Brilliant ideas

30th November 2012 was a very special day for Werner Kraft. The former managing director of SDI Molan in Schönebeck and now plant manager knew that on that day, the takeover of SDI Molan by the new owner Takata has to be concluded. Shareholder shares have to be sold, receipts of payment have to be confirmed by midnight, for tax reasons. “Otherwise the deal was off, and we had no plan B”, he explains today, three months later. Werner Kraft is sitting in the conference room at the current Takata site in Schönebeck on a sunny spring day. Kraft is an old hand in the business; he has worked on these premises in Schönebeck, Saxony-Anhalt, since 1975.

It is the literally brilliant ideas that make the site interesting internationally: processing explosives is a tradition in Schönebeck dating back over a hundred years. By the beginning of the 20th century, civil explosives were already being manufactured here for mining, for example. Then military use during the Second World War, followed by the expropriation in GDR times and the conversion to the nationally-owned company VEB Sprengstoffwerk Schönebeck. After the political turn in 1989, the company premises were divided up and sold by Treuhand to various investors.

Molan – a plastics company from Bremen – bought part of it and began to produce tensioner systems for cars, and then pyrotechnical micro-gas generators were added. In 2001, the US company Special Devices Incorporated (SDI) joined in. From then on, micro-gas generators and airbag igniters are successfully produced under the label SDI Molan. Until today.

On the company grounds of what is now Takata company, there have been puffs and bangs for a long time. And it is not always without risk. The grounds are therefore also spacious – at the edge of an industrial area with flat buildings. The production hall and administration separated far away from each other, with green hills in between, under which the explosives are stored. Safety notices everywhere.

Safety is the top priority. All employees know this, and all authorities know this as well. Otherwise, decades ago they would never have issued the necessary authorisations that a site like this needs. The explosives permit and authorisation in accordance with the Federal Pollution Control Act are what make up a crucial competitive advantage.

The new owner Takata also appreciates precisely that. The Japanese group has over 36 000 employees worldwide and is one of the world leaders when it comes to vehicle safety. For example, it produces airbag systems, steering wheels, seatbelts and child seats. And for many years it was a satisfied customer of supplier SDI Molan. When the owners of SDI Molan indicated in 2012 that they were contemplating a sale, Takata expressed its interest. Months full of negotiations and letters of intent followed, and then came 30th November 2012.

“With the integration into the group, we have been able to increase our flexibility in airbags and seatbelt tensioners around the world”, said Christophe Dervyn, Director of Global Department Generators at Takata. “With so-called ‘slurry technology’ – the dampening solution in pyrotechnics – SDI offers something special to the sector. The purchase of SDI Molan has enabled us to expand the group’s real net output ratio.”

Expanding is the keyword. At the moment, the machines are not yet running at full capacity; 70 employees, including five apprentices and three trainees work here, not just in production but also in our own development. Both are set to be expanded: one-hundred-percent capacity is the aim for the next three years. This also means that more specialists are to be employed. “SDI Molan can now ship to our airbag factories in Asia and America and thus has new expanded prospects”, emphasised Christophe Dervyn.

Only the visible cover of the takeover by the Takata group cannot be seen in Schönebeck. Flags, signs and letterheads are currently work in progress. For the Schönebeck plant manager Werner Kraft, that isn’t crucial. What is crucial now is being part of a global group. “We can thus communicate eye-to-eye internationally. The takeover by Takata harbours limitless potential for both sides.”

Author/Photographer: Anja Schlender

TAKATA Ignition Systems GmbH
Jakob Lux
Wilhelm-Dümling-Straße 17
39218 Schönebeck
ph: +49 3928 4216-0
Fax: +49 3928 4216-175