1969 - A giant leap for LEMO
50 years ago, Neil Armstrong wasn’t the only one taking some important steps. In early December of that year, LEMO first set foot in Germany and this new subsidiary was to become one of the largest in the Group.
It’s 1969: the world is in the midst of the Cold War and Germany is at the very heart of the political turbulence. The country is geographically divided in two and so is its old capital city Berlin. However, Western Germany remains a promising market. This is why LEMO decides to join forces with its distributor Megatron to create LEMOSA GmbH in Munich.
Among the first customers there were a number of big names, such as Krautkrämer, a global leader in industrial ultrasonic inspection and General Electric (who would go on to acquire Krautkrämer in 2004).
During the seventies, LEMO started to supply the growing German civil nuclear industry with radiation resistant S series connectors. Since the late eighties, LEMO has entered the most iconic German market: the automobile industry. “We are not inside the cars, but everywhere around them!” says Wilfried Mathemeier, director of LEMO Germany and LEMO Austria. “Around” meaning, for instance, prototype test or manufacturing equipment.
The automotive industry has remained the company’s biggest market. However, there are now many more. “Every year LEMO launches new connectors, which opens up new applications and markets and addresses new competitors.” LEMO can count on 5,000 regular customers (buying every year) in Germany and Austria, from a wide range of industries.
The German subsidiary, with its vast inventory, is also serving Austria. Both markets are experiencing solid growth. Germany is one of the two biggest markets for LEMO, in equal position with the USA. Despite its small size, Austria generates a relatively significant turnover, with an annual increase of 6-8% during these last few years.
As a major subsidiary, LEMO Germany is a full-service provider, supplying LEMO, REDEL and COELVER connectors. “We have a vast inventory of components and we ship 60% of our connectors unassembled”, says Mr Mathemeier. “Our customers often prefer to assemble the connectors themselves.”
What really distinguishes the German subsidiary is the importance of its cable business. It is the only LEMO subsidiary acting as a cable distributor – buying and reselling them, many years before the Group acquired US cable manufacturer Northwire in 2014.
“We have kept our own cable inventory since the early eighties”, confirms Mr Mathemeier. “We sell them by the metre to our customers as well as to LEMO subsidiaries.”
They are obviously not just ordinary cables, but high quality and specially selected to perfectly fit all the LEMO connector range and to comply with the specifications of applications they are meant for.
These cables come from a dozen suppliers, most of them German, selected for their expertise in a given material – PTFE, FEP, FPM, etc. The extensive range – about a thousand cables figuring in the catalogue – meets all the demanding requirements: water resistance, oil resistance, high temperature, high voltage, etc. These carefully selected high quality cables attract quite a number of companies, even those that do not look to buy any connectors!
The German subsidiary also has the biggest cable assembly business in the LEMO Group. These activities, initiated as early as the mid-seventies, keep 85 people busy and represent 40% of the turnover. The assemblies include cables from the catalogue, those from Northwire as well as those requested by customers. They also serve other LEMO subsidiaries, such as high-pressure solutions used in pipelines for LEMO Canada or assemblies for antennae shipped to LEMO Italy.
SMPTE connector-cable assemblies (a type that was originally created by LEMO for Sony and that has become a global standard for broadcasting) are a particularly iconic example. LEMO Germany has assembled them for 3 FIFA World Cups as well as several Olympic Games including Rio in 2016, where 1,400 drums were shipped, to support the broadcasting of images from all sporting disciplines all over the world.
Through its 50 years of operations, LEMO has earned an excellent reputation in Germany and Austria, as Mr Mathemeier proudly says: “Whenever customers and engineers think of a new connector or new equipment, we know that the LEMO brand comes immediately into mind.” This solid reputation is also supported by the fact that customers do not hesitate to add LEMO connectors and cables to their catalogues – which is a further proof of the brand’s influence.
This solid growth has had a secondary effect: the current building, which dates back to 2001, when the staff numbered only 85 people, has now become too small. An extra 2,000 m2 will be added to the current 4,000 m2, with the opening of a nearby second building next year. The great adventure of LEMO Germany can therefore continue.