The history of the ballpoint pen is closely linked to the company Schneider Schreibgeräte. As a pioneer in the field of technical further development and industrial production, Schneider developed the ballpoint until it was suitable for everyday use and made a name for itself worldwide in the process. This year the writing instrument specialist is celebrating its 75th anniversary.
On September 7, 1938, the two fellow professional mechanics Christian Schneider and Erwin Blum founded the company Blum & Schneider oHG, a factory for screws and turned parts, in Tennenbronn in the Black Forest.
After the war, Christian Schneider wanted to make a new start and from 1946 onwards, he focused on the production of cigarette lighters, bicycle valves, closures, hinges, spinning tops and other turned parts. In the meantime, he and his brother Mathias ran the company under the name “Gebr. Schneider GmbH“. Then, the contact to the writing instrument industry was established, around 20 fountain pen manufacturers soon belonged to Schneider’s regular customer base. In the same year, Christian Schneider heard about a writing instrument from America that wrote using a rolling ball for the first time. His ears pricked up immediately: Such a “ballpoint” would fit in very well with the production for parts for the fountain pen companies that was running very successfully. But what about the patency rights? Despite certain misgivings, he began producing sample refills in 1948 and the first orders followed very soon thereafter.
Schneider worked on the improvement of his refills non-stop and made significant progress. He received fewer complaints; the production could hardly keep up with the increasing demand.
“The good Schneider refill“
In 1950, Schneider published its first sample book containing in total 60 refill models. The refill was advertised as a “spare part” for ballpoints for the first time. Up until then it was a fixed component of the ballpoint and removing and refilling it, usually ended up in a lot of ink smudges and stains. Schneider set themselves the task of offering the appropriate refill for each ballpoint. Due to the large variety of ballpoints, the assortment of refills soon expanded to include over 100 types. A spectrum that was far too wide when it comes down to developing simple, low-priced ballpoints that are
suitable for everybody. In 1951, Christian Schneider heard about the Biró patents. Lászlo Biró, who had immigrated to Argentina because of his Jewish descent, possessed the patency rights for his invention of a “pen with a ball and writing paste“. Schneider signed a licence agreement and paid almost 10 million German marks in licensing fees over the next 20 years.
In 1953, the company’s chemists found a recipe for a permanent ink and it was integrated into the production making the Schneider refill ultra modern. All of the refills were enhanced with the imprint “The good Schneider refill“. In the meantime, the headcount had expanded up to 280 employees; the production volume almost doubled up to 12.8 mil. refills in 1954, which meant Schneider had advanced into becoming the leading manufacturer of ballpoint refills. The year 1957 finally brought the release of the DIN 16554, which had been pushed by Christian Schneider. The DIN sheet reduced the variety of refills down to eight types and also laid down the requirements for the permanence of the inks. This enabled the production to be further rationalised and the production volumes to be significantly increased.
In 1963, Schneider celebrated its 25th jubilee. The refills manufactured in one day at the plant in Tennenbronn provided enough writing capacity to reach the moon (384,400 km).
“The good Schneider refill“ reached the peak of its popularity in the 1960s. When, in addition to the traditional metal processing industry the plastic technology came onto the scene in 1957, the company started producing complete writing instruments. Ballpoint pens and desk ballpoints were later also added to the line-up of products.
On January 1, 1975 Roland Schneider joined the company. When his father, the company founder Christian Schneider, passed away in 1978, he took over the sole responsibility as a manager.
In 1980, the newly constructed Factory II was inaugurated in Tennenbronn, which created space at the head office for the further expansion of the writing instrument segment. In 1982, Schneider set up its first assembly line for highlighters, the product name Job was born. In 1985, the company introduced the production of polyester tips and ink feeders – a key technology that is very rare.
When the Iron Curtain fell in 1989, new sales markets arose, which Schneider was wellequipped to serve: With a full range of writing instruments suitable for everyday use, the company achieved success quickly, which noticeably increased the firm’s export share. In 1991, the company took over the GDR firm VEB heiko in Wernigerode, the most important fountain pen manufacturer of the former GDR.
On investment course
After the take-over, Schneider expanded in Wernigerode and moved into a completely new fountain pen factory in 1992, where the design, construction and development of a modern range of fountain pens got underway at full speed.
High investments were also made at the headquarters in Tennenbronn: In 1991, the new building for the ballpoint and rollerball pens was inaugurated. Straight afterwards the construction work began for a new plastic injection-moulding shop, tool making workshop and technical offices. Schneider entered the lower price segment of the retractable ballpoints with the K15 model series in 1993. They gradually managed to suppress all of the brand name rivals.
Environmental themes also started to come under the focus of the corporate policy. In 1993, the writing instrument specialist launched refill cartridges for highlighters onto the market and designed a universal fit for different refills. Environmental issues have always occupied Roland Schneider and he endeavours to keep the negative effects on the production environment down to the very minimum. He resolutely adopted the new voluntary EMAS regulation, installed an environmental management system, its first environmental declaration verified by an independent appraiser was published in 1998.
Well-aligned in the third generation
In 2010, Roland Schneider set everything into motion for the continuation of the family business in the third generation after appointing his son Christian onto the management board. In view of the size the company had reached in the meantime, the former Marketing & Sales Director, Frank Groß, was also appointed Managing Director. The writing instrument specialist took on a new look, which was designed to help the brand Schneider assert itself on the extremely competitive market. In 2011 and 2012 according to own accounts Schneider experienced a growth rate of 18% and is thus one of the fastest growing companies in the industry.
The company is in the meantime represented internationally in over 100 countries and in 2012 the export share of the overall turnover was almost 60%. However, the management trio has no intention of resting on its laurels. Schneider is taking into account that the usage and potential of writing instruments is continuing to change in the rise of the digital era by searching for intelligent solutions that extend beyond the theme of writing. With its many years of experience and tradition, unabated innovative spirit and huge passion for writing instruments Schneider is looking optimistically ahead to the future in the year of its 75th anniversary.
photos: Schneider Schreibgeräte GmbH