Why Philipp Jakob Wieland kept buying mills
Hydropower paved the way to a new business model
Early on, the company founder saw the opportunity that lay in the production of semi-finished products. However, he lacked one essential factor for rolling sheet and strip at the first location: water power to operate the rolling mills. The purchase of mills therefore became the decisive strategy for success.
The fact that Philipp Jakob Wieland, soon after founding his company in 1820, started to look for new business fields that went beyond bell casting and the manufacture of household appliances was also due to the guild rules: these ancient rules still determined who could produce what under which conditions. The only exceptions were new industrial products, which the guilds had not even thought of yet: Brass sheets and strips, for example, which could be supplied to further processing companies as pre-products or semi-finished products. Philipp Jakob Wieland recognized the potential of this business model. But he also knew that he needed water power, i.e. mills, to do this – steam power as an alternative was still in its infancy.
Although there was plenty of water and many mills in Ulm, the purchase of his first mill turned out to be a bureaucratic and tenacious feat. To the west of Ulm, on the picturesque little river Blau, lay the Lohmühle of the miller Beiselen, who was willing to lease Wieland a no longer needed "tobacco wheel" to operate a brass plate rolling mill. However, the two of them did the calculation without the authorities who, from 1823 to 1827, repeatedly came up with water law or technical issues to – literally – put a spoke in their wheel. The enraged Beiselen once even wrote to the senior office that a negative expert opinion in the case had been issued "out of sheer ignorance, or perhaps even the result of damnable malice".
Purchase contract with long-term effect: In 1828 Philipp Jakob Wieland acquired the Bochsler mill, a sawmill, and then expensively expanded it into the first real rolling mill.
By the time the rolling mill at the Lohmühle could finally go into operation, Wieland had found an even better alternative: the Bochslermühle mill at the confluence of the Blau and Danube rivers. He bought the property in 1828 and then extensively rebuilt it until 1831. Then a rolling wheel, a polishing wheel, a hammer wheel and a turning wheel went into operation. Wieland's friend Johann Georg Krauss built the machines for this purpose. In 1859, Wieland purchased the Spitalmühle mill and the large plot of land on the eastern edge of Ulm from the latter – and this is where the company's headquarters would be located for more than 100 years. In 1864, he also bought a mill with ca. 1600 m² land in the tranquil village of Vöhringen from Krauss. The Bavarian authorities allowed Wieland – citizen of the neighbouring Württemberg – to do so thanks to the far-sighted reason that "many local residents were promised worthwhile earnings".
Wieland also operated two further mills in Herrlingen since the 1840s, but these were later abandoned.