Tradition meets technology: the facility in Freising
Otto von Bismarck was in his fourth year as Chancellor of the German Empire when Anton Steinecker set up his own company. And when in 1926 Mickey Mouse first saw the light of day, the firm was already more than 50 years old; while Germany was winning the World Cup in 1990, it was engaged in relocating to Freising-Attaching. This tradition-steeped Freising-based company, a member of the Krones Group, has already lived through almost one and a half centuries of German history – after all, it was already a good 75 years old when its present-day parent company Krones was founded. If that’s not worth a closer look!
And it’s precisely in search of this closer look that I’m now standing in a production hall on this warm and sunny day. Why am I subjecting myself to this? Because the production operation of the huge tanks and brewhouses to be seen at Steinecker in Freising is quite simply rather interesting – and a whole lot more than just an excursion into the past! However, more about that later …
If you remember the chapter on Bismarck in your history textbook or are good at mental arithmetic you’ll know already: the year was 1875 when Anton Steinecker founded his “Anton Steinecker Iron Foundry and Machine Factory” in Freising. In the very first production programme, the principal focus was on manufacturing machines for breweries and malt-houses – and the sector was very favourably impressed. Right from the start, too, something else quickly became established, no less successfully: Anton Steinecker showed he had the right instincts, and in these early years was already working fruitfully together with the Central Agricultural College in Weihenstephan. The fact that Krones’ facility in Freising and Weihenstephan University are still actively collaborating today is surely witness enough to the success of this partnership.
In the years following its foundation, the firm was soaringly successful: all of Freising’s breweries became customers of Steinecker, as did breweries in more than 20 different countries. So more space was needed, and the plant was continually expanded from the early 1880s onwards. By the way: the location wasn’t yet Freising-Attaching as we know it today. Instead, the plant was in the middle of Freising, a mere five minutes away on foot from the present-day railway station – something that’s more or less inconceivable nowadays.
When the Great Depression came in 1929, difficult times then began for the Steinecker company: only by flexibility and skilful diversification to a different product spectrum (the firm produced things like cooking pots and cheese vats) was it possible for Steinecker to survive into the 1950s. And from then on things steadily improved. Not only was the war damage repaired, the plant was even expanded once again, so as to create space for numerous replacement and expansion projects. Then, before relocation to the new buildings in Freising-Attaching in 1991, the Kronseder family stepped in; in 1994, Steinecker was taken over in its entirety by Krones AG.
Meanwhile, the Steinecker facility, with its workforce of almost 500 people, has been fully integrated into Krones AG, and produces responsively customised solutions for breweries.
The production operation in Attaching has three major areas of responsibility: module production, tank manufacture and brewing vessel manufacture. The picture also shows the administration building (bottom left) and the multi-storey car park opposite it. The new training centre is located in the large complex of the production halls, and currently accommodates 19 trainees. Here they learn everything there is to know about welding and metal-cutting.
During my visit to Freising, I get to see, in the module production bay, some huge, very impressive machines, which are not in the least old or traditional: Germany’s second-largest laser-cutting machine, for example, has here been cutting metal sheets to size since 2012 – its dimensions are exceeded only by a machine at a shipyard. That’s really something to be proud of.
For many of the metal sheets, the next stop is the tank production operation: in the component manufacturing zone, for example, the hoods are made for the subsequent tanks, and then the components are passed through the tank production hall. Here, the tanks are manufactured to the individual client’s precise specifications – that’s also why the various workplaces are identical in design, so that the plant can react with full flexibility to the ongoing order situation. After the finished tanks have passed the acceptance test conducted by the TÜV technical inspectorate, it’s off to the pickling shop prior to final dispatch.
The pickling shop, which we were also allowed to tour, is not only impressively large, but also the most recent major new addition to the facility. It was newly built three years ago, and since then, thanks to a personnel crane, even amazingly large components can be pickled. So far, the biggest component has been 14 metres in size.
And then, of course, there’s the hall for manufacturing the brewhouse vessels – that’s on the extreme right of the photo. As with the tank production shop, the components processed here are also produced in-house. And what comes out of this hall looks truly impressive. I almost feel as if I’m in a science-fiction film as I wander between the gigantic, gleaming vessels, tanks and metal sheets. And the fact that this production operation meanwhile has over 140 years of tradition behind it is at first glance attested only by the front doors of the administration building.