ABUS invited us to tour their locations in Rehe, Germany, where they recently celebrated 90 years of innovation and production. Along the way, we learned about the tradition that has kept them at the top of their game.
|What struck me when I went to the factories in Germany was how clean and safe the working conditions are and how openly they allow the media access to the facilities. - Joan Hanscom, ABUS USA|
A sculpture of an oversized padlock stands in the village square in Volmarstein, Germany. Perhaps an unusual subject for public art or a tourist attraction, the padlock celebrates August Bremicker, who started the company ABUS (August Bremicker and Sons/ August Bremicker und Söhne) there in 1924. The people of Volmarstein have always had a reputation for being innovative and industrious; in 1754 when a fired destroyed their town they rebuilt their homes with ruins from the castle. August continued this tradition of innovation when he and his four sons began producing “The Iron Rock” padlock in their cellar. Nine decades later the company continues to be family owned and operated and runs an international operation based on traditional values and standards.
By 1930, only 6 years from its inception, ABUS had grown exponentially with 80% of the company’s orders being shipped internationally. By 1938 they had transitioned from a five person operation in a small village cellar, to 300 employees in a 6,000 square meter production facility. Their near instant success, though, came to a sudden stop when World War II halted their growth and production. Six years later in 1947, they resumed operations with 70 employees and were forced to branch out and develop new markets beyond padlocks in order to survive. This push to innovate in other areas has led to the production of door locks, smoke detectors and surveillance systems, among other areas. But most importantly to us, the post war economy eventually led ABUS to develop bike locks.
Along with creating the first brass padlock in 1958 (previous padlocks were made of sheet metal or steel), ABUS introduced the 1000 Bicycle Lock. Thirteen years later, the first U-Lock was invented - an evolution on their original padlock design, and what is still considered the most secure bike lock design to date. While the principal engineering of the lock has continued to be proven over the years, ABUS’ developmental changes have created more functional iterations for our varying biking lives.
Partnerships with their raw material providers have allowed ABUS to have more participation in selecting the right metals for their U-Lock production. High-grade steel allows for a lighter lock without sacrificing security, temper hardening allows the locks to maintain a flexible inner core with a hard outer surface for better cut and torsion resistance.
|At Abus there is a dedication to making the locks as high quality as possible and not necessarily trying to hit any special price points. - Axel Roesler, ABUS Germany |
When August and his sons began producing curtain locks out of their home, each lock was hand produced; a process that has continued to be an important tradition for the last ninety years. With ten locations worldwide, ABUS is still producing handmade locks and despite the more demanding requirements of an international company, each lock is hand assembled and tested before being shipped. Even the tooling required to create the products is designed and made in-house, carrying on the quality that became famous from small cellar in Volmarstein.
The ABUS location in Rehe is the home of on-site testing that includes corrosion tests, 300 hours at -40C on a rattle machine, freezing to -80C and a series of destructive tests including hammer blow, car jack, and bolt cutter simulations, as well as a torsion machine. The adherence to decades of rigorous testing has led the company to develop their own internationally recognized seal of quality: “Security Tech Germany”. All of the attempts at destruction occur next door to the Research and Development department, allowing the two teams to work in tandem throughout the development stages. Additionally, feedback from law enforcement and insurance companies helps the engineers to tackle current and ever changing security challenges.
ABUS' recent introduction of their compact, yet secure Bordo lock is evidence of the continued commitment to innovation that was spawned in the post war economy. The Bordo was born out of an effort to make security convenient and therefore increase the use of bike locks, feedback and approval from their employees on the product has helped create this "foldable lock which can very quickly strap to any bikes as you are heading out." Perhaps the most beneficial feature they offer for the 'bike enthusiast' is the options to have multiple locks keyed the same. From on the truck to out at the bar to in the garage, imagine the freedom of having on key to rule them all, instead of carrying a keyring that makes your high school janitor envious. ABUS has taken to heart the idea that a bike lock is only good if someone is using it and worked this idea into their development process.
|With my 14 years at Abus I look like a fresh starter compared to the average employee. While visiting us you will see many 25, 30, and 35 anniversary posters hanging behind the different work stations! - Axel Roesler, ABUS Germany |
This dedication to evolving the product may be in part to thank for the old-world tradition of employee retention at ABUS. A walk through the German facility reveals posters celebrating workplace anniversaries; some of 30 years or more. The continuation of tradition has created a company culture where employees are actively encouraged to communicate their ideas in relation to improving their workplaces and processes. Next to the necessary qualifications, ABUS hires people who want to contribute, people who will take ownership and pride in their projects. And whether it is intentional or not, they hire riders.
With 90 years of experience and a strong foundation of family values over multiple generations, ABUS continues to have a strong presence the security industry by continuing August's tradition of handmade locks.
|How many of us ride? We are all bike commuters or racers. - Joan Hanscom, ABUS USA|