Albstadt, Baden-Württemberg 72458
Telephone: (+49) 7431 10-0
Fax: (+49) 7431 10-2777
Web site: https://www.groz-beckert.com
Incorporated: 1937 as Theodor Groz & Soehne
Sales: €740 million ($864 million) (2017)
NAICS: 339993 Fastener, Button, Needle, and Pin Manufacturing; 333517 Machine Tool Manufacturing; 332618 Other Fabricated Wire Product Manufacturing
Groz-Beckert KG is among the world's leading manufacturers of high-precision industrial needles used in the cloth-making, textile, and shoe manufacturing industries. The company's product range includes about 50,000 different needles and related accessories for the knitting industry alone, including knitting and hosiery machine needles and parts, knitting cylinders for the circular and seamless production methods, and modules for warp knitting and other systems. The product portfolio is similarly comprehensive for industrial applications of weaving, felting, tufting, carding, and sewing. Besides developing and manufacturing this broad range of industrial needles, Groz-Beckert builds the machines to produce the needles in-house. The firm also makes high-precision customized precision components that are used to manufacture multilayer microchips used in computers, mobile phones, and other high-tech products. Based in Albstadt, Germany, the family-owned company exports more than 80 percent of its output to more than 150 countries. Its corporate headquarters includes a full-scale conference center and technology laboratory, as well as a small company-run primary school.
The history of the Groz-Beckert Group began in the middle of the 19th century in Ebingen, a small town in Swabia, Germany. In a region where hosiery knitting was the dominant way to make a living, Theodor Groz, the son of a pharmacist who died prematurely, decided to leave his hometown to learn the craft of needle making. After apprenticeships in Germany and Austria, he returned to Ebingen in 1852, got married, and opened a store for fashion accessories and toys. Meanwhile, he began to make warp-knitting needles on the side, which were used in the manufacture of stockings.
In 1864 the warp loom needle output turned out to be of such a low quality that the needles could not be used, mostly due to the low quality of the wire used to make them. This serious threat to the existence of his enterprise compelled Groz to invest more of his time in quality improvement. By 1867 he had created detailed how-to manuals for the production of steel needles, hosiery frame needles, and latch needles that exceeded the quality standards of the time. One of the main factors that determined quality was the hardening of the iron, later steel, wire to make the material as durable as possible.
For 10 years Groz experimented with different technologies, using high-quality piano wire imported from England, and finally succeeded in developing a process that yielded outstanding results. With the onset of the Industrial Revolution in the late 19th century, more steps of the manufacturing process were mechanized. Groz realized that, in order to keep ahead of the competition, he had to develop his own needle-making machines that were not available on the market. The company's engineers pioneered the field with a number of innovations, including the so-called bearded forming machine in 1883 and the Shanking machine in 1890.
Soon Groz's needles gained a reputation for outstanding quality. In 1861 his needle-making workshop employed 25 workers, manufacturing some 10,000 bearded needles a week. After a few years, Groz decided to add latch needles to his product range, a new type of needle that was gaining a growing market share at the time. Soon the workshop was producing between 1,000 and 2,000 latch needles weekly. In 1874 Groz's son Daniel, together with a friend, made a significant improvement in the design of the latch needle, mechanizing the latch-fastening process.
The arrival of the steam engine in the 1870s boosted productivity to new heights. At the same time, mechanization of the knitting industry resulted in a higher demand for knitting machine needles. The growing number of incoming orders stretched the workshop's capacity to its limits. In 1884 production was moved to a factory building near Ebingen's train station. By 1892 the factory's workforce had reached 400. At the turn of the century, the 550 workers in Groz's workshop produced 40 million bearded needles and 15 million latch needles a year in one of the industry's most modern production facilities.
The late 19th century was a period of change in leadership at the company. In 1879 Groz's oldest sons, Theodor and Daniel, became partners in their father's business, which was renamed Theodor Groz & Sons. Thirteen years later the company founder, as well as his son Theodor, died. In 1897 Daniel passed the management reins on to his younger brother Oskar and brother-in-law Heinrich Cless. However, only four years later they left, and Adolf Groz, the company founder's youngest son, took over the family firm.
In the early years of the 20th century, Theodor Groz & Sons enjoyed a period of continued growth. Adolf continued his predecessors' efforts to expand into new markets outside of Germany. At the time France, Great Britain, and the United States were the major markets for industrial knitting needles. As early as 1884, Groz had started to export the company's new latch needles to the United States. When World War I erupted in 1914, it interrupted the company's further growth. Exports came to a sudden halt. However, right after the war, Theodor Groz & Sons established a joint sales office in New York City with another leading German knitting needle manufacturer—Enrst Beckert, Nadelfabriken Commandit-Gesellschaft, based in Chemnitz, Saxony.
At first Beckert made his needles under the most primitive conditions. However, with industrialization picking up speed in a thriving economy, he realized that his needles would be needed in large numbers and consequently focused on industrial mass production. Beckert's enterprise took off immediately and soon grew into Saxony's biggest knitting needle factory. A second production site was established in nearby Stollberg in 1885. At the turn of the century, Beckert's enterprise employed more than 200 workers. In the following decades, the company kept growing. Before World War I, Ernst Beckert Nadelfabriken exported up to half of their total output to the United States. In addition, Beckert's knitting needles were shipped as far as Central and South America, the Far East, Japan, India, and even Australia.
The establishment of a joint sales office in 1918 in the United States marked the beginning of cooperation between the Groz and Beckert companies. While the isolation from the world markets during World War I caused a temporary setback, the two German needle makers soon caught up again with their competitors from France, England, and the United States after the war. Due to a number of technological innovations, such as the first automatic rotary table latching machine, productivity reached new heights at the Ebingen and Chemnitz plants.
However, in the aftermath of the lost war, the German currency collapsed in 1923. After the new Reichsmark was introduced, nine leading needle manufacturers from Saxony, including Ernst Beckert Nadelfabriken and Theodor Groz & Sons, entered merger negotiations. However, when the German economy went back into growth gear, the merger plans were abandoned. Nevertheless, in 1928 Ernst Beckert's grandson Fritz Seelmann-Eggebert bought a minority stake in Theodor Groz & Sons. Nine years later the leading knitting needle manufacturer in Swabia finally merged with the largest knitting needle producer in Saxony. In 1937 the Theodor Groz & Sons and Ernst Beckert companies became Theodor Groz & Soehne & Ernst Beckert, Nadelfabriken Commandit-Gesellschaft, Ebingen und Chemnitz—in short, Groz-Beckert.
The merger created Germany's largest manufacturer of knitting needles with a large market share. The new firm remained in the hands of the two founding families. From the Groz family, the sons of Alfred Groz, Hans and Walther, joined the Groz-Beckert company. The Beckert family was represented by Fritz Seelmann-Eggebert. Meanwhile, Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist Party had seized political power in Germany. Two years after the merger, Germany went to war again. The result was disastrous for Groz-Beckert. In the last months of the war, the company's factory in Chemnitz was destroyed, while a burning ammunition train exploded near the Ebingen factory, shattering roofs, doors, and windows.
After the war the old Beckert factory in Chemnitz fell under the rule of the Russian occupation forces. While the finished goods warehouse was completely destroyed, most of the machines were usable again after minor repairs. However, the Russian allied forces dismantled anything that was left in the factory and shipped it to Russia. Seelmann-Eggebert, one of the company's directors, was arrested and held in custody for four years.
By the late 1940s the reconstruction of the buildings was completed, and state-of-the art equipment had been developed and installed. In 1950 the company's output in Swabia alone reached prewar production levels for both Ebingen and Chemnitz. Within only two more years that output doubled again. As the German economy entered the postwar economic boom, Groz-Beckert enjoyed a long period of sustained growth.
After the company was up and running again, Groz-Beckert revived its prewar contacts with customers in other countries. By 1948 almost two-thirds of the company's output was shipped to 39 foreign countries again. However, the international expansion did not stop there. In the 1950s Groz-Beckert began to move parts of its production abroad. In 1957 the company established its first production facility in the United States. Three years later a production subsidiary was set up in India. In 1969 a Groz-Beckert production plant was established in Portugal, which was followed by the acquisition of the Portuguese needle manufacturer Euronadel in 1980. In the 1990s the company added production subsidiaries in the Czech Republic and China.
In the 1980s Groz-Beckert began to venture into new product markets. For almost 130 years, the company had successfully occupied the niche market for knitting machine needles. However, in the long run, that market alone was too small to sustain indefinite growth. Beginning in 1980 Groz-Beckert added sewing, felting, structuring, and shoe machine needles into its product range. A further expansion into new product markets was established by acquisitions. In 1998 Groz-Beckert acquired the tufting needle manufacturing unit from the Aachen-based Josef Zimmermann GmbH & Co. KG, including the rights to the Eisbär brand name. Two years later the company took over Swiss tufting and weaving accessory maker Grob Horgen AG.
Besides these new markets within the textile industry, Groz-Beckert ventured into an unrelated product market that allowed the company to utilize its know-how in making high-precision parts from hardened metal. In 1997 the company began to manufacture ceramic punching components (later called “customized precision components”) used to make multilayered microchips found in computers, mobile phones, and other electronic devices.
As the 21st century dawned, Groz-Beckert was still managed by descendants of the founders: Thomas Lindner, a member of the Beckert family, and Florian Groz. The company also was steadily globalizing its operations. By the middle of the first decade of the 21st century, Groz-Beckert had established sales and distribution outlets in Canada, India, Singapore, South Korea, China, and Taiwan, with production facilities in India, China, and Vietnam, as well as Germany, the Czech Republic, Portugal, and the United States. It also continued to expand its product portfolio through acquisitions. For example, the absorption of Siegfried Mayer GmbH & Co. in 2006 gave Groz-Beckert a more complete range of products for circular knitting machines, including dials, sinkers, and cylinders. Two years later the company acquired two more manufacturers of weaving machine components: Oskar Fischer GmbH and Knotex GmbH & Co.
As the decade closed, Groz-Beckert initiated and carried out a bold and innovative engineering feat in its home community of Albstadt: a textile pedestrian bridge. The existing concrete girder bridge had degraded due to corrosion and was slated for demolition. In 2006 the company proposed a new type of bridge made of reinforced textile concrete. It paid for a feasibility study of the project from a technical university in Aachen. Then, in 2008, the company and the Albstadt government agreed to execute the project jointly, with Groz-Beckert providing more than €1 million in additional costs. The bridge, spanning more than 100 meters, was constructed in several prefabricated sections of textile concrete in a lattice formation, with fiber rovings coated with epoxy resin for additional load-bearing strength. Completed in May 2010, it was the longest bridge of its kind in the world as of late 2018.
In 2013 Groz-Beckert opened another major complex in Albstadt, a health and education center (GEBIZ) that included Germany's first corporate-run primary school, Grundschule Malesfelsen. Lindner felt this step would be essential to ensuring that the company could continue recruiting and retaining workers with specialized skills. For the first few years of the school's existence, Groz-Beckert outsourced the administration to an educational firm, but in 2017 it took over running both the school and the on-site daycare facility. Enrollment was open to not just the families of company employees but also the entire school district, with school fees charged on a sliding scale by family income. Of the 80 children enrolled as of 2017, fewer than half were the children of Groz-Beckert staff. The GEBIZ building also housed a fitness center, company-run medical offices, and a health insurance fund.
In 2015 Groz-Beckert acquired the global carding assets of the Belgian company Bekaert Group, adding carding to the list of textile sectors it serviced. Two years later it acquired a longtime competitor, the Ferd. Schmetz Group, manufacturer of sewing machine needles for home and industrial use, with headquarters in Aachen. The Schmetz acquisition came with nearly 700 employees, lifting the total Groz-Beckert workforce to 8,813 employees at the end of 2017. The company's exhibitions at trade shows in 2018 emphasized the interrelation of needles, circulars, and machine components in knitting and other textile technologies, as well as its new quality management protocol, Ideal Needle Handling (INH), which included software applications.
Updated, Roger K. Smith
EURONADEL-Indústrias de Agulhas Lda. (Portugal); Grob Textile AG (Switzerland); Groz-Beckert Asia Pvt. Ltd. (India); Groz-Beckert Canada; Groz-Beckert Czech s.r.o. (Czech Republic); Groz-Beckert Iberica, S.A. (Spain); PT Groz-Beckert Indonesia, PT; Groz-Beckert Italia s.r.l. (Italy); Groz-Beckert Japan K.K.; Groz-Beckert Korea Co. Ltd.; Groz-Beckert de México, S.A. de C.V.; Groz-Beckert Portuguesa Lda. (Portugal); Groz-Beckert Singapore Pte. Ltd.; Groz-Beckert U.K. Ltd.; Groz-Beckert USA, Inc.; Sinotech Asia Ltd. (Hong Kong); YANTEX (Yantai) Precision Textile Accessories Co. Ltd. (China).
Dotec Needle Co., Ltd.; Entaco Limited; Fukuhara Needle Co., Ltd.; Kern-Liebers Textile.
“Auftragsbelebung bei Groz-Beckert.” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, November 25, 1996.
“Bestechende Geschichte.” Frankfurter Rundschau, May 4, 2004.
“Groz-Beckert Addresses Challenges of the Digital Age.” Innovation in Textiles, March 27, 2018. Accessed August 29, 2018. https://www.innovationintextiles.com/grozbeckert-addresses-challenges-of-the-digital-age/ .
“Groz-Beckert Dominates Needle.” Textotex, January 9, 2012. Accessed July 6, 2018. http://www.textotex.com/en/news/knitting/groz-beckert-dominates-needle.html .
Koch, Christoph. “Business in a Class of Its Own.” Brand Eins, September 2017. Accessed July 6, 2018. https://international.brandeins.de/business-in-a-class-of-its-own .
Kumar, Rahul. “Groz Beckert to Export Industrial Needles to Europe.” Asia Africa Intelligence Wire, April 3, 2004.
Langer, Karsten. “Nadeln im Goldhaufen.” manager magazine online, April 28, 2003.
“Textile-Concrete Bridge in Albstadt-Lautlingen.” Inside Composites, July 1, 2011. Accessed August 29, 2018. https://www.insidecomposites.com/textile-concrete-bridge-in-albstadt-lautlingen/ .