Content - History
Early days in Appenzell region
Alfred Lienhard follows in his grandfather’s footsteps
Alfred Lienhard, later founder of Lista, is born on 29 August 1925 in Herisau (AR). Both his father, Alfred Lienhard senior, who worked as a fireman in a textile company, and his mother, Marie Schoch, were natives of the Appenzell region. After finishing school, Alfred Lienhard followed in his grandfather’s footsteps and started an apprenticeship as a metalworker at Ernst Scheer Herisau, a leading manufacturer of workshop equipment, including drawer cabinets. His first job was a building fitter, at the Swiss Industry Association (SIG) in Neuhausen.
Pioneer in his first factory
The company Lienhard Stahlbau is founded
Alfred Lienhard starts his own metalworks factory at the age of 20. The one-man business is located in his uncle Edwin’s sewing room in Herisau. With his savings of around 1500 Swiss francs, Alfred Lienhard buys himself the necessary welding equipment, hammers and files. His first products were simple steel tube products as well as garden chairs, garden tables and bicycle trailers. While searching for larger work premises, he comes across the depot of the Schäfli guesthouse in Degersheim. His father is prepared to lease the premises, and thus the move from Herisau AR to Degersheim SG is made. Alfred Lienhard registers his company Lienhard Stahlbau on the commercial register of the St. Gallen canton on 17 February 1945.
First successes, first set-backs
Focus on workshop equipment
Motivated by the economic situation in the housing market, Alfred Lienhard also starts manufacturing Alid refrigerators. However, business does not take off as expected and the company suffers its first set-back. Yet for Alfred Lienhard the crisis is more of an incentive for newer things more than ever before: from 1950 onwards, he completely focuses his activities on workshop equipment and storage systems, which proves to be a groundbreaking step; the first of the legendary cabinets with ball bearings and normal extension drawers are produced. The foundations for the successful sheet metal processing of the coming years are laid, and the first company owned truck is proudly purchased. However, it’s not just the success of his business that is close to Alfred Lienhard’s heart, but also the good relationship with his staff: for the company’s fifth birthday, he organises the first business outing and travels to Toggenburg with the entire workforce.
Lienhard Stahlbau moves to Erlen
Production starts on the first tool drawer cabinet
The first tool drawer cabinet, “Unit Construction”, is developed and manufactured – a product crucial for the company’s further development. While staff numbers increase to 40, the Degersheim workspace gradually becomes too small and is no longer sufficient for the company’s rapid growth. Alfred Lienhard reads in the “Maschinenmarkt” (“Machine Market”) newspaper that the former Tetra factories are for sale in Erlen. As an avid motor racer, Lienhard knows Erlen like the back of his hand, as it was here that the legendary motorcar and motorcycle races were held from 1948 to 1951. He signs the purchase agreement on 17 April 1951 and starts production in Erlen as early as 9 May. 24 factory staff members move with Lienhard to the new company location in Thurgau. However, this move, combined with big investments in infrastructure, gets Lienhard into financial difficulties. For a while, he makes his business telephone calls from the Erlen post office, as he is no longer able to pay for his own telephone.
The Lista brand is born
600 Lista motorcycles leave the factory
1953 is one of the most memorable year in the company’s history. A new building expands the existing work area and creates new capacities for the currently growing production. At the same time, Alfred Lienhard – himself an avid motorcar and motorcycle racer successfully participates in national and international events – realises one of his latest ideas: He starts manufacturing motorcycles. As he is looking for a name for the moped, the company owner organises a competition among his staff. The result, Lista (for Lienhard Stahlbau), would later not only cover mopeds, but would become the trademark for all products. Some 600 vehicles leave the factory within just a few months, but it is quickly found that the foreign competition is too strong – the production of Lista mopeds is stopped. Lienhard once again rethinks his core competencies: The production of workshop, storage and office equipment. The demand for steel furniture grows rapidly over the following years and the company is forced to expand almost every year. By 1958 Lista is employing 228 staff – a number which again increases with the opening of the KAG Kunststoffwerk (plastics factory) AG in Dozwil. The KAG primarily manufactures tools and drawer inserts for the parent company.
The first step across the Atlantic
Production goes at full throttle
The company is booming: 500 tonnes of sheet metal is processed each month, and around 1000 drawers are produced every day. Some 3000 clothes lockers leave the factory every month. The first drawer manufacturing line and a modern painting system facilitate the production process. The company manufactures workshop equipment such as clothes lockers and tool cabinets, workbenches, storage and pallet racks, as well as office furniture like filing department cabinets and plan chests, writing desks and archive racks. From 1967, Lista becomes the supplier of type M 15 two-level shelving systems for various automobile brands. In this same year, the sole proprietorship of Lienhard Stahlbau becomes Lienhard AG – the first step towards the succession plan. During the course of its successful business operations, Lista also starts to market its products in the USA from 1968 – the first storage and sales premises are leased in Newton Highland near Boston.
Generational shift in the company management
Fredy A. Lienhard takes over from his father
In 1970, the company endures a cruel stroke of fate: Alfred Lienhard – at just 44 years of age – suffers a heart attack. His 22-year-old son, Fredy A. Lienhard, takes over responsibility for the business and becomes the President of the administrative board. Not only does he steer the head office in Erlen to more success, he also expands overseas business. Lista takes over what had previously been its sales partner, “Deluxe” in Holliston, USA and from 1974, the sales company is developed into a production business. In the meantime, the workforce now totals over 400 staff and the sales turnover increases to around 40 million Swiss francs.
Lista goes America
Lista breaks new, innovative ground
1972 is the real “America year” in Lista’s history: The company purchases a block of land in Holliston and builds offices and a warehouse. Deluxe-Lista becomes the Lista International Corporation. The first production plant is established in 1973. In the second half of the 1970s, production is successfully developed, and this is followed by expansion of the production and office areas and the start-up of painting operations. It is then further expanded due to the high volume of orders received: Branches in Long Beach and Dallas open their doors between 1981 and 1985. Fredy A. Lienhard also breaks new ground in the area of office furniture design: The Polyvario range is created in 1974, together with leading Zurich furniture store Wohnbedarf. This innovation puts Lista ahead of its time, because the Polyvario is made from plastic – a novelty at the time.
Lista on the expansion path
Office furniture area moves to Degersheim
Lista develops a new office furniture range for bulk orders – for example Hoffmann-La Roche in Basel and SFS Stadler AG in Heerbrugg: The product branch booms and production is put under pressure. An expansion was imperative. As fate would have it, an ideal production plant was found in Degersheim of all places - the town where Alfred Lienhard had laid the foundations for his later success. Lista Degersheim AG exclusively produces office furniture in the new manufacturing premises. A state-of-the-art factory is built in Arnegg SG to manufacture steel cabinets, and production starts on 2 January 1990. Development also continues strongly in the areas of storage and workshop: The takeover of Megamat & Co. GmbH, an experienced manufacturer of rotating racks in the southern German town of Neuburg, sees the Lista Group achieve a strengthened strategic position in the European economic area.
Lista focuses on energy-efficient production
The early 1990s sees an extension of the Lista Kunststofftechnik AG (formerly KAG) in Dozwil, focussing on a modern manufacturing concept which also satisfies high ecological standards: Thanks to an efficient waste heat recovery system, power consumption in the production process is massively reduced. One after another, six independent regional subsidiaries are established, which, together with the specialised trade, guarantee sustained sales growth. The once small metalworks business now becomes a worldwide corporate group.
Focus on core business
Lista Workshop Equipment and Storage Systems
To target the special market requirements, the group splits into the two areas of office furniture systems (today Lista Office AG owned by the Lienhard family) and Lista Workshop Equipment and Storage Systems (today Lista Holding AG) in 2004. On the one hand, this means the later succession plan is prepared, however this step primarily guarantees a strategic strengthening of both areas, which can now completely focus on their specific market. The internationally oriented corporate group of Lista Workshop Equipment and Storage Systems has established itself as a market leader and is the only trans-Atlantic provider of drawer cabinets, shelving systems and technical workstations. 2005 sees the company a sales turnover of 220 million Swiss francs and employ over 800 people. With some 300 people, Lista Office achieves a sales turnover of around 100 million Swiss francs. The re-activated brand, Alid, becomes the umbrella brand name of Lista Office Holding, as well as the Lienhard family’s other financial interests.
Capvis takes over the majority of shares
Fredy A. Lienhard remains a minority shareholder
In 2006, the corporate group of Lista Workshop Equipment and Storage Systems is taken over by the private equity company Capvis, and is strategically repositioned.
The growth strategy continues
Making Workspace Work
The Lista brand is empowered by a long and proud company history. Today, Lista is successful because the company focuses on what it prevalently controls: Workspace centring around the top-class, robust, drawer cabinets. With the motto “Making Workspace Work”, Lista today offers a competitively priced, high quality product range for an increasingly wide area of usage. And Lista also has an excellent market position. The production plants in Erlen and Bergneustadt, as well as the takeover of both strong subsidiaries, Huni Italia and Thur Metall, the company is well on its way to a dynamic future.