Company anniversary Kern Microtechnik celebrates 60 successful years
Kurt Kern founded his company of the same name in 1962. Today, Kern Microtechnik, Eschenlohe, is a leading developer and manufacturer of high-precision machining centres. But when and how did decisive developments come about and where is the company heading in the future? The majority owners and managing directors Simon Eickholt and Sebastian Guggenmos provide insights.
Kurt Kern started 60 years ago as a precision contract manufacturer for the emerging high-tech industry. Even then, quality and reliability were at the heart of the company's philosophy. Over the years, Kern established itself and became widely respected for its high-precision components. Only the possibilities of the available processing machines repeatedly set limits to precision. A situation that the son of the founder, Günter Kern, was no longer willing to accept at the beginning of the 1980s.
Since there was no milling machine on the market that was precise and productive enough for Kern, he made a far-reaching decision in 1982: his company would develop and build an appropriate machining centre itself. Two years later, the time had come. The first Kern CNC microdrilling-milling machine was put into operation. It reliably achieved accuracies in the range of 0.001 mm.
This amazed the customers of the contract manufacturer. They were excited about the new possibilities, and it wasn't long before the first three wanted to buy such a machine. Kern built six, then ten, and sold them all in no time. The The award of the Bavarian State Prize in Gold for this first Kern machine followed in 1985, only one year after its completion. The second mainstay mechanical engineering was born.
When in 1999 Ekkehard Alschweig took over the shares of Kern and became managing director, the company gained new momentum. Under his leadership, new machines were developed that conquered the market as Kern Evo and Kern Pyramid Nano. Another milestone followed in 2011 — the market launch of the Kern Micro. It formed the basis for numerous further and special developments such as the Kern Micro Pro, Micro Vario and Micro HD. By this time at the latest, it was internationally known what Kern Microtechnik's mechanical engineering could achieve.
2016 turned out to be another year of great significance. With Simon Eickholt and Sebastian Guggenmos, Ekkehard Alschweig brought two top young people into the company. Kern Microtechnik was to be made fit for the future. In 2018, the time had come: Alschweig sold the company to the two young managers. They in turn brought Sebastian Wühr, the operations manager for contract manufacturing, and Matthias Fritz, the head of innovation and development, on board as partners.
Path to healthy growth
In the meantime, Kern's high-precision machines are established worldwide. At the same time, the company's philosophy remains unchanged: Quality and reliability are just as central as the constant drive to push the limits of what is possible.
With ever new innovations, Kern helps its customers to achieve the highest precision, excellent surface quality and high productivity as quickly as possible. A combination that is actually mutually exclusive. Nevertheless, this has succeeded before and continues to succeed today, as evidenced, among other things, by the repeated success in participating in the TOP 100 competitions. Here, an independent jury awards the most innovative companies in Germany.
Kern offers more than “just” high-precision machines that machine with μm precision. The company's specialists advise and accompany the complete integration of the machining centres with the necessary process know-how. In the end, all customers are able to achieve maximum productivity, which leads to high customer satisfaction and demand in the long term.
Accordingly, Kern has been growing in the double-digit percentage range for years and has generated more than 40 million euros in turnover in 2021 alone. Employees, executives and management alike know that this is not a matter of course. When asked about the recipe for success, Managing Director Simon Eickholt explains: “As an owner-managed company, we have always worked and thought very long-term in all matters. This helps us in many ways today. After all, there are more than enough obstacles to growth at the moment — from the lack of qualified staff to supplier and material failures to market uncertainties in various customer industries.”
Good relations with employees and partners
So what does Kern do? According to Eickholt, an indispensable basis are highly qualified and motivated employees. Five years ago, there were a good 180 of them; today, the number is growing steadily to over 240. Getting and keeping them is an important challenge for Eickholt: “We train people in various professional fields and offer students internships and student trainee positions. Those who finally complete their training successfully can look forward to an exciting job with us. This is how we support the region and counteract the shortage of skilled workers.”
Laser or 5-axis machine? Two options for maximum precision
A good working atmosphere as well as the opportunity to develop, to be able to achieve something and to be rewarded for it is motivation enough for many employees to stay with Kern. In addition, a company agreement increases this incentive, which guarantees employees a share in the profits. Accordingly, fluctuation rates have been very low for many years.
Managing Director Sebastian Guggenmos cites a high vertical range of manufacture as another important success factor for Kern Microtechnik.
Although even this is currently no guarantee that they can manufacture. “If material or parts are missing, this does not leave us unscathed,” confirms Guggenmos: “Nevertheless, it hits many other manufacturing companies harder. This is because we have been working with all our key suppliers — all European companies, by the way — for many years. We always treat and pay them fairly, talk to them openly and honestly as partners at eye level. I believe this contributes significantly to the fact that we have comparatively few delivery failures to complain about.”
Kern is thus still in a position to serve its customers reliably and, moreover, to constantly expand its product portfolio. One example: the Upper Bavarian company has been offering a new machine technology since this year. With the Kern Femto E3 laser machining centre, press dies made of hard metal can be manufactured extremely process-stable and productively.
And there are also innovations in machining: a new cutting mode developed on the basis of intensive fundamental research raises the high-precision machining of technical ceramics to a new level. This achieves many times the previously possible material removal rates with the usual Kern precision.