30 years of ZIEH-FIX - How it all began
An unusual success story
After my apprenticeship I would never have dreamed that one day I would work with locks and picking tools. When I think back today that I had to make a warded lock by hand for my trade test I believe it to be a twist of fate.
It has been 30 years since I moved from producing racing bikes to the opening technique thanks to the ZIEH-FIX. Though it all started so mundane: At the
beginning of 1986 we had to move our production and business premises due to lack of space. During the move a locked door had to be opened. As I did
not have any knowledge of door openings at that time I called a locksmith. When the door was opened with a lot of force and a vast number of drillings and for an overpriced sum I asked the expert if there weren’t any easier options or tools for the opening process of locked doors available. His answer was “No”.
So I started thinking and I inquired with other locksmith. They confirmed that professionally produced and well designed opening tools were not available in Europe and if at all they would be designed for the American market.
I did not let the topic rest and some of our mechanics and myself started thinking about the possibilities of opening such doors after a successful racing day.
From the reconstruction of our workshop we still had some self pulling screws lying around. We had the idea to screw them into the cylinder profile and put
some pressure on them. In order to pull the screw an expensive existing tool was altered in order to fit to the screw head.
The screw was fitted and laboriously put under strain. It tore apart straight away. We took another screw, hardened that one with a procedure we normally
used for tempering motor parts. This hardened screw was now screwed in and mounted to the tool. And look and behold: The cylinder flew out of the door. The next morning the whole crew drove around to different hardware stores and bought lock cylinders of different manufacturers.
With old stainless steel pipes still left over from my old pipeline construction business we built an appliance to which we could mount a small part of a door. This application is still used in seminars and demonstrations.
We mounted the various lock cylinders and pulled one cylinder after another with the drilling screw. Whatever manufacturer, no one thought at the time,
that someone would put the cylinders under tension. We built some more prototypes until we had a tool which came already very close to the current ZIEHFIX. From the motorcycle business we knew we needed to have everything newly invented protected by patent otherwise it would be quickly copied. So we registered the ZIEH-FIX and then forgot about it.
One evening I was called by our patent agent. He asked if I actually knew what we had invented, as something like that did not exist anywhere in the world. He advised me to have the tool professionally put on the market.
Now you tell a tradesperson something about marketing. Not to forget it was 1986 and the internet was still in its infancy and was only available to universities
and research facilities.
So we took a picture and put it next to a self pinned text and had 500 black and white copies printed. Using a telephone book we looked for 500 locksmith
businesses in our area. We typed the addresses with a typewriter onto labels which we put on to our covering letter and then sent off.
In marketing, as we know, one can expect a return quota of 0.5 % to 2 %. Our return quota was a staggering app. 95 %. We did not expect that. Nearly every locksmith we had contacted requested a ZIEH-FIX.
In the beginning we could not produce as quickly as the ZIEH FIX orders poured in. At least every part is conventionally crafted and assembled by hand. We
stopped manufacturing motorcycles to begin with. And you know what?
Until today we have not started with it again. The whole family, acquaintances and even one or two major customers helped us back then with the assembly of the ZIEH-FIX.
A short time after our first sales the lock manufacturers reacted by using better materials in order to avoid the pulling of the cylinders. Our pulling screws which up until then where hardened by ourselves all tore off with the new cylinders. The industry thought they had defeated us, but we did not give up.
We did not only develop a special mix of material but also a special technique for tempering and approached a manufacturer for screws. He was able to produce our screws but did not want to have his tools destroyed in the production process due to the material and hardiness we required. He offered to buy specific tools just for producing our required product.
Only with the help of the department for business development did we receive the required funds in order to pay for our first production of screws as well as the relevant tool required for the production. These specific pulling screws are still being manufactured according to this specific procedure and exclusively
sold by us.
Introducing new products, such as the bell deepened our delivery problem for such a production output. For this reason the first CNC operated lathe was
acquired. This one is still placed in our production department and produces the different parts of our tools now. This machine has been the cornerstone of today’s completely CNC operated production process.
Having said this I would again like to thank the department for business development in Bergheim as well as all my sponsors, advisers, business partners, friends and my family who assisted me with this start.