Productronica's »Pioneer« AAT Aston »A Great Place to Monitor the Competition«

Peter Farrenkopf, AAT Aston
Peter Farrenkopf, AAT Aston

AAT Aston was founded in 1969 and is one of the »pionieers« of productronica and has been exhibiting at productronica since 1975 – without interruption. On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of productronica, we talked with Peter Farrenkopf, Managing Director of AAT Aston about 40 years of history.

Markt&Technik: When you look back what are briefly the main mile stones in your companie´s history?

Peter Farrenkopf: After that we developed our portfolio with systems for cable assemblies for manufacturing electronic modules and set up a distribution system. In 1977 we took over German distribution of Komax, which is also celebrating its 40th anniversary, just like productronica—and then that of Dima in Holland. Since 1998, we have been working with Henkel to distribute adhesives, encapsulation materials and soldering pastes. We now consider ourselves one of the leading partners to our many customers and suppliers on the German market. 

ATT Aston was one of the very first exhibitors at productronica, and before that you exhibited at electronica. What was it like when the new show was founded?

What did you think of the first productronica in 1975? We thought productronica 1975 was particularly interesting because of its concept at the time. Companies could exhibit there at stands that were open on all sides, which was completely new to us. But at first, electronica was more important to us because it was already so well established. That is why we exhibited at both fairs in the beginning. But later we focused exclusively on productronica. I still recall that the last day of the fair‘s premiere was a special experience: It was the first day of the Oktoberfest and all the exhibitors worked hard to clean up their stands as quickly as possible so they could celebrate the end of the fair at Theresienwiese. 

At the time, what did you think was the biggest advantage of the new fair? Were you at all skeptical about it?

No, we were never skeptical. We thought the idea of establishing productronica as a platform for issues that pertain to production in electronics manufacturing was very good from the beginning, and participating in that platform was definitely important to us. 

In your opinion, how has productronica changed in the last 40 years?

The fair quickly fulfilled the important task of showcasing the systems and materials that are used to manufacture electronic modules and cable assemblies. That allowed it to establish itself relatively quickly, even at the international level, which is why it is now an absolute must for manufacturers and customers from around the world. 

Is there anything that has always remained the same, like a sort of productronica „DNA“?

Messe München has always worked very hard to take the exhibitors‘ wishes and needs into account. As an exhibitor, that is something that we noticed starting with the very first exhibition.

Why have you been coming to productronica for 40 years? What distinguishes this show from others?

This fair is a must in the industry. That is why customers who don‘t attend other fairs come to Munich. The fair allows them to meet all of the most important suppliers, and news about interesting developments spreads very quickly here. Of course, it‘s also a great place to monitor the competition. 

Have you ever had a special experience at productronica that you like to look back on today?

In 1981, Komax presented the prototype of its KOMAX 40 for the first time. Although completely unexpected, it also found its first buyer at the fair, which triggered a veritable buying boom. What happened next is history, because in the ten years that followed, we sold several thousand of those systems. That gave us the foundation we needed to expand Aston and becoming an efficient partner. 

Is there a humorous moment from productronica‘s 40-year history that you can tell us about?

I fondly remember a former Exhibition Director, Herr Schmied. He would stop by several stands on a regular basis, and back then it was still common for people to make toasts at the stands. It was always very entertaining. 

Can you think of a pioneering innovation that you saw for the first time at productronica that you consider a special memory?

Yes, I was very impressed by the first SMT components and the corresponding pick-and-place systems. It was 1981, and a major Japanese manufacturer completely enclosed its stand and only let in select visitors. I also thought that developments surrounding the soldering process, i.e. of soldering systems, furnaces and vapor phase, were extremely revolutionary. 

How do you think things will continue to develop in the years to come?

I think productronica will continue to prevail in the future—although it will have to continue to evolve and adapt itself. We will definitely continue to participate as an exhibitor in the years to come. 

The interview was conducted by Karin Zühlke

AAT Aston, Hall B2, Booth 318 and Hall A2, Booth 578