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Magazine7 Min

Many roots – one company

1871: Carl Eberhard Weiss starts a forging business

SMS group is a global company with approximately 14,500 employees at 100 locations in more than 30 countries around the world. But where does the company originally come from? From Hilchenbach? From Düsseldorf? And why are we going to move to Mönchengladbach in 2023? These questions take us on a journey back in time, to the many roots of our company.

It was 1871 when Carl Eberhard Weiss, a blacksmith born near Stuttgart, established a tool factory in the bustling city of Siegen. At 30 years old, he had been living in Siegen for only seven years, and we can only imagine what brought him there. Back then, the Siegen region was at the heart of Germany's steel and mining industry, attracting businesses from all over the country. With his wide range of devices, tools, machines, and small vehicles, Weiss quickly found a foothold in the region, soon providing products to the most renowned companies.

As time went on, Weiss's business grew, and he began to sell his products also to customers beyond Germany's borders. Carl and Ernst Heinrich Weiss, the sons of the company's founder, played a significant role in driving growth, in particular through the acquisition of other companies in the region. In 1927, the company made a strategic move into the future-oriented construction of rolling mills, and the headquarters were relocated from Siegen to the nearby town of Hilchenbach. As the 1930s rolled around, the third generation of the Weiss family took over the helm. Under the leadership of Bernhard Weiss, the company was given a name everyone still knows it by today in the Siegerland region. Shortened from its original form, it became a brand: Siemag.

Carl Eberhard Weiss (far left) and the employees of his company around 1896
The Hilchenbach site around 1890. Then, it belonged to a company called Maschinenfabrik Klein.
A typical product in 1895: a rail-bound vehicle to transport hot metal.
The Hilchenbach site in 1927.
Assembly hall at Siemag
Siemag 4-high cold rolling mill (1934)
The Siemag administration building still exists today on the Hilchenbach site.

Roots in Luxembourg, Mönchengladbach and Düsseldorf

The late 19th century was marked by the rise of several young entrepreneurs, and Carl Eberhard Weiss was not the only one. Already in 1870, a man named Eugène Muller established a boiler factory in Luxembourg. 20 years later, a dynamic engineer took over the company. His name: Paul Wurth. Initially, the company focused on bridge construction, but in the 1950s expanded into a new business area – the construction of blast furnaces.

In 1872, brothers Michael and Peter Meer established a machine factory and iron foundry in Mönchengladbach. In the beginning, the company manufactured compressors, pumps, and steam engines, but eventually expanded its product range to include seamless tube mills. In 1926, the company was acquired by the Mannesmann group and renamed "Maschinenfabrik Meer."

In 1901, the history of "Schloemann" began in Düsseldorf. The founder, Eduard Schloemann, was already 61 years old at that time. In contrast to the companies of the Weiss family, Paul Wurth or the Meer brothers, "Schloemann" was solely a design office and did not have its own manufacturing facilities. It specialized early on in the construction of presses and rolling mills and in the 1920s became part of the German engineering company MAN.

Paul Wurth (1863-1945) was a pioneer of the industry in Luxembourg.
Construction workshops and design offices of Paul Wurth around 1920.
The first blast furnace built entirely by Paul Wurth at Seraing, Belgium (1954).
Peter and Michael Meer. Peter Meer was a trained blacksmith and responsible for the technical side, his brother Michaeal was a merchant.
In 1902, the "Gebr. Meer Maschinenfabrik" presented their products on the Düsseldorf Industrial and Trade Fair
Share of Maschinenfabrik Meer (1926)
A so-called Diescher mill stand from Meer.
Eduard Schloemann (1840-1914)
Advertisement from 1920 for a hydraulic Schloemann forging press
Until the 1980s, Schloemann was headquartered in downtown Düsseldorf (photo around 1930).
Design engineers at Schloemann in the 1950s

Three letters that stand for a global market leader: SMS

The name SMS dates back to 1973, when Siemag and Schloemann merged to form Schloemann-Siemag AG – or in short: SMS. For Heinrich Weiss, the great-grandson of Carl Eberhard Weiss, it was clear at that time that Siemag alone would not be able to compete on the global market. Therefore, he continued to pave the way for growth also in the years to come. In 1999, SMS expanded by acquiring "Meer", a former subsidiary of the Mannesmann metallurgy division which would later be specializing in long and forged products. The only missing piece to become a full-line supplier was iron production, which SMS gradually acquired through the purchase of shares in Paul Wurth starting in 2012.

And that, in brief, is the history of SMS. Of course, this is only a small part of the story, as mergers and acquisitions over the years have added many other well-known brands to SMS group, including Concast, Demag, Eumuco, Hasenclever, Mevac and Sack. And up to this point, it is primarily a German story, and the international companies and locations that contribute to our unique character today are not yet part of the narrative. In part 2 of our series, we will explore this aspect of the SMS history.

SMS group in Hilchenbach in 1973
In 1985, SMS Düsseldorf moved to a new office at Eduard-Schloemann-Straße.
The Mönchengladbach site in 1972
After the merger in 1999, SMS Demag (later SMS Siemag) and SMS Meer were formed ...
... both companies featured the SMS-logo, internally called "swimming trunk".

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