June 27 - 29, 2018 in Hamburg, Germany
Company foundation, Great War and Great Depression
KROENERT's foundation period was more than all marked by the political change in Germany. The reign of Emperor Wilhelm II came to an end, Germany became a republic. Because of the Great War, the economy was in shatters. But technical milestones also mark this period, for example the first flight across the channel, the growing use of automobiles, telephones and television.
Hamburg, 1903: The young engineering master Christian Friedrich Max Kroenert founded in Altona a factory for the production of wallpaper printing machines, the Maschinenfabrik Max Kroenert. As of mid-1904, the mechanical engineer Hans-Jens Meyer joined in who would later manage the company for decades.
1914, after economically hard times, success seemed to be within reach of the two men: Kroenert filed a patent application for an improved printing machine that would revolutionize the market. But building this machine was to cost 100,000 Reichsmark which no bank granted the two already heavily indebted entrepreneurs. In their despair, they called for investors per newspaper ad – a brilliant plan with great resonance that made construction appear to be within reach.
But the breakout of the Great War dashed all hopes. Business connections abroad were cancelled, orders by foreign customers, already fulfilled, remained unpaid, and the export-oriented machinery market collapsed.
The Maschinenfabrik Max Kroenert was forced to produce shells for war equipment. And after the war, times were also hard: The German economy was in shatters, with a lack of raw material and work forces alike. Germany was forced to pay high reparations, the machinery factory had to destroy those lathes that had been used for shell production, and the little revenue became a victim of inflation.
With bankruptcy in view, Max Kroenert left the company in 1919. But Hans-Jens Meyer refused to give up. By 1920, things were slowly but surely on the upward move again. Finally it became possible to build the printing machine constructed before the war, and as hoped, it saved the company from bankruptcy.
Apart from wallpaper printing and paraffin coating machines, the Maschinenfabrik Max Kroenert now for the first time also produced laminating machines. Hans-Jens Meyer wanted to accept as many orders as possible and to service many market segments, so he expanded his portfolio continuously. Sewing machines and motorcycles were also designed and constructed. The machinery factory was on the upswing.
But then another backslash. The Great Depression of 1929 destroyed all hopes. Bank crashes, company bankruptcy and unemployment crippled economy, business relations and orders became void, investment into new machines was hardly possible any more. Again the company faced bankruptcy.
And again, an idea should save the machinery factory: A milling machine still under constructions was Hans-Jens Meyer's last hope. In order to prevent the threat of liquidation, he reduced production to almost a standstill, sent off most employees and focussed completely on this new machine. And with success! The milling machine could be built, met all hopes set into it and moved the company back into profit zone.