With passion for machines
The Anthon success story
We look back with pride and gratitude on over 150 years in which Anthon has developed into an internationally successful company: The 40-square-metre mechanical workshop that three Anthon brothers founded in Friesische Straße in 1865 has grown into a 35,000-square-metre factory site in Schäferweg. A craftsman’s business has become an internationally sought-after supplier of complex high-tech sawing systems.
With courage and drive, the brothers created a business base whose foundations have endured over generations to this day. They transformed the workshop into an iron foundry and expanded it to include a machine factory for forestry equipment. In addition, they constantly expanded the product range over generations. They recognised the needs of the markets and their customers – both at home and abroad. Anthon became a byword for heavy engineering, quality and performance.
And the Anthon story continues to unfold: after studying electrical engineering, Klaus Lange became part of Anthon in the 1970s. He further expanded the sales network, was appointed authorised signatory and acquired new important major orders with the team. In 1978, Klaus Lange and the company’s commercial manager Ernst Günther Runge worked with the team to redevelop the heart of the product range, the panel-sizing line. Anthon also focused on automation. After Ernst Günther Runge retired, Klaus Lange took over the management and brought in his son, product developer Ove Lange, in 2001. He started as a project manager and has been managing the family business as a partner since 2002. Since then, Anthon has accelerated its step into the digital age and has matured into a company 4.0.
Today, the Anthon team plans, develops, manufactures and installs computer-aided machine systems as well as robot-assisted packaging systems for the panel processing industry, setting new standards time and again. Both the family and the employees are proud of the company’s long history and of the many clever, committed people who have helped to shape its success since 1865. Because that’s what matters at Anthon. On the fact that the employees are committed to the machines. Because no matter how high-tech a machine is, it still needs people to invent it and stand up for it in the market. Anthon employees do just that – committed and with an eye to the future.
Our experience goes around the world
A riding hall becomes a factory hall
After the war with Denmark, the country was in a state of change and trade was flourishing. Good workmanship and diligence brought the mechanical workshop forward. In 1867, the father withdrew from the business. Instead, the third brother, Heinrich Jordt, joined the company. At first, neither of the young men had time to marry. Instead, they registered as a machine factory and expanded the workshop: They buy the neighbouring riding hall in Friesische Straße and enlarge their company headquarters, which, as history later shows, is to remain the same for over 100 years. They buy additional land and improve their factory facilities: the foundry, which produced until 1979, the forge, but above all their machine tools. By 1887, a factory hall 55 metres long and 22 metres wide was built, equipped with two load cranes.
In-house development – the engineering office
Until then, simple free hand drawings, which were no more than lines on paper, had provided the factory foremen with the framework for their product creation. Due to the further increase in demand from Scandinavia, Russia and the Hanseatic cities, as well as the progressive expansion of the market, the management trio decided to increasingly employ technicians and to set up their own engineering office. With the hiring of engineer Richard Wiegand, they laid the foundation for the company’s development into a special machine manufacturer, which Anthon still is today.
Internationalisation – first machines go overseas
An important milestone: The Anthon company joins forces with the machinery dealer Wilcynski and from then on builds American-style wooden machinery, especially for the production of wooden barrels. Business is constantly expanding. All over the world, the demand for woodworking machinery increases. Exports to other countries are increasing. Besides Scandinavia and Russia, Italy, France, Spain and Portugal are also supplied with Anthon machines. Now, in addition to barrel machines, the factory also built planing machines, joinery machines and, with particular success, wood wool machines, for which it had applied for a patent right.
Russia and the First World War
When Johann’s son Oskar took over the company in 1913, he brought with him not only his knowledge of mechanical engineering but also very good language skills in Russian. He had previously managed the Anthon subsidiary in St. Petersburg and Moscow and had a good network. He promoted the existing business relations with Russia and thus initially helped the company to grow well. With the mobilisation for World War I, however, the factory had to switch to armament production. Grenades were to be produced instead of machines. This caused great costs. Only with considerable effort could the machine tools be converted to meet the new requirements of the state. At the same time, many outstanding debts from Russia and France remained unpaid. At the end of the war, many former employees of the company were missing. They had not returned home. The machinery had suffered greatly. Poorly paid reparation deliveries instead of redemption of credit balances from the pre-war period and a throttled trade traffic due to customs burdens made things difficult for the Anthon & Soehne company.
Ingenuity – avoiding cliffs
Just as the founding fathers of the family business started their venture with courage and drive almost 50 years earlier, Oscar finally continues the business. He finds a way around the new customs regulations for Germany: By buying a machine factory in Gravenstein, which is now Danish again, and shipping Anthon machines from there, he is able to continue his old business relations and thus also his old successes. He also conquers the markets in the Balkans and South America. After concluding the Rapollo contract, Anthon also delivers machinery to Russia again.
World Economic Crisis – Johann in Child’s Place
In retrospect, Oskar Anthon can justifiably be called the preserver of the Anthon machine factory. He led the company prudently and courageously through several political and economic crises. When the German economy was badly hit in the 1930s, the company mastered the situation with prudence and team spirit. Oskar can rely one hundred percent on his close associates. He is regarded as a kind man with a strong sense of justice. In 1939, when trade is flourishing again, Oskar Anthon dies at the age of 59. As his marriage had remained childless, his wife Marie Anthon takes over the company as owner. With her, Anthon & Soehne is transformed into a limited partnership. She runs the business together with Juno Rosen and Friedrich Anthon, a grandson of Heinrich Anthon, who works in the company as an authorised signatory without shares.
End of the war – threatening dismantling
When the war ended, Anthon became a repair shop for trucks belonging to the British military unit. But after a short time, the company is allowed to use most of its workshops again. Material difficulties and a renewed shortage of skilled personnel only allowed manufacturing on a smaller scale. The news that Anthon & Soehne was to be dismantled hit family and employees like a blow. There was no one who did not sit by the radio when the list of companies to be dismantled was read out alphabetically. Johann Heinrich Anthon, born Engelke, was among them. Son of Heinrich Engelke and adopted foster son of Marie Anthon. He was to take over the family business in the fourth generation. When Anthon & Soehne is not on the dreaded dismantling list, the relief on everyone’s part is enormous. The company enters a new era in 1950 with its first trade fair stand in Hanover.
Expansion with worldwide connections
Johann Heinrich Anthon takes over the factory as sole owner in 1953. The company thus remains in family hands, just as Oskar and Marie wanted. He is the fourth generation of owners. With him, the export business is revived. At the same time, the factory is extensively renewed: large machines are bought, special machines such as four-sided planing and moulding machines are newly developed. Parquet flooring machines and band saws are added to the production programme. At the end of the 1950s, the South American business comes to a standstill due to difficult payment conditions, and the East is still closed off, with a few exceptions. Johann has to find new markets. He travels to America, to other European countries and as far as Australia and New Zealand. He made new contacts and finally found an agency for Australia at a trade fair in Sydney. Further commercial agencies follow in Europe, Asia, America and Africa. In total, more than 20 agencies have supported the Anthon & Soehne company worldwide since the 1960s – and this is still the case today.
Inspiration USA – new products
Johann Anthon returned from one of his trips to America with important ideas. From then on, the production programme was expanded to include wide belt sanding machines. This was followed by panel sizing machines. Both new designs were a complete success. Throughout his life, Johann H. Anthon managed the business of the Anthon company from the very office at Friesische Strasse 60 where generations before him had worked. However, he was active far beyond these premises: he coordinated projects, was involved in industrial associations, was a member of the board of the VDMA and various other economic organisations. His marriage to Barabara Schmidt resulted in four children: Johann Christoph, Stefanie, Marie Marlen and Janosh.
The new one – Klaus Lange
Klaus Lange first builds up an electrical department. Shortly afterwards, he switches to sales. He quickly familiarises himself with the new tasks and enjoys the international work. When Johann Anthon falls ill in the early 70s, he takes over many of his trips. At this point, the business is officially run by Johann’s brother, Nike Engelke. Anthon now builds panel-sizing lines in series. Construction and sales work hand in hand. They increasingly develop special customised products. Klaus Lange is able to acquire important large orders for the factory with the Anthon team.
The change – Klaus Lange buys the majority shares
The illness increasingly weakens Johann Anthon. His brother shows little interest in continuing the business. His children are either too young or have other interests. The management consultancy from Hamburg commissioned by Anthon to develop a solution for the continuation of the Anthon company unceremoniously asks Klaus Lange if he would like to continue the family business. He seizes the opportunity and in 1978, together with the then authorised signatory Ernst Günther Runge, buys the machine factory and the land acquired for the intended expansion in Schäferweg, the present company headquarters.
Revitalisation of the business and relocation
With Klaus Lange, the Russian business continues to revive. The panel-sizing lines are completely redeveloped. He cultivates the company contacts and travels as much as Johann Anthon himself used to. When he is on a business trip in southern Germany, there is another fire in the factory. The result: all the halls are destroyed. An unexpected setback. But Klaus Lange and his team are fighters. He spontaneously makes good the company’s daring plans for the future to expand at another location. The existing site in Schäferweg is built on in just 8 months with two new, larger halls. At the end of 1979, the entire company moves.
Reconstruction and new markets
The networking is paying off. So do the contacts to Russia that have been cultivated for decades. Anthon is expanding its business relations and developing machines for large panel plants. Besides wood panels, Anthon’s plants also process gypsum, mineral wool and non-ferrous metals. The development of computer-controlled machines brings recognition to the company and positions Anthon as a pioneer in a market that is increasingly driven by technology. At the same time, the individualisation of the machines increases significantly. Customer wishes move into focus. The company becomes more and more a developer and manufacturer of special machines.
Anthon prevails with automation
The company’s developer spirit makes Anthon open to new things. The team focuses on automation. After overcoming initial difficulties, it soon becomes clear that Anthon can only maintain its exposed location in the very north of Germany if, in addition to a special in-house vertical range of manufacture, flexible product development is implemented at the highest technical level. The software department gains in importance and thus also in size. At the end of the 90s, Anthon expands its range of products for the first time to include packaging systems and uses computer-controlled robot technology. In the meantime, the company employs over 25 engineers and programmers.
Individual, tricky tasks – solid, powerful solutions
Shortly after the turn of the millennium, Klaus Lange’s son, Ove Lange, joins the company. The graduated product developer is initially involved with internal processes, later increasingly in the field service. He combines technical competence with methodical thinking and becomes managing partner in 2004. Together with him, Klaus Lange implements the first system house solutions for customers. Anthon increasingly acts as a general contractor and integrates production steps from other manufacturers into its own production machines to create complex high-tech production lines.
Ready for the future
Today, Maschinenfabrik Anthon develops and builds its machines in a 35,000 square metre factory site with spacious halls. From the time when the Anthon founders manufactured their machines on 40 square metres, the drive, the quality awareness and the interest in new technical development have remained. This year, the Anthon team is celebrating its anniversary with pride and gratitude for the success of the past 150 years.Ove Lange: “The Anthon company thrives on committed, bright minds that want to make a difference. Because machines – no matter how high-tech – still need people to invent them and stand up for them on the market. Our team does just that. Committed and with an eye on the future.”