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Freek in the Changing Times

Review

With the transformation into a limited liability company (Friedrich Freek GmbH) the era Wilhelm Kaiser began. With his imperturbable optimism, entrepreneurial courage, absolute will of success and his cleverness he freed Freek out of the bankruptcy whirlpool of the then majority share-holder and main customer Maerkische Metallwerke and lead ship and crew back to safe tracks.

Company founder Friedrich Freek (left) surrounded by his first employees
"Company founder Friedrich Freek (left)
surrounded by his first employees"
Soon after setting up his private company in 1950 Friedrich Freek moved into the new production facility, Sudetenstrasse 9
"Soon after setting up his private company in 1950 Friedrich Freek moved into the new production facility, Sudetenstrasse 9"
Wilhelm Kaiser and Freek – two things which belong together
"Wilhelm Kaiser and Freek - two things which belong together"

In course of time the team grew...

Wilhelm Kaiser (3rd from right) and his team in 1984
"Wilhelm Kaiser (3rd from right)
and his team in 1984"
The Freek team 2001
"The Freek team 2001"
The Freek Team in the year 2008 already had more than 50 employees
"The Freek Team in the year 2008 already had more than 50 employees"

...and the building grew with the team

1985: building of a new administration wing
"1985: building of a new administration wing"
1988: building of a second production hall
"1988: building of a second production hall"
2000: Enlargement of the administration wing
"2000: Enlargement of the administration wing"
2000: Enlargement of the administration wing
"2000: Enlargement of the administration wing"
2008: A second story for the back hall
"2008: A second story for the back hall"
Freek from a bird's-eye view 2010
"Freek from a bird's-eye view 2010"

The change of generations was started early by Wilhelm Kaiser. Son Wolfgang Kaiser worked after the apprenticeship in a bank and the study of economics as controller in Giessen before he changed to Freek in 1990. In 1992 he entered into the management (at the side of his father). He was the one who - encouraged by his father - initiated the new strategic orientation of the company.

Until 1990 Freek was a typical subcontractor of its time: driven by the pioneering spirit of the senior, supported by motivated employees, little formalised, instead all the more specialised in niches. The conditions to match today's market demands were only partially fulfilled. That became a certainty when international big customers approached Freek with demands such as an extended product range, increased quality standards and price reduction programmes.

The answer from Junior Wolfgang Kaiser was: diversification and co-operation – two strategic aims with immense effects on the company.

1994, just in time, Wolfgang Kaiser got support through his brother Stefan, graduate mechanical engineer, who in one of his first projects established the quality management system according to DIN/ISO 9001 which is now followed at Freek.

Together, Stefan and Wolfgang Kaiser initiated 1997 the international R&D co-coperation EUCOPET.


50th Anniversary 2000

In the year 2000 Freek celebrated its 50th anniversary together with more than 300 guests.
"In the year 2000 Freek celebrated its 50th...
In the year 2000 Freek celebrated its 50th anniversary together with more than 300 guests.
...anniversary together with more than 300 guests."

The moment could not have been better chosen. On the occasion of the 50th company anniversary, Senior Wilhelm Kaiser announced in front of more than 300 guests and a running camera visibly moved his retreat from the Freek management in favour of his son Stefan, who now bears responsibility together with his brother Wolfgang.

The Kaiser family team welcomes the numerous appeared anniversary guests in front of the running camera of the First German TV station (ARD)
"The Kaiser family team welcomes the numerous appeared anniversary guests in front of the running camera of the First German TV station (ARD)"
The ceremonies on the company site and in the party tent were full of musical entertainment and rousing show acts
"The ceremonies on the company site and in the party tent were full of musical entertainment and rousing show acts"
Countless anecdotes and reminiscences provided many topics of conversation until late at night
"Countless anecdotes and reminiscences provided many topics of conversation until late at night"
The international EUCOPET-partners at a photo shooting together with the rising generation
"The international EUCOPET-partners at a photo shooting together with the rising generation"

The first 10 years in the new millenium have been very successful years. Two long lasting growth cycles have carried Freek over the threshold from a small to a medium sized company. The growth cycle triggered by EUCOPET reached into the year 2002 and lead to a triplication of turnover and potentiation of articles, orders and customers.

The economic crisis following the 9/11 attacks allowed Freek to catch up with growth-related shortfalls in organisation and quality management. Moreover, in this period of re-organisation and self-reflection the LEAN idea has been born. So Freek developed from 2004 to 2007 together with other cooperating companies and scientific partners of the universities of Dortmund and Bochum its LEAN business model for simple standard elements in the product range. Thus commenced the second long lasting growth cycle which did not end until the world economic crisis in 2009.


60-jähriges Jubiläum 2010

Willingly employees, partners and customers followed the invitation as the host had prepared an attractive programme
"Willingly employees, partners and customers followed...
Willingly employees, partners and customers followed the invitation as the host had prepared an attractive programme
...the invitation as the host had prepared an attractive programme"

Wolfgang and Stefan Kaiser thanked their father Wilhelm with moving words (WP photo: Frank Saul)
"Wolfgang and Stefan Kaiser thanked their father Wilhelm with moving words (WP photo: Frank Saul)"
More than 100 invited guests followed the ceremonial act at the Wilhelmshöhe in Menden
"More than 100 invited guests followed the ceremonial act at the Wilhelmshöhe in Menden"
The musical highlight has been set by Wolf Codera & Co. (Vocals: Zeeteah Massiah and Sven West)
"The musical highlight has been set by Wolf Codera & Co. (Vocals: Zeeteah Massiah and Sven West)"
Especially the numerous international guests enjoyed the trip to the horticultural show in Hemer
"Especially the numerous international guests enjoyed the trip to the horticultural show in Hemer"

Preview

With LEAN Freek proved that it does not have to be a contradiction to produce also simple standard elements at the high-tech location Germany. Doubtless instrumental is to master the high-tech production of electric nozzle heaters at the same time. So the existing high production and development competence enabled Freek to establish many simple standard elements successfully in niche applications. Furthermore, existent methodological and process competence is crucial in order to win more and more demanding customers for the simple standard heating elements. Exactly this is the task of the most recent research project Low2High ("process innovation at the customer interface to high-tech companies") which is in progress until 2011.

Freek used the year of crisis 2009 to prepare for the next sustainable growth cycle. The successful business model of maintaining simple standard heating elements implemented with LEAN has been and still is further strategically developed with Low2High. Promising product ideas have been conducted into their maturity phase which could mean substantial additional business. In the field of trading goods the intensive development collaboration with our EUCOPET partners has opened various market opportunities. Owing to the extension in 2008 sufficient expansion space is available again. The Freek-Team whose members are certified by scientific partners to work like their own entrepreneurs in the company, look forward to the future and and the change and the challenges to come.

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