We have experienced and achieved a great deal since our founding in Essen back in 1923. We present an overview of 100 years of Phoenix Contact – defined by innovative technology, led by responsible people. Take a look at some of the key milestones on our journey from a family business to a global player in the field of connection technology.

1923: The Phönix Elektro- und Industrie Bedarfsgesellschaft company commences operations

After the First World War, Hugo Knümann wanted to set up his own business. Before the war, the merchant worked in southern Germany, but he returned to his hometown of Essen. He founded the Phönix Elektro- und Industrie Bedarfsgesellschaft company on May 5, 1922. The goal of the company was to “trade in electrical and industrial products.”

But at that time, a regular economy was still unthinkable. Within the framework of the conflict over German reparations payments, French troops occupied the Ruhr in 1923; on the German side, the dispute culminated in hyperinflation. Only once this was brought to an end through the introduction of the Rentenmark was Knümann finally able to start operations.

The Phoenix Contact company offices near Essen’s main railway station
Phoenix Contact company founder Hugo Knümann
Aerial view of Essen from the 1920s
The Phoenix Contact company offices near Essen’s main railway station

Initially, the company is headquartered in Huysenallee in Essen. Still in the 1920s, the company then moved into premises under the arcades of Essen’s main railway station.

The photograph shows an illuminated sign for the young company.

Phoenix Contact company founder Hugo Knümann

Hugo Knümann, born in 1884, came from a dynasty of furniture dealers in Essen.

All his life, he saw himself as a merchant. He did not set up own production facilities. The company was strictly a sales operation, and Knümann was on the road every day to land orders and market his products.

Aerial view of Essen from the 1920s

The 1920s were the golden years of coal, iron, and steel in the Ruhr region. Industrialization also promoted the growth of trade and commerce in the city of Essen. Many of Knümann’s key customers were located near the main railway station.

1928: The invention of the terminal block

A fateful encounter took place in 1928: Hugo Knümann met Heinz Müller, an engineer at RWE. Müller told him about 10-position ceramic blocks which, however, were very inflexible due to their nature as blocks. This gave Knümann the idea of separating the blocks and arranging them individually to form terminal blocks on a DIN rail. This was the birth of the terminal block. Its inventor, as noted in a later patent specification, was Hugo Knümann.

First terminal block from Phoenix Contact for power stations that can be aligned on DIN rails
RWE advertising around 1930
Terminal block with the RWE-Phönix stamp
First terminal block from Phoenix Contact for power stations that can be aligned on DIN rails

The first terminal block for power stations that can be aligned on DIN rails.

The original patent document is no longer available. However, later patent documents refer to an older version and name Hugo Knümann as the inventor.

RWE advertising around 1930

RWE is one of the most important energy suppliers in Germany and was one of Knümann’s customers from early on.

Here: an illuminated RWE sign in Essen, around 1930.

Terminal block with the RWE-Phönix stamp

The first terminal blocks also show how closely RWE was linked to the young company – they carry the “RWE-Phönix” stamp.

1943: War and relocation to Blomberg

In the 1930s, Knümann’s company, then called Phönix Elektrizitätsgesellschaft, already employed around a dozen people. But Phönix, like many companies, was not spared the turmoil of the Nazi era. According to the sparse records available, Knümann and his staff were not politically active. With the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, many customers register special “urgency” with the company – the production of arms was given special priority.

The war also reached Essen: The company’s headquarters were hit during bombing raids on March 13, 1943. Knümann decided to relocate the company: Through a relative, he came across the tranquil town of Blomberg in the Ostwestfalen-Lippe region. Makeshift production was started in the civic center of the small town.

Postwar photograph of Essen’s main railway station
Essen in the time of National Socialism
Ursula Lampmann
Postwar photograph of Essen’s main railway station

Postwar photograph of Essen’s main railway station with wartime destruction in the background.

Essen in the time of National Socialism

The mines in Essen and the Krupp company are an important part of the war economy. The National Socialists promote the city as the “Weapons Factory of the Reich.” Here: The Zollverein mine, photograph taken in 1949.

Ursula Lampmann

In 1937, Ursula Lampmann joined Phönix Elektrizitätsgesellschaft as a commercial clerk at the age of 17.

She initially took on office work, but was very quickly granted power of attorney in 1943 when she moved to Blomberg. In the decades that followed, she played a decisive role in shaping the company.

1953: The beginning of a new era

Hugo Knümann made the acquaintance of Josef Eisert, an electrical power engineer, through a patent attorney friend after the war. Upon the death of Hugo Knümann in 1953, Eisert and Ursula Lampmann took over the management of the company. Eisert previously held a senior position at Siemens, was a true developer, held many terminal block patents, and joined the company in 1949.

Under Josef Eisert, the company underwent a fundamental change. The pure sales company became a company with its own production: a tool shop, plastics production facilities, screw turning shop, assembly facilities, metalworking shop, warehouse, and logistics were soon established in Blomberg.

Phoenix workforce in front of the civic center in Blomberg
The Phönix Elektrizitätsgesellschaft company at a trade fair
Josef Eisert in his office
Phoenix workforce in front of the civic center in Blomberg

The small Phoenix workforce in front of the Blomberg Bürgerheim civic center, where the company was initially be housed.

During this time, events were shaped primarily by women. The keyword of the hour is pragmatism: The large hall was used as an assembly area and the long bowling alley in the basement converted into a small parts warehouse.

The Phönix Elektrizitätsgesellschaft company at a trade fair

The Phönix Elektrizitätsgesellschaft company was represented at many trade fairs after the war. Here Josef Eisert became acquainted with the Sauerland entrepreneurs Ernst Noelle and Eugen Berg. There is said to have been a lively exchange between the gentlemen about the production of electrical items. A close cooperation developed from the trade fair contact.

Josef Eisert in his office

Engineer Josef Eisert fashioned the idea of deeply integrated in-house added value at Phoenix Contact.

To this day, the company manufactures almost everything it needs for its products itself – from machines to tools, and even screws.

1957: Between Essen and Blomberg

From the 1950s onward, the Phönix Elektrizitätsgesellschaft company sourced stamped and bent parts for production from the nearby Sauerland region of Germany from Noelle & Berg – today’s subsidiary Phoenix Feinbau in Lüdenscheid. The start of the cooperation with Noelle & Berg marked the beginnings of the Phoenix Contact Group and a milestone on the way to independence from suppliers.

The first production hall was built on the premises at Flachsmarkt in Blomberg in 1957. This initially housed the thermoset press shop, screw turning shop, assembly facilities, and logistics. This marked the decision to stay in Blomberg. In 1966, the administration team, which had previously remained in Essen, also moved to the Flachsmarkt site.

The Noelle and Berg company
Phönix Elektrizitätsgesellschaft trainees, 1957
The first Phoenix Contact production hall was built on the Flachsmarkt in Blomberg
The Noelle and Berg company

The Noelle and Berg product range initially included candlesticks, plaques, washers, and contact parts.

The company merged with Phönix Elektrizitätsgesellschaft in 1955.

Phönix Elektrizitätsgesellschaft trainees, 1957

In order to also ensure independence in terms of personnel, Phönix Elektrizitätsgesellschaft began training its own skilled workers in 1957: Erhard Hönig (3rd from left, back) and Helmut Conrad (2nd from right) were the first apprentices in the company. They learned the trade of toolmaking.

The first Phoenix Contact production hall was built on the Flachsmarkt in Blomberg

The decision was made in favor of the Blomberg location, with first production hall being built on the Flachsmarkt. New halls were added one after the next here.

1975: The next generation steps up

Klaus Eisert joined the company directly after completing his studies in 1961. He started as a design engineer in development and, after finally moving to Blomberg, took over sales and marketing in 1966. He was followed into the company by his brother Jörg Eisert in 1962 and Gerd Eisert in 1972. Jörg Eisert took over the production area and later the management of Phoenix Feinbau. With the arrival of Gerd Eisert, the international business really flourished. He established a series of international agencies and subsidiaries.

By the time Josef Eisert died in 1975, he had expanded the range of terminal blocks, set up the company’s own production with machine building, and made the company independent of suppliers. At that time, the factory site covered eleven buildings. The three Eisert brothers then took over the management of the company together with Ursula Lampmann.

Josef Eisert and son Jörg
Advertisement for Phönix Klemmen in a newspaper
FC Phoenix company soccer team
Josef Eisert and son Jörg

Josef Eisert (center) and son Jörg (2nd from right), 1960s.

Jörg Eisert died in a car accident on his way from Blomberg to Lüdenscheid in 1979.

Advertisement for Phönix Klemmen in a newspaper

A breath of fresh air blows in advertising, too. Phönix Klemmen, as the company was called then, was confident about the positive development of the company.

FC Phoenix company soccer team

The three Eisert brothers also played for their own company soccer team, FC Phönix.

1987: The INTERBUS field bus system is introduced at the Hannover Messe

The MKDS mini terminal block for printed circuits was presented at the elektronica trade fair in Munich, Germany, in 1974 and became the model for the standard screw connection on printed circuit boards. The success of the MKDS marked the beginning of the “green” electronics program. The product portfolio continued to expand in the direction of electronics. PCB terminal blocks, PCB connectors, relays, converters, and many other electronic products followed into the product catalog. Products for surge protection followed in 1983.

The INTERBUS fieldbus system was launched at the Hannover Messe in 1987. This created the foundation for industrial networking at Phoenix Contact. The network for serial data transmission provides cross-system openness from the sensor to the controller and is used to automate production systems.

Phoenix Contact sign replaces the Phönix Klemmen sign
Phoenix Contact’s shared stand at the Hannover Messe in 1994
TRABTECH surge protection technology being presented at the trade fair stand
Phoenix Contact sign replaces the Phönix Klemmen sign

Phönix Klemmen became Phoenix Contact in 1981. The new name ensured that the brand can be used consistently. The English-language name made the company’s international orientation clear.

Phoenix Contact’s shared stand at the Hannover Messe in 1994

With INTERBUS, Phoenix Contact captured the essence of the times: The company founded the “Alliance for Industrial Networking” with other medium-sized companies in order to develop the subject further together. Here: the shared stand at the Hannover Messe, 1994.

TRABTECH surge protection technology being presented at the trade fair stand

To protect sensitive device and system electronics against surge voltages, Phoenix Contact developed rail-mounted absorption technology devices that have been sold under the TRABTECH brand name since 1985.

1990: The Phoenix Contact Group grows

The company grew steadily throughout the 1990s. After reunification, the German sales network was expanded into the new federal states. Gerd Eisert traveled the world tirelessly in order to establish business relationships and find sales partnerships.

Since the first international subsidiary was opened in the USA in 1981, sales companies have been established on all continents. The independent testing institute, Phoenix Testlab, began its work in Blomberg in 1994. It qualified for numerous test accreditations in the following years. After the turn of the millennium, Phoenix Contact has developed the entire value chain in automation, with its own control technology and close cooperation with the later group company, KW Software.

Groundbreaking ceremony for the Phoenix Contact subsidiary in Nanjing, China
Bird’s eye view of Phoenix Contact Electronics in Bad Pyrmont
Phoenix Testlab
Groundbreaking ceremony for the Phoenix Contact subsidiary in Nanjing, China

In the 1990s alone, the Phoenix Contact Group expanded to include 21 subsidiaries. In 1993, Phoenix Contact founded a subsidiary in Nanjing, China, among other places.

Bird’s eye view of Phoenix Contact Electronics in Bad Pyrmont

Phoenix Contact established its own electronics site in Bad Pyrmont in 1994. The subsidiary based the spa town specializes in the development and production of electronic modules and automation technology.

Surface mounting technology (SMT) was introduced here in 1996 as a new manufacturing technology for assembling printed circuit boards with components in-house.

Phoenix Testlab

The Phoenix Contact Group’s test laboratory was initially opened under the name EMC Test (electromagnetic compatibility). The independent test laboratory has been operating under the name Testlab since 1998.

Now, the laboratory’s activities also include tests involving shock, safety, vibration and heat, as well as tests on the effects of various environmental factors.

Phoenix Contact in the 21st century

In 2001, the shareholders appointed four new members to the Executive Board, who were appointed as General Managers in 2005. In 2015, Klaus Eisert stood down from his position as CEO and dedicated himself to founding the Phoenix Contact Advisory Board. Frank Stührenberg took over as Chief Executive Officer.

In the 21st century, Phoenix Contact committed itself to empowering the “All Electric Society,” a future in which energy from renewable resources is available in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices. In addition to the consistent generation and use of renewable energies, reducing the primary energy demand through efficiency measures and creating intelligent and networked systems are key to a sustainable future.

To be able to base renewable energy use on demand, solutions and technologies for electrification, networking, and automation are needed in order to realize sector coupling.

Creation of the “All Electric Society” park at the Phoenix Contact headquarters in Blomberg, Germany
The Phoenix Contact Executive Board: Axel Wachholz, Torsten Janwlecke, Frank Stührenberg, Dr. Frank Possel-Dölken, Dirk Görlitzer, Ulrich Leidecker
High Power Charging plug with HPC lettering
Creation of the “All Electric Society” park at the Phoenix Contact headquarters in Blomberg, Germany

The “All Electric Society” park is being built in Blomberg. Mirroring the real world, scaled down to 7,590 m², the park demonstrates how power generation, distribution, storage, and consumption are networked with each other so that energy is always available in the perfect form wherever it is needed.

The Phoenix Contact Executive Board: Axel Wachholz, Torsten Janwlecke, Frank Stührenberg, Dr. Frank Possel-Dölken, Dirk Görlitzer, Ulrich Leidecker

The Phoenix Contact Executive Board in the anniversary year of 2023.

High Power Charging plug with HPC lettering

The company unveiled the prototype of the new High Power Charging Technology at the Hannover Messe in 2016, laying a milestone for e-mobility.