When considering a factory, it’s rare that artisanal craftsmanship springs to mind. Yet, a visit to the Gaggenau factory in Lipsheim completely removes the former connotations of heavy machinery and smoky industrial plants…
Words Catherine McMaster
Photography Ben Reeves
Article published on Gaggenau website: https://gaggenau-themagazine.com/zz/spaces/factory-factory-factory/
Article featured in Gaggenau print magazine, November 2018
Encapsulated in a warm, mellow, mechanical buzz, the factory is filled with a throng of people, all dressed in a utilitarian, navy ensemble. Their faces are cemented with a look of intense concentration, yet there’s an easiness to their façade too. They evidently enjoy the company and surroundings.
The factory is in Lipsheim, France, and is a mere 10-minute drive from the German border. The 1930s structure is comprised of high ceilings and natural light. Ambiguous machinery and metalwork is passed from one hand to another, and it’s only occasionally you glimpse the finalised product: an oven or coffee machine
The industrial revolution of 1760-1840 erupted Europe into a haze of manufacturing economy. Factories sprung up and offered agrarian communities the chance to evolve into urban trade centres. By 1900, Germany had the biggest economy in Europe, due to their booming industry. In 2010, Germany’s Ruhr region, which is synonymous with steel works, coal mines and blue-collar jobs, was voted Europe’s Capital of Culture.
Factories are pigeonholed as highly unemotional, sterilised and mechanical spaces. Images of formulaic production lines imbue and cloud our judgement when the word ‘factory’ springs to mind. Yet, how many of us have stepped foot inside and visited a working factory? How many of us have spoken to the workers? Few of us, I can imagine.
The image of the factory is a nostalgic one. Smoke billows from great shot towers, automated production lines and a maze of vast machinery. It’s an image that doesn’t inspire romantic connotations, but is a symbol of a bygone and pulsating industrial past. From the offset, the Gaggenau factory sets itself apart. Firstly, it’s an industrial manufacturing company, not an automated one.
“We do more handwork than other factories,” explains Joerg Neuner, the Brand Manager of the factory.
“People are often surprised when they visit at the personal touches here, as well as the manufacturing capabilities.”
The Gaggenau factory has approximately 350 workers in production. Each worker is trained on multiple products and processes, meaning they are highly skilled within many areas of the production line. The factory produces all of Gaggenau’s kitchen appliances, including the coveted 90cm oven. This iconic and distinctive piece is predominantly hand-built and takes two people and one hour to create.
Out of the whole factory, there is only one automated product, the Traumatic 6000. On every other machine (of which there are many) people feed or handwork. The result is a pulsating buzz, and an example of the harmonious working relationship between machine and man.
This is personified in the clean room assembly, the only one inside BHS. Within this confined space, a microcosm within the factory at large, workers are required to wear white suits and face masks. Inside this futuristic haven, five Gaggenau factory workers meticulously and carefully build each TFT touch display.
“There is so much effort in this process,” Joerg explains, “as it is the first touch point for a potential client.”
The entire factory is a diligently structured, conscientious and punctilious place. It straddles the outskirts of the French village, Lipsheim. Standing in stark contrast to its poetic bucolic surroundings, the factory has been on this site since the 1930s. The original building still stands.
The factory manufacturers 25,000 appliances every year. Each day, seven trucks come to load up and to deliver the goods. This is highly commendable for a factory that only manufacturers what is ordered and only produces what is sold. Gaggenau is the smallest factory inside BHS, but it also boasts the widest diversity of different products.
However, what really stets this factory apart is its highly personalised and authentic tone. The workers are passionate, involved and highly skilled and trained. Their passion for the product and the brand is evasive and infectious.
It’s a highly stylised and disciplined arena, yet not an automated unemotional environment either. It’s a factory that retains its humanity and celebrates the modernisation of machinery and industry, whilst still celebrating an artisanal hand-made past.