In the beginning, there was the cigar

Daimler Supplier Award winner Dr. Schneider: In the beginning, there was the cigar

Thick air and blue smoke. 90 years ago, smoking cigars was socially acceptable. But today a new wind is blowing. This is also true for Dr. Schneider Unternehmensgruppe. Today, this automotive supplier is an air vent system specialist. It is for this specialty that the Daimler Supplier Award was presented.

He was the winner with the most radiant smile when presented with the Daimler Supplier Award. There should have also been a special prize just for that! Parag Shah, President & CEO at Dr. Schneider Unternehmensgruppe: “We are tremendously proud. For us, receiving the Daimler Supplier Award for Innovation is similar to being presented with the Oscar award for the best film.” The distinction was awarded to Dr. Schneider for its high innovation standard in air vents.

When the company was founded 90 years ago, none of the practices at Dr. Schneider promoted fresh air. In the parlors of the taverns you could hardly see from the door to the windows. Thick clouds of smoke filled the room. Simply said, where there were beer and wine, there were also cigars. Good times for cigar producers, and for those in Germany. In Kronach in Bavaria, Germany, Franz Schneider Senior established a cigar manufacturing business in 1927. With 17 employees, he processed tobacco from Borneo, Java and Sumatra. The finest cigars from the Franconian Forest were smoked all over Germany. Nearly ten years later, Schneider introduced a second specialty in his small company: Plastics processing. Up until the beginning of the 20th century, all commodities were made from natural materials. Metal, wood, wool. Fully synthetic plastics could be industrially produced for the first time using Bakelite, which was invented in 1905. The advantage: Bakelite can be pressed into molds and, after curing, is resistant to heat and acids. The first “plastics pressing plant” was established in 1936 at the residence of the Schneider family. Bottle closures, electrical switches and ash trays were manufactured there.

The old pressing plant: The groundwork for expertise in plastics was laid here.

1955 was the end of the “Schneider cheroot”. Dr. Franz Schneider, the son of the company founder, joined the company and took it into a new direction: Ashtrays instead of cigars. From that point onward, the small company concentrated solely on plastics processing. One year later, Schneider Junior established contacts in the automotive industry. Daimler AG was among the company’s first customers. Dr. Schneider entered the market as an automobile vendor with a product with which they had experience: Ashtrays. These were not only produced for tables in taverns, but also for car dashboards.

Production at Dr. Schneider in the 1960s.

A significant disadvantage in those days for Dr. Schneider: Its location in what was then an area adjacent to the Soviet zone. With the Iron Curtain – the border to former East Germany – within sight, the Autobahn (highway) network in the Federal Republic of Germany was still very manageable. If you didn’t want to drive over the curvy and narrow country roads to the Mercedes-Benz plant in Sindelfingen, you had to take the indirect route on the Autobahn by way of Munich. The distance of over 500 kilometers was more than just a stone’s throw away. At that time, traveling up through the Swabian Alps and back down again was quite an endurance test for the engines and brakes of trucks. Dr. Schneider had to make up for this disadvantageous location. The company did so through top quality and innovative products.

The first "luxury climate control vents" from 1982.

At Dr. Schneider, internationalization began before the world started to look more and more like a global village. In 1973 a subsidiary was founded in Valencia, Spain. However, highly dynamic growth in international markets only truly began with the opening of the borders to Eastern Europe. In addition to plants in Poland and Slovakia, manufacturing locations were built in Brazil, the USA and China. Combining an international orientation with a down-to-earth attitude. In the 1990s, both of Dr. Franz Schneider’s daughters joined the company. Shortly beforehand, the number of employees had exceeded the 1,000 mark. In 2001, the Dr. Schneider plants were placed in a family holding company and the company shares were transferred to Annette Schneider and Sylvia Schmidt. Dr. Schneider Unternehmensgruppe has been lead by the third generation ever since.

The company headquarters in Kronach-Neuses.

What is the current situation at Dr. Schneider Unternehmensgruppe? Automotive supplier with over 3,900 employees at seven separate locations. Global market leader for air vent systems and window frame linings. An in-house special development department, in-house tool design and construction, a competence center for high-quality surface treatments. Winner of the Daimler Supplier Award in the category of “Innovation”. What is the outlook for the company? Dr. Schneider wants to make their plastics products ‘intelligent’. What this means: In the future, car ventilation will no longer be controlled using switches and keys, but instead through gestures and speech. Self-proclaimed goal: “Making the car the best place in the world. ”

Aug 10, 2017
Rasmus Muttscheller