Content - History
Maschinenfabrik Mikron AG was founded in the Swiss town of Biel in 1908. In the first half of the last century, Mikron played a key role in the industrialization of the Swiss watchmaking industry with its gear-cutting machines and tools. From 1960 onwards, Mikron gradually expanded its activities into new areas, such as milling machines, plastic components, and machining systems. Mikron took over Haesler SA in Boudry (Switzerland), which in particular manufactured transfer machines for the watchmaking industry, and Albe SA Agno (Switzerland), which was a global market leader in machines for the manufacturing of ballpoint pens with its rotary transfer machining units. Mikron went public in 1983. Within the past few years Mikron developed itself to a globally operating, technologically leading supplier of machining and automation solutions for high-volume and high-precision production.
(1908 — 1960) The era of the founders and pioneers
On 20 April 1908, the watch manufacturer Karl Lüthy established Maschinenfabrik Mikron AG in Biel/Bienne by taking over Henri Hauser's mechanical workshop, which had a staff of 35. As the first Managing Director of his factory, he chose Marc Woiblet.
Woiblet called in William Dubois, a gifted technician and designer, to assist him. Both men shared a passion for the watchmaking industry and precision engineering. Entirely in keeping with the Swiss tradition of watchmaking, they dedicated themselves heart and soul to precision.
Mikron presented its first gear hobbing machine and the first hob for cycloid tooth forms - pioneering achievements indeed.
Mikron launched the first universal gear cutting machine on the market. For the first time, this product enabled the firm to tap a broad-based group of customers, including some outside the watchmaking industry.
The then Managing Director, Marc Woiblet, became Chairman of the Board and William Dubois was appointed as the new Managing Director one year later. The ensuing period saw the continued development of machines and tools.
Mikron introduced its first pension plan for employees.
William Dubois died and the technical development within the firm was «orphaned» and the era of the founders and pioneers was drawing to a close.
In a period of economic upturn, Mikron established a significant expansion of production capacity.
A deep recession began. Despite great privations, Mikron had survived two world wars and the intervening economic crises unscathed, so it would also be able to pass this new acid test.
(1961 — 1985) Expansion and diversification
Mikron launched an extensive development programme lasting several years and encompassing every area of the firm, with the advent of new technical developments, expanded production capacity and a modernised organisation. This was the start of an era of expansion and diversification.
The new established Mikron Holding AG acquired Maschinenfabrik Mikron AG as its first subsidiary.
On 1 January, Mikron acquired Haesler SA of Boudry, Switzerland, the producer of transfer machines. In the same year Mikron stopped producing bench lathes, ébauche machines and milling machines, and invested in an electro-erosion department to manufacture milling cutters and, later on, injection moulds.
Mikron took over J. Goulder & Sons Ltd. of Huddersfield, UK, a manufacturer of gear testing machines which was renamed Goulder Mikron. The same year saw the establishment of the company's own pension fund in which white- and blue-collar employees were given equal status in all respects. The reorganisation of the pension scheme also led to the introduction of monthly pay for all employees.
The first series-produced transfer machine model was manufactured.
Mikron resumed its traditional manufacture of milling machines with the launch of a new generation of universal tool milling machines.
As metal gearwheels were replaced by plastic versions, the firm opened its Plastics Department and began producing plastic parts. The preceding years had seen increasingly frequent requests from major customers for finished injection-moulded parts instead of the injection moulds that the firm supplied.
The primary assembly system based on the rotary indexing technology is launched: the Polyfactor™.
Marked the launch of Mikron's first assembly machine, as a reaction to the increasing automation of industry in general and declining sales in the watchmaking industry.
Mikron US Corporation was established as a sales company at South Norwalk, CT/USA. Four years later, it relocated to Monroe, CT/USA and became a production facility.
Mikron became a 100% public corporation with the public placement of the majority package of registered shares by the Gasser family.
(1986 — 1996) Globalization
Mikron acquired Albe SA of Agno, Switzerland, together with its sales branch in Tokyo, Japan. This was a step towards strategic growth which made Mikron the world's most important manufacturer of machining systems in a specific application area.
Mikron starts operations with a strategic partner (today Swisstec) in China.
Marked the start of a focused reorientation of the Machining and Assembly Systems division that was to last several years: the range was streamlined, new developments were pushed forward and the production of machining systems was concentrated in Agno.
Manufacturing of the Multifactor™ machining systemis moved from Mikron SA Boudry, Switzerland, to Agno. Launch of the PM-30 rotary indexing machine.
Saw the market launch of Mikron's first machining centre, in cooperation with Beaver Engineering Group plc, of the UK. The same year marked the start of an extensive three-year investment programme intended to enable Mikron to exploit its potential in view of forthcoming changes.
Establishment of Mikron GmbH Rottweil (Germany) as a sales and service company. Launch of the Multistar™ LX-24 machining system for the writing instrument industry.
On 27 June an attempted hostile takeover by a group of shareholders headed by the financier Werner Fleischmann was warded off at an Extraordinary General Meeting, bringing a nine-month defensive campaign to an end.
Mikron SA Agno concentrates its activities on the transfer machine field. Creation of the Machining Technology Division. Launch of the Multistar™ CX-24 machining system.
Launch of the Multistar™ LX-24 machining system for industrial applications beyond the writing instrument industry.
Launch of the Multistep™ machining system.
Development of the linear assembly solution Flexifactor™, a concept based on the standard Flexcell™ cell.
Following the economic crisis between 1991 and 1993 the Millling Machines division was about to enter into a strategic alliance. The other three divisions were in very good shape.
(1997 — 2007) The boom — and a reorientation
Mikron was at a turning point. With modern management and a contemporary range, the firm was nevertheless heavily dependent on its customers' scope for investment, so it aimed to add more balance to its portfolio. As a visible sign of this change, Mikron introduced its current corporate design and took the new name of Mikron Technology Group to reflect the growth it was planning to achieve.
Introduction of the robotic assembly cell Syfast™.
With the establishment of Mikron Tool SA Agno in 1998, Mikron made the cutting tool business independent. The same year saw the acquisition of CEI Automation Inc. of Aurora, CO/USA, a manufacturer of automation solutions, which was given the new name of Mikron Corp. Denver. Both these moves strengthened the machines business.
The manufacturing of the Multistep™ machining system is moved from Mikron SA Agno to Rottweil. Launch of the CrazyDrillTM high-performance drill line: a full carbide metal drill with a premium-quality coating.
Mikron sold its milling machines and machining centres business to the Swiss Agie Charmilles Group, exiting form another business area that had a historic association with the Mikron brand. The transformation from machine manufacturer to technology group was completed.
High expectations of the mobile phone market drive up the share price for component manufacturer Mikron to over CHF 1,500.
Launch of CrazyDrill™ Alu, high-performance drill bits for aluminum die-castings and wrought alloys.
After the loss of its main customer restructuring of the entire Mikron Group was required with closing of factories, cutting of staff and selling of its less strategically important participations.
Launch of the new high performance linear assembly system G05™, the first to allow speeds of more than 100 cycles per minute and enabling unrivalled precision in assembly.
Launch of the Multistar™ LX-12 machining system, designed for entry into the high-volume machining market. Launch of CrazyDrill™ Pilot, a high-performance drill for the centering and drilling of a pilot hole together with a simultaneous 90° chamfer cut. ISO 9001 certification for quality of Mikron Tool SA Agno.
Restructuring of the balance sheet at the Extraordinary General Meeting on 18 June 2003, which succeeded thanks to the intervention of a group of Swiss industrial investors headed by Board Member Johann Niklaus Schneider-Ammann, together with cooperation from lenders.
Launch of the flexible feeding system Polyfeed™ standalone.
Launch of CrazyDrill™ Cool, high-performance drill bits with interior cooling.
Mikron exited the plastic components business with the sale of its Plastics Technology division. This completes its return to machinery and plant engineering.
Launch of the Mikron NRG-50™ machining system. Comprehensive certification of Mikron Tool SA Agno in the areas of quality, the environment and safety (ISO 9001, ISO 14001, OHSAS 18001).
To complete Mikron Machining's product portfolio, Mikron acquired a smaller company in Switzerland.
Mikron acquires Integral Systems Inc., a company specializing in customized automation solutions in Singapore, thus opening up the emerging Asian market for Mikron Automation.
Mikron opened its own production site in Singapore.
Launch of the Multistep™ XT-200 machining system. Expansion of the standard cutting tool offering by MiquDrill™ and profile cutters.
(2008 — 2012) New prospects
The global economic crisis and the strong Swiss franc also result in high losses for the Mikron Group. The divisions and companies respond to this challenge by increasing productivity and expanding their activities both in Asia and in the area of cutting tools.
Foundation of Mikron Shanghai in China, which primarily manufactures subsystems for Mikron Automation, but also acts as a service hub for Mikron Machining.
2008 and 2009
Launch of CrazyDrill™ Crosspilot, a pilot drill for inclined surfaces, and CrazyDrill™ Twicenter, a center drill with two integrated cooling ducts.
Launch of the chamfer mills CrazyMill™ Frontchamfer and CrazyMill™ Backchamfer.
Launch of the new Mikron EcoLine™ low to medium-volume automation platform developed and built in Singapore.
Launch of the Multistar NX-24 machining system. The CNC-controlled Multistar NX-24 provides significantly more flexibility with a minimal reduction in production rate.
Mikron expanded the automation business by acquiring the IMA Automation Berlin GmbH and strengthened its position by integrating the company as an independent unit within its Automation division.
Mikron Shanghai is the final group company to gain the ISO 9001 quality certificate.