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World War II represented a profound disruption in Siemens' history. The war lost Siemens four-fifths of its assets, in Germany and internationally. Yet by the mid-1950s, the company was able to rebuild and return to the international market.
One reason why Siemens was able to rebuild so successfully after World War II was that the company decentralized its structure at an early point. At the start of 1945, the Managing Board already began forming what were known as "group managements." These comprised about 20 managers with full powers of representation, who moved to various company sites in western and southern Germany and performed important corporate functions from there. The decentralized management of Siemens-Schuckertwerke was located in Hof, Bavaria, but moved in the summer of 1945 to relatively undamaged Erlangen, where Siemens-Reiniger-Werke had been producing medical technology equipment since the 1930s. Siemens & Halske group management was located in Munich.
That proved to be a good strategic decision in the postwar years, because of the subsequent division of the country and the delicate political situation in the company's historic location, Berlin.
After a phase of transition and consolidation, on April 1, 1949, Munich became the headquarters city of Siemens & Halske, and Erlangen was the headquarters for Siemens Schuckertwerke. But Berlin was still a second headquarters city for each.
As had happened after World War I, after 1945 Siemens was again faced with the task of regaining its former standing as a worldwide brand. In 1948 the Allies began easing their strict foreign trade restrictions on Germany, and the electrical equipment company gradually returned to its world markets. In the course of rebuilding, it bought back confiscated sales and production companies, and founded new international branches. Siemens also invested heavily in buying back patents, brands and trademarks. Between 1952 and 1962, Siemens founded or rebuilt companies, agencies and representative offices in 30 countries. The regional focus of international operations was Europe and South America.
In spite of strong global American competition, Siemens soon landed prestigious large contracts that helped significantly to revive its business overseas. Among them were the 300-megawatt San Nicolás power plant in Argentina, completed in 1956, the national telecommunications network completed for Saudi Arabia that same year, and the 1957 order to provide energy technology for a steel mill in Rourkela, India, including drive motors and transformer substations.
By fiscal 1956/57, Siemens' export business was already contributing about 25 percent of total revenues.
Early in the 1950s, corporate management began concentrating on both reinforcing traditional core fields and on investing in promising, fast-growing new lines of business.
Tapping new fields for the portfolio presupposed lively research and development work. But the Allies' ban on research during the postwar years left technology companies with only limited options along these lines. In 1953, Siemens researchers were nevertheless able to develop and patent a special technique for making ultrapure silicon for semiconductor applications. The discovery revolutionized the entire field of electrical engineering, and also represented a successful entry into microelectronics, tapping a key technology that also extended into other fields of production.
In 1954, a year before the Allies' research restrictions were lifted entirely, Siemens started getting involved in the data processing market, which had hitherto been dominated by the American firm IBM. In 1957, the 2002 digital computer represented the first mass production of a computer equipped with a new kind of transistor. Microelectronics would also shape the evolution of automation technology. In 1958 Siemens introduced SIMATIC, the first transistorized control system, thus laying the cornerstone for the electronic automation of industry and creating one of the company's most successful products ever.
During German reconstruction and the "economic miracle" of the 1950s and 1960s, washing machines and refrigerators, radios and TV sets symbolized the country's rising prosperity – a development that sparked strong demand for such consumer goods, which Siemens had been making since the beginning of the century.
In 1957, Siemens decided to pool all its home electronics and home appliances operations. The radio and television units from Siemens & Halske AG and home appliance production from Siemens Schuckertwerke AG were spun off, and combined as of October 1 in a new company, Siemens Electrogeräte AG (SE).
Competition intensified in subsequent years, with competitors from Italy and Japan making especially heavy inroads into the West German appliance market. The result was a process of concentration in the 1960s, during which large German appliance companies bought up many of the small and medium consumer goods makers that had hitherto maintained their independence. Faced with this situation, the two market leaders – Siemens and Bosch – began in 1963 to explore possible avenues for collaboration. Finally, in 1967, they combined their home appliance operations in Bosch-Siemens Hausgeräte GmbH (BSH).
October 1, 1966, marked the founding of Siemens AG, which legally and organizationally absorbed Siemens & Halske AG, Siemens Schuckertwerke AG and Siemens-Reiniger-Werke AG. This step completed two processes that had begun after World War II: the rebuilding of the company, and its business consolidation.
The founding of Siemens AG was management's response to structural changes. Pooling all three forerunner companies’ business operations had become an obvious need, as a consequence of not only the vigorous expansion of business in Germany and internationally since the early 1950s, but also the technical advances in Siemens' fields of operation. Greater needs for capital investments, especially in the relatively new fields of semiconductors and computer technology, made it indispensable for the entire company to run under a single management. The aim of the fundamental reorganization was to establish a more effective, more cost-efficient corporate structure. At the heart of the new arrangement were six readily comprehensible, self-contained business units without overlaps.
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