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Lectron - Reha Werkstatt Oberrad (RWO) Era

Introduction
History from 2001 to 2013
LECTRON Today
The Future Looks Bright

Introduction

In about 1995, Mr. Manfred Walter, the owner and President of Lectron, GmbH, needed help to support LECTRON order fulfillment and began to use the services of the Reha Werkstatt Oberrad (RWO) located in Frankfurt, Germany.

The RWO is a psychiatric rehabilitation facility which produces multiple product lines and services including mail, scan and text services, bicycle products, hand puppets, textile products, and of course the LECTRON product line. Mr. Norbert Cahn von Seelen is the current LECTRON product manager and Mr. Steffen Pohl is the RWO Business Manager (as of 2013). Ms. Christel Held is the RWO Production Manager - Office Service. Mr. Cahn von Seelen's involvement with the LECTRON at RWO goes back to 2001 when he helped relocate the LECTRON business from its last facility under Mr. Walter's leadership at 55 Limburger Strasse in Niedernhausen to the RWO facility.

RWO is organized under the overall management of the Frankfurter Verein für soziale Heimstätten e.V. Mr. Wolfgang Trunk was very helpful to me during my initial contact by telephone and introduced me, by telephone, to Mr. Wolfgang Schrank, the deputy managing director. Ms. Eva Werft was also extremely helpful and patient with me the several times I called on the phone and also when I met her at the FVfsH offices in November of 2013 and asked to meet with Mr. Schrank during my visit to Frankfurt. Mr. Schrank himself could not have been more gracious and helpful and facilitated my visit in November of 2013 to tour the LECTRON production facility and gave me two hours of his valuable time to share his recollections with me about his association with Mr. Walter.

Mr. Schrank knew Mr. Walter very well and worked with him from 1995 until 2001. The two gentlemen had a close collaborative relationship over those years, ensuring that the LECTRON system would continue to evolve and improve.

The photo below shows Mr. Schrank and me during my visit to the RWO on November 12th, 2013. Mr. Pohl graciously allowed the use of his office at RWO to conduct my interview with Mr. Schrank. I am holding LECTRON history in my hands from the latest LECTRON model to the first brochure announcing the LECTRON system in 1966.

Mr. Schrank holds one of the latest LECTRON models: 1016 - Neurophysiologie 2.


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History From 2001 to 2013

The relationship between RWO and Lectron, GmbH had begun as early as 1995 when Mr. Walter contracted with RWO to help with the LECTRON product assembly and packaging.

In 2001, Mr. Walter found a willing partner in RWO to take over the the LECTRON business. He gifted (following the advice of tax advisors) the assets of the LECTRON Company to the RWO to help resolve past due business tax issues in the most cost effective manner. And so began a new era of the LECTRON product and system.

After the gifting of the Lectron assets by Mr. Walter, the re-organization of the LECTRON product line commenced.

The rescue and salvage operation from the 55 Limburger Strasse facility to the new RWO facility (26a Eschersheimer Landstrasse in Frankfurt am Main) was the first major task. Due to a leaking roof, much of the LECTRON inventory had to be disposed of due to mold and water damage. Photos of the 55 Limburger Strasse facility a month or two before the salvage operation may be seen here.

in 2002, the RWO and the LECTRON system won the first prize at the Werkstätten Messe (fair) held in Offenbach in 2002. This event was a four day show highlighting the work and products produced by 120 sheltered workshops all over Germany. Mr. Dietrich Lubs (a senior member of the Braun Design Team under Dieter Rams) was on the show jury led by the chairman Volker Fischer. The jury awarded the First Prize to the RWO in recognition of the LECTRON system. The jury noted that creating circuits of all sorts following the graphical symbols on each block made the LECTRON system ideally suited to stimulate playful learning.

The LECTRON redesign initiative began in earnest after this fair. A LECTRON product development team was put together which included Mr. Wolfgang Schrank, Mr. Dietrich Lubs, Mr. Norbert Cahn von Seelen, and Mr. Gerd Kopperschmidt. Mr. Walter was likely not well enough to participate on the team and he died several years later from complications due to Parkinson's Disease.

The photo below shows (from left to right) Mr. Pohl, the author, and Mr. and Mrs. Kopperschmidt admiring the wonderful cake that we enjoyed during our July 1st, 2014 afternoon meeting. I don't know if the cake was the best LECTRON model ever made but it was certainly the most delicious!


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LECTRON Today

The RWO moved from the Eschersheimer address to the 18 Buchrainstrasse address sometime after 2010.

The entrance to the RWO's current (2013) facility at 18 Buchrainstrasse in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

A video panoramic view (270 degrees) of the LECTRON workshop at RWO.

Several of the assembly work stations in a photographic panoramic view.

The LECTRON product assembly facility is under the leadership of Mr. Norbert Cahn von Seelen. Mr. Alfred Flach is also on the management team.

The photo below was taken in the LECTRON production room. Mr. Pohl is on the left and Mr. Flach is on the right.

The assembly shop is very well organized as the following photos attest.

Two of the six assembly work stations.

The latest LECTRON models use two primary types of packaging for the single kits - a single tray sized black plastic case with handle or a double tray sized tan cardboard box. If an Expert System model is ordered, it ships in a large grey plastic container with two black latches sized to accomodate all the models needed for the System. A small label with a graphic and model number is used for identification on both the black carrying case and tan cardboard box units. When I ordered the Special Lab, all the individual models were shipped in that grey container.

The cardboard box top cover features a single graphic on the interior side. This same graphic had been used by Lectron, GmbH - MW but on the outside of the cover when new covers were designed once the Braun supplies had be exhausted. As of 2015, the cardboard boxes have been phased out in favor of the plastic cases of varying sizes.

The current catalog of LECTRON products is extensive and covers a wide spectrum of electronics: From magnetism to solar, from auto electronics to PLL technology, and from vaccuum tube technology to digital technology. Neuro Physiology is the latest topic covered by the LECTRON product line. The complete (as of 2013) product overview graph follows below. Two new models are 'in development' - 1017 and 1018.


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The Future Looks Bright

RWO is a not for profit organization. RWO's primary mission is to provide job opportunities to its clients using a rehabilitative business model. RWO is not primarily profit driven and the LECTRON, as are all of the RWO produced product lines, is of secondary importance to its primary mission. There are no plans to expand the LECTRON beyond its current market presence in Germany. The costs and logistics that would be required to support such an initiative are not feasible or consistent with RWO's business model. Translation costs of the manuals and potential product liabilities outside of Germany (particularly as regards the ever litigous United States' consumers) would also be beyond the current risk management profile for RWO.

Having visited the RWO and met with the LECTRON team members, I know that the LECTRON system is in great hands with a highly skilled, passionate, and committed team of professionals. I look forward to the next decade of the LECTRON system's development!
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