Time travel 50 years of Unitechnik

Unitechnik celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2021. Half a century full of groundbreaking technological leaps. An Eldorado for an automation company. Join us on a little journey.

1971 - Founded as an engineering office

On May 25, 1971, Bernd Cieplik and Heinz Poppek founded an engineering office for the planning and construction of electrical control systems in Gummersbach - the birth of Unitechnik. After a short time, "home office" is no longer practicable and the two men rent a basement apartment in Ludwigstraße on Steinberg.

There is plenty of work available, so employees are hired. Not far from the old location, a store is rented in Gimbornerstrasse. The property later becomes known regionally as the "Teestube". Thanks to the new tracing machines, however, it smells more like ammonia than herbal tea in Unitechnik's day.

1975 - New building in Wiehl-Bomig

Four years after the company was founded at the latest, the resolution that the company should have no more than eight employees was thrown overboard. The first company building is built in Robert-Bosch-Straße in the Wiehl Bomig industrial estate (now REIKU). As Heinz Poppek stands in the huge empty factory building, he feels a little uneasy: "How are we ever going to fill it up?"

The control cabinets are getting bigger and bigger and the production hall is gradually filling up. The first trainees are still called apprentices at the time. Peter Gross (left in the picture) and Georg Kreidt have now been with Unitechnik for 44 years.

1980 - First PLC control system

A major revolution in automation technology: the programmable logic controller (PLC) is gradually replacing contactor controllers. With the IPC 300 from Honeywell, Unitechnik is right at the forefront. Good planning is of course half the battle here too.

1981 - Electronics development

It is dissatisfaction with the price-performance ratio of the systems available on the market that drives Unitechnik to develop something of its own. The company's own process computer with the descriptive name UTRONIK 990 is created. A specialized further development was later used as a "tower controller" for the control of circulation racks for data carrier cassettes. Our first points of contact with warehouse technology.

1982 - Rebuilt again

Despite an extension, the existing building cannot keep up with the rapid growth. So once again, a new building is being constructed. Not a kilometer away in Fritz-Kotz-Straße, the new home of Unitechnik is being built. On the huge site, the buildings seem somehow abandoned. The successful move is celebrated with local Kölsch beer.

1988 - Drive and control technology

A new core competence rounds off Unitechnik's range of services: drive and control technology. This enables Unitechnik to automate sophisticated winding and slitting machines.

Today, the drive specialists are based in Eisenhüttenstadt and commission rolling and slitting systems worldwide.

1989 - Building boom

And once again, growth is taking its toll. More space is needed. However, a four-storey office building is now really intended to meet the needs for the coming years. Among the well-wishers was Werner Becker-Blonigen (2nd from left), town manager and later mayor of Wiehl. He is still associated with the company today and holds the office of Chairman of the Advisory Board of Unitechnik.

1990 - Automation of precast concrete plants

The construction boom is demanding more and more prefabricated concrete elements. A new mainstay is emerging for Unitechnik. The automation of these production plants is an exciting task for the engineers at Unitechnik: producing individual elements planned in CAD automatically with the help of robot technology. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the topic gains even more momentum.

1991 - Foundation of Unitechnik Eisenhüttenstadt

Shortly after reunification, the sister company Unitechnik Automatisierungs GmbH is founded in Eisenhüttenstadt. The maintenance department of the EKO steelworks is to be outsourced. Initiated by personal contacts, the Eisenhüttenstadt automation experts find two courageous entrepreneurs in Wiehl.

1991 - SPS training center goes into operation

As a cooperation partner of Siemens, Unitechnik offers training courses for the SIMATIC world. Initially STEP5, later STEP7 and from 2017 TIA Portal. Unitechnik is the only location in Germany to offer the Siemens-certified SIMATIC technician in TIA Portal in day and evening formats.

1992 - First warehouse management computer

In addition to PLC controls, computer technology is becoming increasingly important. Production systems have been controlled in this way for a few years now. The birth of our warehouse management system UniWare was in 1992 at Kabelwerke Rheydt. The WMS is implemented on a MicroVAX.

1995 - UniCAM presented at BAUMA

BAUMA - the largest trade fair in the world. Unitechnik is represented with its own stand and presents its master computer for the precast concrete industry. Unitechnik has been represented at every BAUMA since this year.

1999 - Ready for the new millennium

Unitechnik builds a new administration building in Eisenhüttenstadt. Among the well-wishers are the then Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and the Minister President of Brandenburg Manfred Stolpe. Managing Director Jürgen Unger (left) explains the development of the Brandenburg flagship company.

Founder Heinz Poppek takes his well-deserved retirement. His son Rainer Poppek, who has been with the company since 1993, takes over as Managing Director.

2004 - General contractor for logistics centers

Softcarrier in Trierweiler: Completion of the first complete logistics center for which Unitechnik is responsible as general contractor. Unitechnik continues along this path to this day. The company's own warehouse management system, UniWare, optimally maps the customer's business processes. Unitechnik is completely manufacturer-independent with regard to the warehouse and conveyor technology used.

2005 - Handing over the baton

With the retirement of Bernd Cieplik, the baton is finally passed on to the next generation. As part of this succession, the company is renamed Unitechnik AG. The two juniors Rainer Poppek and Wolfgang Cieplik are supported by the three long-standing managers Bernhard Hoffmann, Knut Kröckel and Torsten Ley. Together they form the Management Board of the public limited company. Bernd Cieplik and Heinz Poppek accompany the company on the Supervisory Board.

2007 - Foundation of Unitechnik Dubai

As part of our Dubai Flower Center cargo project, which we handled with our then subsidiary ICM Airport Technics, the Unitechnik ICM FZCO branch was founded. To this day, it serves as a service and sales base for the Middle East and supports many of our projects. Today, the company is located in the Dubai Airport Freezone and is called Unitechnik FZE.

2011 - "UniWare Everywhere" at the LogiMAT

The LogiMAT trade fair in Stuttgart has been a popular meeting place for the intralogistics industry for many years. A good place to celebrate our 40th anniversary. The lady on the lounger stands for our motto "UniWare Everywhere"

2013 - New structure

Foundation of a holding company in which the shareholders Wolfgang Cieplik and Rainer Poppek are active. The holding company manages the group of companies, which consists of the three operating companies in Wiehl, Eisenhüttenstadt and Dubai. It also performs cross-divisional tasks for the entire group.

2014 - Digital twin for software development

The digital twin is becoming increasingly important. During software development, the physical system is digitally reproduced in the form of an emulation. Stefan Blauel, our Head of IT, shows here how the UniWare warehouse management system (left screen) interacts with the digital twin. This allows the functions and processes in the office to be tested. Times on the construction site are reduced to a minimum. This is an unbeatable advantage for retrofit projects.

2015 - Change of management in Eisenhüttenstadt

Eisenhüttenstadt: Eckhardt Wilberg (4th from right) retires and hands over the management to Karsten Boldt (3rd from left). The transition is accompanied by Torsten Ley. Mr. Boldt is supported by the authorized signatories Katrin Kratzsch, Dietmar Jost and Wolfgang Beitsch. The latter has now retired and will be replaced by Thomas Hoffmann.

2016 - UniCAM.10

UniCAM.10 - the master computer for the precast concrete industry has been completely redeveloped and sets new standards in the digitalization of production plants. The new software is once again presented at BAUMA.

In the following years, paperless production becomes a reality in many precast concrete plants.

2017 - Largest order ... and coronavirus aid for Africa

Unitechnik receives an order from Ethiopian Airlines for the planning and realization of a new cargo terminal at Addis Ababa airport. The facility is the largest cargo center in Africa and, at € 32 million, the largest order for Unitechnik to date. During the coronavirus pandemic, this facility is the central hub for supplying Africa with relief supplies and vaccines.

2018 - Own logistics planning

Logistics planning is offered as an independent service. State-of-the-art tools are used for this. Virtual reality is used to give customers an impression of their future facility that is as close to reality as possible and to demonstrate how workstations work.

2019 - State-of-the-art switchgear construction in the Rhineland

Digitalization and expansion in switchgear manufacturing. Dirk Schütz, Head of the Switchgear Construction department, explains the advantages of the digital twin in the production process. The outstanding quality and UL certification are probably responsible for the fact that this area is growing steadily.

2020 - Spare parts for combine harvesters

Completion of the largest logistics project in Germany to date. Unitechnik builds a 9-aisle high-bay warehouse with electric monorail system and order picking for the central spare parts center of CLAAS in Hamm-Uentrop.

Unitechnik has now built more than 30 logistics centers as a general contractor and is valued by the market as a specialist for sophisticated automated logistics systems. Unitechnik sees itself as a life-time partner for its customers.

2021 - Unitechnik Systems

The management of Unitechnik Systems GmbH consists of Managing Director Torsten Ley (center), Technical Manager Dirk Panske (left) and Sales Manager Michael Huhn (right).

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What does Unitechnik have to do with James Bond?

In order to make Unitechnik (even) better known in the region, the idea was born to shoot a cinema trailer and broadcast it in the new Gummersbach cinema center "Seven" before each film. The campaign was to start with the release of the new James Bond film "No Time to Die". Then came Corona. The start has now been postponed again to October 8, 2021. But so that you don't have to wait that long, you can watch the trailer here. But don't spread the word!

... 50 years later

Cheers to the 50th anniversary from the shareholder families. Due to the coronavirus situation, the celebration on May 25, 2021 will be very small. We will make up for this with an appropriate celebration.

From left to right: Rainer Poppek, Adelheid Poppek, Heinz Poppek, Bernd Cieplik, Doris Cieplik, Wolfgang Cieplik