Someone who chose to learn about the assembly and finishing stages of manufacture
In 2013, when he was a 22-year-old student, Timo Fischer founded his supply business, TEG, with just one seamstress. Six years later, over 50 employees now manufacture millions of textile automobile parts for suppliers of Daimler, VW and the like.
Motor-vehicle companies, a motor-vehicle paint shop, a manufacturer of curtaining material and a textile wholesaler – in the ‘Kaltes Feld’ industrial estate in Heinsdorfergrund in Saxony, motor vehicles and textiles are side by side. TEG (Textile Expert Germany), who are also based there, go one step further – and combine both worlds. As ‘partners for cutting out, textile finishing and assembly’, as they call themselves, the company specialises in components made from faux leather, nonwovens, aramid and other technical textiles. Month after month, the 55 employees at TEG cut, sew and weld ultrasonically up to one and a half million webbing straps, acoustic nonwovens for roof linings, filters and other interior parts. A success story that any local politician would be only too delighted to see in his constituency. And, as so often happens, it also all began with problems, sweat and missed sleep.
Many a sleepless night
“Actually, during the first four years, my everyday life consisted solely of cold calling and going from door to door,” remembers Timo Fischer, Founder and Managing Director of TEG. More than anything else, it was worries about liquidity and employees’ wages that kept him awake at night. “At first, you risk everything,” says Fischer, who started the company almost from the seminar room, when he was still a student in the engineering department at the University of Chemnitz. Wouldn’t he have preferred to have some fellow students to help him go round the various companies? “I always wanted to get something going on my own,” explains Fischer, who has never written a single line by way of a business plan. At the beginning, it was the lack of references that had been a challenge. “It was paradoxical: the most common question from potential customers was: ‘What references do you have?’,” says Fischer. “You could be our first,” he would answer, before they ushered him politely to the door.
Chance as a business partner
In 2017, chance finally turned the page. A company that had taken over another one lacked the capacity for cutting out the airbag components, part of the business that they had also bought up. The job went to TEG. And from then on the question became: “Can you manage 40,000 items a week? Then we’ve got something for you?” Now success more or less generates itself. But why the risky launch into contract manufacturing, which hardly ever goes on in Germany these days, because the (lower) prices are mainly dictated by companies in Eastern Europe? “My father’s company produces specialist machinery for the textile industry,” says Fischer. He had, he told us, therefore been around in the world of textile manufacture a lot when he was still at school and got to know about a lot of the different stages of manufacture. As for the final assembly stage, (according to Gabler’s Business Dictionary the ‘last stage in the manufacturing process for a product that has been produced from a larger amount of raw materials, feedstock or production items’), it’s the mix of technology and textiles that fascinates him. “We are specialists in processes,” he emphasises. The secret of maintaining one’s position amongst the international competition lies in the flexibility of the manufacturing processes in your factory, he suggests.
Training to avoid recruitment problems
The seamstress with whom he took on the business in 2013 and who, to start with, made filters and hoses for car-washes, still works for the company. But Fischer has the same problem as other company heads: he finds it difficult to recruit new staff. So next year, TEG will be running its own training course, initially for seamstresses for textiles and apparel. In 2016, the company rented its premises in the Kaltes Feld industrial estate. A year and a half later, Fischer bought the whole building, in order to extend their production area. “Actually,” he adds “we are already getting short of space.”