Schneider turns seventy-five (part I)
In 1943 the Hungarian inventor Laszlo Biro first patented the ballpoint. The 70th anniversary of the ballpoint pen has been publicly announced and celebrated in the media. The story of this present-day mass-produced product is closely linked to the Schneider company in Germany. As a pioneer in technological development and industrial manufacturing Schneider not only successfully developed the product for everyday use, but also gained worldwide recognition.
On September 7th, 1938 two trained mechanic colleagues, Christian Schneider and Erwin Blum, found Blum & Schneider producing screws and turned parts in Tennenbronn in the Black Forest. Erwin Blum drops out after two years and Christian's brother Fritz Schneider takes over his share in the company. Unfortunately he is obliged to join the Armed Forces during the Second World War and soon after is listed as missing. He will never contribute to the company’s development. By 1948 it is confirmed that he has not survived the war whereupon Mathias Schneider, another brother, enters the business and converts the company into "Gebr. Schneider GmbH " (Schneider Brothers Ltd.).
After 1945 Christian Schneider makes a fresh start with new energy. Lighters, bicycle valves, locks, hinges, top toys and all sorts of turning parts are manufactured. First contacts with the writing instruments industry are made and Schneider receives the first orders to produce fountain pen spindles made of aluminum. Soon Schneider counts around 20 manufacturers of fountain pens as their steady customers. In the same year Christian Schneider hears for the first time of an innovation developed in America: a writing instrument which delivers ink onto the paper via a rolling ball instead of a nib. It immediately arouses his interest since such a "ballpoint pen" would perfectly complement the product line of his company.
Despite some concerns Schneider starts in 1948 with the manufacture of sample refills and soon afterwards receives the first orders. However, the new product displays some defects: the requirements for surface quality and hardness of the balls are extremely high. Fitting the ball into the tip in serial production causes considerable difficulties. The biggest problem is the oil paste. At warm temperatures the ink turns highly fluid and runs out and at low temperatures it turns sticky and scrapes across the paper. Schneider constantly works on the improvement of technology and chemistry of its refills and makes significant progress. Complaints vanish and demand increases to a level that production can barely keep up with. The quality of the refills is the reason for the company’s breakthrough.
In 1950 Schneider brings out his first sample book with a total of 60 types of refills. For the first time the refill is promoted as a "spare part" for the ballpoint pen. Previously it had been considered a fixed component of the pen which, if refilled by the user, usually resulted in a big mess.
The right refill for each pen.
The variety of Schneider refills soon grows to more than 100 different types. The long-term goal is to achieve a simple, cheap refill for all pens. Therefore Schneider decides to vigorously and systematically work towards a dramatic reduction of refill types. Again Schneider performs pioneering work and achieves standardization according to DIN 16554. In 1957 Christian Schneider finally reaches the goal he has been working toward so diligently. The DIN standard reduces the diversity of refills to only 8 types and determines the requirements for ink paste for document use. This opens the way to rational production and higher volume output.
In 1951 Schneider hears of the Biro patents for the first time. Laszlo Biro, who emigrated to Argentina because of his Jewish roots, is the owner of the patents for "a writing instrument that writes with a ball and paste." Schneider signs a license agreement and pays nearly 10 million German marks over the next 20 years.
In November of 1951 the company is struck by disaster again. Co-owner Mathias Schneider is involved in a car accident and dies from his injuries. The company name “Schneider Brothers” continues, with Christian Schneider as the sole owner.
In 1953 chemists discover the formula for an indelible paste. It is brought into production and makes the Schneider refill more desirable. All refills now carry the slogan "The good Schneider refill." The new logo of Schneider is a smiling figure made of paper holding a refill. Letters, or what we would today call mailings, are sent out to dealers every 4 to 6 weeks.
Construction workers are permanent guests at the Schneider factory. The workforce has grown to 280 employees, and production volume has nearly doubled to 12.8 million refills by 1954. Schneider has become the leading manufacturer of ballpoint pen refills. In 1960 Schneider starts to produce complete writing instruments in addition to the refill production.
In 1963 Schneider celebrates its 25th anniversary. At that time the ink in the refills manufactured in one day would produce a line that would reach to the moon (384400 km). Schneider advertising is in full swing. Nationwide and internationally Schneider brand awareness is enhanced with releases, POS material, TV commercials, print ads, contests, and more.
Christian Schneider knows that success has been possible only with the support and motivation of all employees. He is popular among employees, maintaining personal relationships and sharing the success of the company. Company outings, bonuses, incentives and profit-sharing arrangements promote a positive atmosphere.
The so-called "Schneider residential estate" is built in Tennenbronn – it includes 13 one-and two-family houses available to Schneider employees for reasonable rents. Long-term financing for the construction of private homes is also issued.