Wienerberger is today the world’s largest manufacturer of building materials, but it all started precisely 200 years ago on Wienerberg Hill, which is now part of the city of Vienna
Here in Serbia, Wienerberger d.o.o. (Ltd.) Kanjiža employs almost 300 workers. Taking care of employees, ensuring their satisfaction and good working conditions, and above all safety at work, is on the focus of the company’s operations.
BEGINNINGS OF AN EMPIRE
The company was founded by Alois Miesbach (1791-1857), who was born in Moravia. Schooled as an economist, he was also a civil engineer. During his studies in Rome, he learned about techniques used by ancient Romans to make bricks. He was 29 when, in 1819, he decided to open the first brickworks, where he produced around 1.5 million bricks in just a year.
He opened a new factory in Maidling three years later, and by 1855 he’d already amassed nine brickworks. As a result of the expansion of operations, Miesbach continued increasing the company’s capacity, creating the largest brick factories in Europe during that time. The company has already entered the construction sector by then, constructing numerous buildings in and around Vienna.
MANAGING THE COMPANY
It was back in 1857 that Heinrich Drasche, Miesbach’s nephew, took over the management of the company and continued its expansion. The result of the expansionary policy was an increase in the amount of bricks produced, reaching 188 million by 1869, then came the expansion of the product range to encompass ceramic tiles, clay ornaments, pipes and bricks, mining, canal digging and the construction industry.
That same year saw the Austrian part of the company become a public enterprise under Drasche’s leadership, with Wienerberger among the first Austrian companies to have its shares listed on the Vienna Stock Exchange. Alongside the anniversary of its founding, the company is this year also celebrating 150 years of being listed on the stock market.
Drasche was the first owner of a brickworks to introduce so-called circular kilns, oval or round structures, to Austria in the 1860s, which baked the clay at temperatures of around 1,000°C. He was also among the first industrialists to increase social benefits and construct housing for employees.
NEW STRATEGY AND EXPANSION – ENTERING THE INTERNATIONAL MARKET
Wienerberger’s route changed in the early 1980s, when a new management team began restructuring operations and developing a new expansionary strategy aimed at achieving a leading position on the European market. Another significant landmark moment is linked to 1986, when the company took over Germany’s Oltmanns-Gruppe, with more than 200 factories, and became one of the leaders of the European brick market.
The company simultaneously expanded its operations to other areas of manufacturing, such as ceramic pipes, and in 1989 opened a new company, Pipelife. Wienerberger became the largest industrial group in Austria, making several important acquisitions in the 1990s, including that of Semmelrock, which specialises in paving systems.
CONTEMPORARY TRANSFORMATION – FOCUS ON CONSTRUCTION MATERIALS
It was during the last year of the last century, with the acquisitions of General Shale Inc. in the U.S. and ZZ Wancor in Switzerland, that Wienerberger started heading towards the top of the world list. It purchased company Mabo, through Pipelife, thereby also shifting its focus to the Scandinavian markets, while the acquisition of Tondach Gleinstätten AG and the introduction of ceramic tiles to Wienerberger’s portfolio proved yet another successful move.
Wienerberger entered the Serbian market in 2006, with Porotherm clay building blocks, Tondach clay tiles and Terca facade bricks. Wienerberger d.o.o. Kanjiža’s plans are to constantly improve business processes, create added value for products and systemic solutions that are offered on the market.