EMS solutions from Zollner
Founded by Manfred Zoller in 1965, Zollner Elektronik has grown from a small electrotechnology company into one of the leading international EMS providers.
Through its optimum system solutions, from customer-specific development through to material and supply chain management, production, logistics and after-sales service, the company offers an entire value-added service to meet customer demand.
“We are a contract manufacturer, predominantly performing PCB assembly and box build for customers,” begins business developer Markus Aschenbrenner. “Some of our client approaches us with a concept, and using our R&D department we work together to create a viable manufacturing proposition.”
Predominantly serving the automotive, industrial electronics, test and measurement, and telecommunications industries, the company has a broad customer base, serving approximately 500 clients in 2006. Although 80 per cent of its revenue came from 40 of these, the ability to offer such a wide clientele a complete service solution is one of Zollner’s key strengths. Markus comments: “Customers are not searching for separate suppliers of PCBAs, sheet metal parts and plastics, they want a partner who can integrate these services. It is a key trend that we have been following for many years, and as a result we can offer a strong solution through our wide range of in-house technological capabilities.”
At the heart of the company’s work is a customer-focused strategy that ensures it is able to adapt to meet the specific needs of the client, whether it is for low volume high mix or high volume low mix products. “Strong customer service is a key part of our philosophy, and we have structured ourselves in a way that provides a clear interface with our clients,” explains Markus.
To ensure the flexibility and efficiency of Zollner’s service, the company is divided into small, independent organisational units that are branches and technology-oriented. Markus comments: “We have more than 30 profit centres with a broad range of customers and services, because it is not possible to serve them effectively with just a few large manufacturing sites. For example, the automotive sector demands high volume production, while medicine technology wants low volume high mix, and it isn’t possible to meet the customer needs from just one production line.”
Despite running this multi-site approach, Markus emphasises that where possible the company does look to use a common approach: “We use the same processes and equipment in all of our sites, which means that we can easily move the production to another site.”
While the number of facilities has grown continuously throughout its 42-year history, the company has remained under the full ownership of the Zollner family. “Founded in 1965, our first in-house technology was inductive sub-assemblies manufacturing,” explains Markus. “In 1975 a second speciality was added, as we started bending, cutting, welding and plating sheet metal. The electronics department was added in 1980 allowing us to offer PCB assembly and box build, before later integrating injection moulding among our manufacturing capabilities.”
Alongside the growth in portfolio came the inevitable need to expand the company outside of its German base, and in 1988 a facility was opened in Hungary, before further expansion led to plants being established in Romania and China. Initially offering inductive sub-assemblies from its Romanian plant, the success of the operation led to the recent addition of new buildings to offer PCB assembly and box build services.
Explaining the reasons behind the decision to open a further facility, Markus says: “In Romania you can produce products at a cost structure similar to China. Factoring in the cost of transport, you see that Romania and Hungary are realistic alternatives to China, so we use these plants to provide the European market with low cost services.”
With this additional facility in Romania, Zollner’s total production area has risen to exceed 220,000 square metres, with an average of over 1000 product launches each year that puts it among the top 20 international EMS providers. Commenting on the potential for further growth, Markus says: “There are lots of opportunities for further growth within the industry. Over the years many OEMs have outsourced a number of services to the EMS providers. This outsourcing trend will expand on the branches of avionics, medicine technology and industrial electronics where the OEMs still have their own manufacturing.”
Despite growth opportunities in Europe and Asia, Markus explains that the company does face a number of challenges, including the difficulty of competing against a range of different sized competitors: “Depending on the customer, you have to deal with a variety of other EMS companies. As a mid-sized organisation we have the challenge of competing with the smaller companies as well as the global ones.”
Expanding on the company’s future strategy, Markus continues: “There will be organic growth in the company but no acquisitions. We have never acquired a company in the past in order to grow, and so we do not plan to do so in the future. We intend to continue our growth by increasing our global spread of facilities, while keeping all of our different branches and customers in-house. We hope to continue growing our presence in Romania, introducing new products there, while also looking to increase the capacity and complexity of our products in China.”
Standing for competence, speed, technical capability, flexibility, reliability, value-for-money and innovative solutions, Zollner’s history has been characterised by sustainable organic growth with stable earnings, and by focusing on West, Eastern Europe and Asia.
Summarising what he sees as the company’s key to this future growth, Markus concludes: “Despite being a 6000-employee company we are very flexible and quick to react to market demand. By combining a number of different technologies in-house we can serve a wide range of customers, and with the rising amount of outsourcing in the industry, the ability to combine and sustain such a variety of capabilities under one roof is vital to our success.”
Products: Electronic manufacturing services
Sites: Germany, Hungry, Romania and China