Lautertal’s frogs in bottles

Bettina sprengel pours a bucket of orange plastic into a machine and presses the red button. She is one of about 20 employees of the alfred fischer company in lautertal, germany. After a few seconds, the injection molding machine, which is several meters long, opens up. In the metal mold, 13 small pigs stick to an elongated piece of plastic. "The rest of the plastic is chopped up and processed further", says managing director werner bock. He holds a small plastic shoe in his hand.

Before the lucky pigs, the deutsche bahn construction site mole or a hamburg savings box can leave the company, they have a long way to go.

The life of a new character begins with a drawing. After that a modeller makes a wax model. Workers turn the design into a silicone mold that is filled with plaster and painted. Once the customer is satisfied, the injection molding tool is made for the machines. Liquid metal, a lot of technology and dexterity are involved here. Then bettina sprengel and her colleagues get to work on the machines.
In the meantime bock has another figure in his hand again. "We’re already making the bouquet for the oktoberfest", says bock, holding a small franz josef strauss in his hands. Beer mug and leather pants can be recognized by the orange blank. Franz josef and his plastic brothers and sisters receive the final coat of paint from around 25 home workers from the coburg region and southern thuringia.

Werner bock takes a seat in an office chair and starts rocking. "A good painter makes between 100 and 1000 in a day," he says, he says, jumps up and disappears into an adjoining room. After a few seconds, he is back and places a small man with a blue suit and parted hair on the table. "A typical bourgeois, but that’s how many people still imagine the german." the "otto normalo sells his company to the USA and japan.

Alfred fischer, the company’s founder, started out in 1952 with plastic shoes for dolls. Today, the company’s customers include advertising agencies, large companies such as deutsche bahn, and public authorities such as the thuringian police and the federal printing office. Like almost every one of his figurine series, werner bock has a story to tell about the order for the federal printing office: back then, his company was to produce 40,000 plastic bears for the introduction of the new identity card.
A mascot to get people excited about the new chip card. "I don’t really like the word mascot, I prefer to call our figures "sympathy figures", says bock.

When the bears were finished, a call came from berlin. Which minister had something to complain about, he doesn’t want to reveal. The reason for the call from the capital: the bear was holding its hand behind its back, which some politicians considered problematic. Bock was able to prevent the series from being chopped up with a flash of inspiration: "we simply stuck a clover leaf in the open hand and the problem was solved."
about 80 percent of the production consists of such special designs for companies and public institutions. The rest are own developments, like soccer money boxes.

Mass-produced goods rarely come from the alfred fischer house. "On average, our figure series amount to 2000 to 10 000 pieces", says bock and jumps up from his chair again. Shortly afterwards, he returns with a pump bottle for frog brand children’s soap. A green frog clings to the hose. "We produce millions of these", says bock – an exception. Alfred fischer produces exclusively in the coburg region.
But how can his company hold its own against the competition from asia?? Bock cites several reasons: "companies from the pharmaceutical sector or the food industry must be able to rely on quality." another reason: some companies also rely on "made in germany" for political reasons and therefore "made in lautertal.

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