Mr. Google gives it a try:
Sometimes, in a quiet hour, Hannes Schimmel-Vogel heretical thoughts go through your head. Then he looks at fellow managers, think of conversations with other CEOs and circulated thoughts such as: In what a complex world we actually live in the piano industry? How much easier you could make money elsewhere and get on the career ladder?
The 42-year old blond boy who has married into the Brunswick dynasty keys and nine years leading the Company, has every reason to such reasoning. Of all the traditional piano maker Schimmel, whose instruments have generations of young school music closer to either spoiled or had to sign three years ago insolvency. Today, mold is again fairly stable, but the future is - this knowledge goes beyond the cliché - more uncertain than ever. And not only of Lower Saxony.
A great opportunity and a big problem at the same time
A few facts and figures meet, and you understand why reports of piano producers have been popular topped with a headline from the idea of recycling drawer: "Piano morte". The late sixties and early seventies, the piano manufacturer in this country produced about 30,000 instruments. The early eighties, there was an initial dip, sales fell to 25,000 units. Today, the company would be more than happy to have such a number, the current production is about 11,000. Only a small part of it remains in Germany: 3000. The rest of the purchases abroad.
© FRANZ BISCHOF
Hannes Schimmel-Vogel leads the Braunschweig piano manufacturer molds since 2003. He already has a bankruptcy behind
Our pianos are therefore primarily not from local factories, but in Chinese, Korean and Japanese. We serve the world, and the world supplying us. Globalization? Yes, but in contrast to a rule that is based on the same value chain. Thus Asia and China in particular a great opportunity for the German piano maker and a major problem at the same time.
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It is problematic for the industry already fast pace of the global market. If there is one sector that thinks in long cycles, it's the German piano industry. "Bechstein will survive us and future generations," says owner Stefan Freymuth and thus used a key word. Only too happy to refer the piano builders on their history, always a cause for celebration: In the coming year Bechstein, Blüthner and Steinway celebrate their 160th respectively Birthday. Two years ago, Grotrian were at 175 years and 125 years, with mold on the series. Not to mention several smaller suppliers that are soon 140 years and older.
An organically grown chaos
In retrospect, it is easy to overlook that the story of the 88 black and white keys is economically run quite variable. In the 19th Century, the technique was so far advanced that a veritable founder wave began. By the then several hundred piano factories in Germany, but survived only a dozen. 13 Manufacturers Association of Piano counts today as members. This former reputation does not protect from the off. The company Ibach about, which is dominated by the title of "oldest piano manufacturer in the world, since 1794" adorned presented, in 2007 the production. Others, such as the Lower Franconian manufacturer Seiler were taken.
Who wants to know how the survivors tick today must be prepared for long journeys. The Saxon Seifhennersdorf is at the end of Germany, 100 kilometers from Dresden, on the southeastern edge of the Republic. A place that has lost 40 percent since the fall of its inhabitants. Here once stood a great dress and a shoe factory. But that's history. Reality, however, is the largest employer in the area - and this is now a piano maker. Several renovated cream production facility with elongated box windows harboring C. Bechstein piano factory AG, as the listed company called officially. The term "factory" does not really. Yes, there are computer-controlled drilling and milling machines, it also here. But the 150 staff are mainly manual workers. Bands in vain. The production looks like a better carpenter's workshop. , Equivalent to the industry standard.
Curious whether now visiting Bechstein in Seifhennersdorf, mold in Braunschweig or Blüthner in Großpösna in Leipzig: The impression of an organically grown chaos firmer. At least one company with all visitors. Their understanding of the initially assessed as exorbitant price of instruments grows. Perhaps it could be a wing similar to a car is screwed together glued together on one or two days. Whether a pianist would have been delighted with it is another question. And so the manufacturers take time - at least those who occupy what they call the premium segment.
Producers seek their salvation in the Asia-cheap rail
Until they have one wing is finished, it can take nine months or 18 Alone take the drying procedures for the wood and last and last. In the drying chamber with temperatures around 30 degrees the minute and the hour is not a relevant unit. Elsewhere there is timelessness. Infinite patience seems a Klavierbaumeister own when he worked in his little cubby hammers, lay hold long produced for finished. The felt of each of these parts that strike the strings will put many dozen times with fine needle sticks, to make it more elastic. With small flames the hammer handles are heated to adjust their position to tenths of a millimeter.
Is it any wonder that a product manufactured in Germany beginner piano beats with at least 7000 Euros to the price? That for the standard piano must pay 30,000 euros? And a wing sometimes can cost 150,000 euros? Wonders who likes and can afford it. Of the concert pianist alone could no agency life, not even by Russian oligarchs, who are occasionally intervene with German manufacturers. Since even the demand of all Germans together modestly excludes - add 82 million people to 3000 annually to a new acoustic piano from German manufacturing - Demand must come from somewhere else. And so is the great dream of the German piano industry: China. A dream and a nightmare at the same time. After all, who in this country can suddenly have a piano for 1500 euros, which you can easily begin to wonder if it actually has to be made in Germany.
And so many producers now seek their salvation in the Asia-cheap rail. Bechstein has with the Chinese manufacturer Hailun Piano signed a cooperation agreement, which runs for a year. A "quality product made in China" promises CEO Karl Schulze, and so it really looks like quality, is "designed by Bechstein" on the models. Similar mold goes in front of the middle kingdom. Since 2008, the Brunswick working with a manufacturing partner, who is also their importer.
High proportion of manual work
If you get involved as a more expensive supplier in China, the threat of danger. Why, is likely to ask some customers, I want to spend much money for supposedly German workmanship, the manufacturer produced in China anyway? To avoid such thoughts, the Germans eighth meticulously on brand separation. In China, no mold-made pianos, no wings and no Bechstein Blüthner pianos. In China can produce mold tools with the beautiful German name May Berlin, Bechstein instruments with the beautiful German name Zimmermann and Blüthner instruments with the beautiful German name Irmler.
Given the high proportion of manual labor, the cheap Chinese wages suggests dramatically reflected in the price. About half of the production cost of a piano, expects the chairman of the Association of Piano and Director of Grotrian, Burkhard Stein before, attributable to the wage. Makes 40 percent of the material, the rest come from, among other sales and profit margin. This explains why a piano dealer as the Austrian company Zifreind the Irmler-wing "F 160 Studio" ("by Blüthner") with a suggested retail price of 11,590 euros offered, while even a little smaller original Blüthner Model "11" will cost 35,856 euros.
"The trees do not grow to the sky"
The hopes of the industry are on budget-conscious Germans and especially to the Chinese themselves, the Chinese people as the piano without any ifs and buts apply - at least since pianist Lang Lang has to serve as a role model. The 30-year-old is a built-up of clever marketing pop star who not only play the piano well, but also can tell nice stories that are fit for the legend. At the age of two years, Lang Lang is on record that he had seen a cartoon with Tom and Jerry. In the short film "The Cat Concerto" from 1946, Tom has a star pianist in coping with the disorders of his young opponent. His performance, rapid Hungarian Rhapsody no. 2 by Franz Liszt is, still one of the favorite pieces of the star, for the campaigns for Steinway.
Supposedly Lang Lang have moved millions of young Chinese to play. And supposedly there are 80 million in China who want to learn to play the piano. 80 million - if only one-thousandth of it would be a tool set of German manufacturing, the German manufacturers were their concerns going on. But it is not so simple. Schimmel-Vogel warns against unrealistic expectations, particularly as the brand awareness of the Chinese is anything but strong. And even many of them falsely suggesting a German origin. It's not just the Germans themselves, who provided their China-production with German piano names. There are also the Chinese themselves that make up German. "The look in the phone book again and look to a typical German name of" an industry insider says with just a hint of irony in his voice.
So then arise pianos of shock "Ritmüller". Even before the brand "Edelweiss" frighten you back not know Piano Association official stone. But he also knows that to buy large Chinese manufacturers such as Pearl River German technology and even local Klavierbaumeister recruit. Stein's conclusion: "The trees do not grow to the sky, not in China."
As a pianist who does not need notes
All the more surprising that in such a branch manager and chief not close the dozen the piano lid. It promises great growth apparently not currently still hope for a breakthrough in the future. Ensure the piano belongs in every economic cycle of the losers. In a downturn, the industry serves as a leading indicator, the upswing as lagging indicator. Which means: When it comes down to the economy, the piano makers are the first to notice that the. It goes up, they are the last to benefit.
All this seems to interest people as Bechstein chief Karl Schulze little. The feisty former piano dealer has made the Group after a bankruptcy in the nineties to a successful business. Bechstein is one of the few companies where it verified such statements. The listed company must publicly and broadly accountable. Karl Schulze appears like a pianist who needs no notes, but his score in his sleep dominated. Of the heruntergeratterten figures hangs above all: The pre-tax return is almost 10 percent. At the pinnacle of success increases the 64-year-old Schulze expire. Its 20-percent stake in Bechstein he sold to the new owner Freymuth, and in 2014 he left the chief piano stool.
With family tradition and responsibility
A few years longer, the relatively young chef at Blüthner and mold make their management talent. Christian Blüthner-Haessler sounds confident. For decades we have had no operating loss, he says. And the current consumer spending? "40 years of the GDR have not we done, then it also creates such a Euro-crisis."
Schimmel-Vogel is a little quieter. After all, he already felt how it feels to a bankruptcy ". Like a roller coaster ride, where you do not know where it goes," Schimmel plays only "marginal" the piano, and who asks him what binds him to the instrument gets replied: ". Difficult to say" For him, the piano is a "mix of anachronism and civility." And this feeling fades with categories such as family tradition and responsibility for almost 200. Schimmel, after almost a decade ago succeeded his father at the head, once cleaned up, fired the old management and tangled with the union.
Today, the business management has become quieter, but he still knows ". It is trite, in the end it comes to sales and profits, and therefore, to reduce costs," Long pause. "But it has a charm that holds a da and motivated every day." Although perhaps elsewhere could earn easy money.