Ernst R. Erni peacefully passes away at the age of 83 in the circle of his family in Gersau, Switzerland. “You may not be among us anymore, but your legacy will live on in us. Thank you for everything and rest in peace, dear Grandpa.” quote. Hans Erni in his funeral-speech
End of an era
Ernst R. Erni
A single term engages the industry: mezzanine, a word originally describing a low-ceilinged story above the ground floor, now also dominates the electronics sector. In order to squeeze even more electronic capacity into more compact designs, printed circuit boards are increasingly stacked. ERNI also becomes the technology leader in this area. Following the proven mezzanine models MicroSpeed and SMC, ERNI again raises the bar to develop MicroStac, an SMT-capable line featuring all specifications required by the market.
The new ERNI MicroStac is hermaphroditic by design. Instead of the previously standard pairs of female and male connectors, here there is only one type of connector. The MicroStac is also unique when it comes to size, or lack thereof. With a 0.8 mm grid, the MicroStac allows for board-to-board (mezzanine) solutions from a spacing of 5 mm.
The 80th birthday of Elsa and Ernst Rudolf Erni: a paddle steamer carrying 200 ERNI employees from around the world stops at the dock directly in front of the couple’s home on the evening of March 2nd. Only after extensive waving and loud singing of the “Happy Birthday” song does Ernst Erni - who thinks everyone on board is just being overly friendly - realize that these people are his birthday guests! Adelberg bestows Ernst with honorary citizenship. Elsa receives her first computer from her husband and signs up for a computer course – after calming down. From now on, recommendations and letters from Gersau addressed to ERNI management are enriched by the medium of e-mail.
On the evening of March 2nd, a paddle steamer full of surprise guests from around the world approaches the docking point in Gersau on Vierwaldstätter lake.
Expansion activity hits full speed. Market booms fuel the company with capital, with increased demand in all areas of high tech communications. ERNI grows in the double digits and employs around 700 workers. At Ziegelhau in Adelberg, an additional 7,000 m2 of useable space are added. Capital stock increases to DM 10,000,000. Ernst Erni praises the dynamism in Adelberg at the company’s 40th anniversary, which has also lead to outward expansion in the United States and in Asia. In Singapore, ERNI Asia Pte Ltd. is founded as the company’s sales and marketing center for servicing the Pacific Rim.
This sculpture designed by an American artist symbolizes the global collaboration of the ERNI Group together with its customers.
Star at the Productronica
The ERNIPRESS-CENTER EPC I circuit board pick-and-place robot defines the standard for environmentally friendly solder-free pressfit systems, supplemented by the ERNI system and service offering. ERNI’s complete software and system technology know-how is incorporated into the development of the EPC. From automatic feeding of the components, to video-based inspection of parts quality and exact positioning, all the way to defined press-in force - everything is under control. The high degree of automation represents a quantum leap in manufacturing technology and allows ERNI to economically produce backplanes for customers.
The fully automatic EPC I makes mass circuit board assembly economic and efficient.
One concept for all sizes
As connectors continue to become smaller and more compact, developers at ERNI are faced with the question: “What is more important - smaller size or high quality?” The answer is typical for ERNI: smaller size and high quality. This train of thought is very much apparent in the principle of the two-legged contacts that characterize the largest and smallest of ERNI connectors. Here, not only reliable contacting is ensured; insertion and removal are also easy due to the fact that no single-sided forces act such that tolerances can be greater. Both characteristics are ideal for efficient assembly and reliability during frequent plugging. Note: quality is in the details.
Profilometer-based quality assurance test: Here, you can easily see the symmetry of the two-legged spring contacts.
Ceremonial first dig
Business in the United States signals substantial growth potential for the ERNI Group. After founding and expanding the company there in 1980, ‘84 and ‘91, Elsa and Ernst Erni reach for the shovel one more time. In the presence of Virginia State Governor George Allen, the two perform the ceremonial first dig for the new building of ERNI’s headquarters and main production center in Chester. The runway lighting system product division is incorporated into the newly founded ERNI Lichttechnik AG in Switzerland. In 1995, ERNI Airlight Inc. opens its U.S.-based manufacturing and distribution facility in Chester, Virginia.
Elsa and Ernst Erni celebrate the ceremonial first dig for the new building in Chester, Virginia.
In Brüttisellen, hardware and software development for control system technology is stopped. ERNI is too small to keep up with the speed of development in all relevant areas in the long run. From now on, Regeltron GmbH in Adelberg develops and produces exclusively to meet its own requirements for pick-and-place robots and customer-specific applications. This strategic decision gives ERNI the power to concentrate on future-oriented core areas, for example the new ERmet connectors, which receive the final touch and are launched to market in the following year. In France, ERNI Limitor Sarl (later known as ERNI Connectique Sarl) is founded.
On the drawing board, the new generation of 2 mm grid ERmet connectors is born, thanks to a 1 Gbit/s data capacity specially designed for telecommunications.
The expansions to the production facilities in Adelberg and in Haubersbronn no longer are sufficient. To finally solve the problem, ERNI erects a new building in the Ziegelhau commercial district in Adelberg. At the turn of the year, all manufacturing areas – tool and special machine manufacture, production control, operation planning, purchasing and material management – move to this location.
The new Ziegelhau plant has 11,000 m2 of useable space spread over three levels.
Shaping the future
To ensure that ERNI stays a family business after his time, Ernst R. Erni founds the ERNI Trust, domiciled in Jersey, UK. He brings in all the ERNI shares, under the stipulations to hold them in trust until such day when a decision can be taken on whether his grandsons Hans and Robert would be willing and able to run the family business in the third generation. Meanwhile ERNI is run by the Board of Directors of ERNI Holding AG.
Leadership team of the ERNI Group. Peter Vögele – Walter Regli (President) – Franz Czeschka – Klaus Reuther – Willy Rau – Dr. Rudolf Balsiger – Katharina Urban (Secretary) – Hans Peter Locher
With uncanny regularity, ERNI in Adelberg continues to collect more annual awards. Customers not only praise the quality of the products, but also the efficiency of and way in which collaboration is achieved, from initial contact, to fast realization, all the way to on-time delivery. Sample comments from the ‘88/’89 season: “supplier of the year”, “preferred supplier”, “quality score 100 %”, “…for high quality and special service…” from Intergraph, Siemens AG, the Bosch Group, Texas Instruments, NCR and other companies.
An award typically involves a certificate, badge, trophy or sculpture that is placed in a visible location to motivate and inspire people.
The “Hamster” is another ERNI product marketed by Adelberg-based Regeltron GmbH. This small device measures the temperature and air humidity. Depending on the model, measurements are made by the second, hour or day for years on end and without reliance on the building power supply. The Hamster stores readings until they are read out by PC, just like a black box. This way, numerous processes can be monitored which require controlled temperature and air humidity, e.g. food cooling chains, during the transport and storage of works of art, chemicals or food supplies and in operating and production processes.
The first Hamster is added to Erni’s product line in 1988; the above picture is of the further advanced “Hamster 2000” from 1993, a system with interchangeable sensors for different applications.
Ernst R. Erni sustainably shaped the community of Adelberg and the region with his undertakings. Therefor he receives the Honorary Citizenship of Adelberg.
Certificate of Honorary Citizenship of Adelberg for Ernst R. Erni
As ERNI Elektroapparate GmbH is its own supplier and customer (delivery of connectors to backplane production), ERNI is aware of the requirements at both ends. ERNI utilizes this experience to bring its service offering even more in line with what is needed. Here, in the global market, the economic trinity of quality, flexibility and productivity is challenged anew with each operating process. In order to increase productivity, ERNI gradually optimizes all relevant product lines for automated assembly.
Topping out ceremony
The area of electronics and telecontrol engineering in Brüttisellen is consistently expanded and marketed in Germany by Regeltron GmbH in Adelberg. ERNI systems run on Octobus, an in-house developed software application. The software actually could compete with MS-DOS, however it remains customized for ERNI systems.
Topping out ceremony for an administration building on Seestraße in Adelberg. In addition to Sales, Component development and Operating resources design receive new offices.
In Richmond, Virginia, the first manufacturing facility in the United States begins production. ERNI Components Inc. produces standard connectors for the U.S. market.
The regular works outings promote a positive working atmosphere. Employees at the Adelberg and Brüttisellen locations meet in Switzerland and in Germany to get to know each other and to set out on an adventure together.
That innovative developers prefer to work with similar minded partners is evidenced in magnetic resonance imaging, a clinical diagnostics system that also makes soft internal organs visible on a monitor, eliminating the need to perform surgical examination. ERNI supports the manufacturer as a system developer right from the beginning by supplying prototypes, followed by fully assembled backplanes.
The best connectors can achieve maximum performance only when they are joined to worthy counterparts. This is why ERNI also develops and manufactures backplanes, for example at the end of the 1980’s with this customized application for a magnetic resonance tomograph.
The DIN evolution
The ERNI line of DIN connectors grows together with the advancements made in electronics. New designs and customer-specific solutions are created within the specifications of the standard. The 2- and 3-row standard sizes are available inverted with “role reversal” of the connection plug boards and multipoint connectors. Later short, 4- and 5-row, creapage-proof, high current and other models are added to the DIN grid.
Small selection: since the world’s first connector was made in 1968, ERNI has been continually adding models of DIN connectors to its product line.
The first 25 years
In his opening words on the 25th anniversary of ERNI in Adelberg, Ernst Erni underscores the four pillars of the company’s success: Quality before quantity, company performance from A to Z, qualified and committed employees and dynamic management. These principles have enabled 285 employees to generate sales of approximately DM 30 million.
The 25th anniversary is another good occasion to throw a party for the employees in Brüttisellen and in Adelberg. While Adelberg Managing Director Hannsgeorg Kramer is still giving his speech (right), long-time employees Franz Reisinger and Kurt Schlotz move their chairs into position.
Additional expansions: Space is doubled on Seestraße in Adelberg. And in Arlington Heights, Illinois/USA, ERNI Components Inc. is founded. The objective for the U.S. sales and marketing company is to cultivate contact with American customers.
Well positioned: ERNI Elektroapparate employs 285 people, 180 of which are in Adelberg and 105 in Haubersbronn. 240 work in manufacturing, 22 in administration and 23 in the technical departments.