by renowned enterprises in the most varied fields of industry as being both capable and reliable", as the website explains under "References". And these are, indeed, reputable clients. In the automotive industry, they include Bosch, BMW and Freudenberg. In the aerospace industry, DASA and NASA. In the field of industrial electronics, there are such names as IBM, Osram and Philips.

And yet, however big the names may be, this medium-sized family concern has succeeded in remaining independent. "The largest share of our annual turnover with any one customer is seven per cent", explains Ralf Schwartz, who has been in the company for 30 years now.

As chairman of the Lower Rhine Entrepreneurs Association (UN-AGV), he is a well-known figure in the regional economy. This Association, based in Krefeld, represents the joint interests of its members, acts as a partner in tariff negotiations and is involved in vocational master craftsman and craftswoman training. In addition, the Association organises a regional scientific research competition for youngsters and is actively involved in the "Long Night of Industry" event. Consolidating the location with good basic conditions for enterprises, strengthening public acceptance of industry and promoting well qualified staff and youngsters are the highest priorities according to the Association. The network works, says the chairman.
In his own company, the successor question has already been answered. Besides his nephew, Tim, his daughter Britta also joined the company at the beginning of this year. This means that the management is now into its third generation, continuing the heritage of Werner Peters.

Lackwerke Peters GmbH & Co. KG
Hooghe Weg 13
47906 Kempen

Phone: +49 2152 2009-0
Fax: +49 2152 2009-70


As of beginning 2017