If you missed the first part of this series on the History of SICK, check out 70 Years of Innovation: The Early Years.
The Journey to Becoming an International Company
In 1976, the company – previously run as a sole proprietorship – became Erwin Sick GmbH Optik-Elektronik. The company invested DM 10 million in a new building on Sebastian-Kneipp-Straße – which now bears the name Erwin-Sick-Straße – in Waldkirch. By 1977, the development, production, administration, and social facilities were all housed in one location with a floor space over 13,000 square meters. A training workshop was also built.
In November 1980, the Technical University of Munich awarded Erwin Sick his honorary doctorate in engineering in recognition of his contribution “to the scientific and constructive development of optical devices with electronic signal evaluation”. Two years later, Erwin Sick was awarded the Gold Diesel Medal “for his diverse inventions in the field of opto-electronics.”
On December 3, 1988, Dr. Erwin Sick sadly died at the age of 79 following a heart attack. Immediately after the death of her husband, Gisela Sick sent a message to the company management and employees. She promised to continue his life’s work: “With the long-established expert guidance of our managing directors and your dedicated cooperation, we will ensure that Erwin Sick GmbH continues to succeed in the future.” Gisela Sick has been constantly guiding the company forward ever since as honorary chair of the Supervisory Board, a role in which she is now ably assisted by the next two generations of the family.
From International Company to Multinational Group
Increasing globalization led to various developments, including the founding of subsidiaries in Spain, Finland, and Singapore. It was also during this period that Erwin Sick Engineering GmbH (based in Dresden) was founded, along with a new production site in Hungary.
In order to keep up with new requirements and remain competitive in the face of changing conditions, Erwin Sick GmbH became an “Aktiengesellschaft” (joint stock company) in 1996.
The following years were characterized by technical innovations, including time-of-flight sensor technology and two- and three-dimensional camera sensors, and the technology portfolio was expanded through the acquisition of companies including Maihak AG and Stegmann, a rotary encoder manufacturer based in Donaueschingen.
By the time the company celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2006, the SICK Group had over 4,000 employees worldwide. With over 40 subsidiaries and equity investments, SICK now had a presence in over 20 countries. Sebastian-Kneipp-Straße was renamed Erwin-Sick-Straße in memory of the company founder.
In 2009, Gisela Sick was awarded the Medal of Merit by the federal state of Baden-Württemberg. The presentation speech praised her loyalty to the region, her courage and vision with regard to continuing the work of the company, and her commitment to training and professional development.
Thanks to globalization, the company continued to grow. Development and production facilities were set up in Singapore, Malaysia, and the USA to provide better support for customers based in Asia and America. By this time, the small company had become a global player, achieving sales of EUR one billion for the first time in 2013.