“Bosch. Geschichte eines Weltunternehmens” is first complete historical analysis
Robert Bosch’s legacy: values and principles embedded in corporate culture
Emphasis on history, values, and corporate culture is exceptional, according to authors
Stuttgart – The publishing house C.H. Beck is publishing the first complete history of Robert Bosch GmbH to be written by independent scholars. The authors of the recently-released book “Bosch. Geschichte eines Weltunternehmens” are the industrial historians Dr. Johannes Bähr and Dr. Paul Erker. The starting point of the historical analysis are the personality and business principles of company’s founder Robert Bosch. The two historians recount the beginnings of Bosch as the “Workshop for Precision Mechanics”, its rise to become a leading automotive supplier, and its expansion as a provider of technology and services. They describe in detail the creation of the company’s corporate culture and social orientation. The authors had access to original sources in the company archives for their research. “The history of Bosch is part of German and international industrial history. Both authors succeeded in crafting a nuanced, realistic, and at the same time accessible portrayal of our company’s long and multifaceted history,” said Franz Fehrenbach, the chairman of the Bosch supervisory board and managing partner of Robert Bosch Industrietreuhand KG, at the book’s launch. The event, which took place at Stuttgart’s “Literaturhaus”, was timed to coincide with the 152nd birthday of Robert Bosch.
Over approximately 720 pages, Bähr and Erker review the history of the Bosch Group up to the present day. They address major innovative achievements and successes, as well as difficult periods. In particular, it was in hard times that the company founder’s principles proved themselves. “That Bosch reflects on its own history, its own values, and its own corporate culture is particularly remarkable,” Bähr said in Stuttgart.
Robert Bosch: an enduring influence “One of the most distinctive things about Bosch corporate history is that it can’t be understood without looking at the founder and his influence on the company,” Bähr explained. Robert Bosch was not only the company’s founder. Until his death in March 1942, his personal views played a major role in shaping its development. According to Bähr, “Robert Bosch’s most enduring legacy wasn’t his business success, but rather the principles and values he advocated, which he firmly embedded in the corporate culture, and towards which business policies had to be oriented.”
Bosch: utterly distinctive The authors eventually come to the conclusion that Bosch does not differ in every respect from the majority of German and European businesses. “Nonetheless, Bosch is an utterly distinctive company,” Erker said. Even in times of globalization, their unique profile has not lost any of its contours, he explained. “In fact, Robert Bosch GmbH has set itself apart through its truly distinctive way of operating, which it has maintained with remarkable consistency, and which the company remains committed to,” Erker added.
Bosch in the Third Reich: between conformity and opposition One of the central topics of the book is the conduct of Robert Bosch and the company during the Third Reich. The authors describe the challenge of walking the tightrope between conformity and opposition. They offer numerous examples of how associates and managers dealt with conditions under the Nazis. The circle around Robert Bosch supported resistance against Hitler. The board of management and heads of personnel took a stand in support of Jewish and “half-Jewish” associates and offered assistance to persecuted Jews. At the same time, the company was an arms producer for the regime and employed forced labor. “In light of these contrasts, any whole-sale judgment of Bosch’s conduct in the Third Reich falls short,” Bähr concludes.
The corporate constitution: reflecting the will and spirit of the founder The second key topic is the period following Robert Bosch’s death. The founder had stipulated in his will that the company should preserve its independence. At the same time, it should continue to pursue “strong and meaningful” development. The specific elaboration and implementation of this proviso were discussed intensively. In 1964, the Vermögensverwaltung Bosch, the precursor of the Robert Bosch Stiftung, acquired a majority stake in Robert Bosch GmbH from the founder’s heirs. Dr. Christof Bosch, grandson of the founder and spokesperson for the Bosch family, made reference to this during the book’s launch: “The arrangement that was set up back then serves to achieve what was stipulated in the will.” As he explained, the corporate constitution in its current form strengthens the company, opens up future prospects for it, and simultaneously offers the family financial security. “This has allowed the company to develop in line with the principles of Robert Bosch.”
The project: three and a half years of intensive research “Bosch. Geschichte eines Weltunternehmens” is the result of three and a half years of intensive research. During this time, Bähr and Erker had access to all relevant documents and files. For the first time, independent experts had the opportunity to examine the minutes of the executors’ committee meeting for Robert Bosch’s will. In addition, the authors had the opportunity to examine minutes from confidential meetings that took place up to 2010. The analysis was supplemented by research in state and municipal archives. In addition, Bähr and Erker conducted numerous interviews with eyewitnesses. These included members of the Bosch family as well as current and former executives and board of management members. The last comprehensive account of Bosch history was “Robert Bosch – Leben und Leistung”, written by Theodor Heuss in 1946. Since the late 1990s, other works on specific aspects of Bosch history have been published.
Stuttgart’s “Literaturhaus”: book launched at historical site The launch of “Bosch. Geschichte eines Weltunternehmens” took place in Stuttgart’s “Literaturhaus“. The building is a designated historical monument and is part of the newly refurbished “Bosch Areal”. At the beginning of the 20th century, this collection of manufacturing and administrative buildings was the company’s headquarters. The two floors used by the Literaturhaus association also contain Robert Bosch’s former study. Robert Bosch was born on September 23, 1861, 152 years to the day before the book’s release, in Albeck near Ulm in southern Germany. He died on March 12, 1942 in Stuttgart.
About the authors Dr. Johannes Bähr is a professor for industrial and social history at the Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main. He is the author of numerous works on the history of large German companies, such as MAN and Dresdner Bank. Dr. Paul Erker is a professor for modern and contemporary history at the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich. He specializes in business and corporate history topics. He has published historical studies on companies including Dachser and Continental.
“Bosch. Geschichte eines Weltunternehmens” by Johannes Bähr and Paul Erker is currently available from German booksellers for €39.95 Further information about the publication can be found here.
More information on the history of Bosch can be found here. Historical video footage of Bosch can be downloaded from the Bosch video portal.
Structural work completed in only 16 months; interior work underway already
Head of Research Dr. Dieterich: “Bosch research is being networked for millions of ideas.”
Stuttgart – Construction work on the Bosch Group’s new research and advance engineering center has reached an important milestone. After only 16 months of construction, architects, builders, researchers, and many other project participants can now celebrate the site’s topping out. Structural work is finished on all the research and laboratory buildings. In some buildings, interior work has already begun. Albrecht Fischer, the head of the Bosch Real Estate and Facilities corporate department, thanked all of the project participants present: “The structural work in Renningen is proceeding according to plan. Even the long winter and cool spring couldn’t stop progress on construction.” By 2015, the new research campus on the outskirts of Stuttgart will be the new hub of the Bosch Group’s global research and advance engineering activities. The first associates are set to begin working in Renningen at the end of 2014.
In total, the supplier of technology and services is investing 310 million euros in the new location. Its roughly 1,200 associates will research new materials, methods, and technologies, and develop new systems, components, and manufacturing processes. In addition, the research center will accommodate around 500 interns and students working on diplomas and PhDs. Over the past 16 months, twelve buildings have been constructed on the approximately 31-hectare northern part of the site. When completed, they will offer around 110,000 square meters of floor space. Modeled on a university campus, the buildings are spaced generously around the northern part of the site. In this way, Bosch wants to create attractive workplaces and a modern environment in which creativity and collaboration can flourish. On the southern part of the site, the location’s own membrane wastewater treatment facility and a service building are currently under construction.
Great expectations and anticipation “We can barely wait until it’s finished. Our researchers are looking forward to their new campus, to the improved working conditions, and to being in Renningen,” said Dr. Klaus Dieterich, president of Corporate Research and Advance Engineering at Bosch. Currently, Dieterich and his approximately 1,200 engineers are spread around the Stuttgart region at locations in Gerlingen, Schwieberdingen, and Waiblingen. By bringing its research activities together under one roof, Bosch hopes to unlock considerable networking potential. As Dietrich explained, “Bosch research is being networked for millions of ideas.” The new campus will be the hub of the Bosch Group’s international research and development network. This network currently encompasses nine locations in six countries. Bosch is not just consolidating its own research activities in Renningen. The company will also focus on expanding its networking activities with other institutions in the wider scientific community.
Logistical challenge: the relocation The company plans to carry out the relocation to the new research campus over the course of six months. The time frame is so long, Dieterich said, because “very little of our researchers’ equipment can be packed in simple moving boxes. Many of our laboratories and research facilities must be first painstakingly disassembled, packed, and transported before they can be put into operation again in Renningen.” The relocation will begin in fall 2014. The main building and the research buildings on the eastern part of the site will be the first to be occupied. “By summer 2015, the last researchers will have moved onto the research campus,” Dieterich said. In total, some 12,000 moving boxes as well as 1,800 pieces of machinery and equipment from 270 laboratories at existing locations will need to be moved to Renningen.
More information on the new research and advance engineering center in Renningen can be found at www.bosch-renningen.com.
Strategically complements acquisition of Ampack GmbH in 2012
Addition to portfolio of product division Liquid Food
Meyreuil / Waiblingen – Bosch Packaging Technology, a leading supplier of process and packaging technology, finalized acquisition of the assets of Tecsor Machines et Systèmes S.A.S., based in Meyreuil near Marseille, France. The antitrust authorities have approved the appropriate documents. Agreements to this effect have already been signed in June this year. Tecsor develops and sells machinery for making and filling PET containers for liquid and paste-like foodstuffs, which are used in the food and beverage industry – as milk bottles or yogurt cups, for example. Set up in 2005, the company generated sales of roughly two million euros in 2012. Tecsor employs 14 associates. It has been agreed that the purchase price will not be disclosed.
Addition to filing and packaging portfolio for liquid food “With Tecsor, we are further adding to our activities in the area of liquid foods,” said Friedbert Klefenz, president of the Bosch Packaging Technology division. In October 2012, the packaging specialist took over Ampack in Königsbrunn, Germany. Its portfolio includes filling machinery for cups and bottles. This machinery is mainly used to fill and package highly sensitive foodstuffs such as dairy products, baby food, and hospital food. Ampack is the technology leader in the segment of near-sterile and aseptic processing of pre-formed cups and bottles. Following the acquisition of Tecsor, Bosch can round out its existing portfolio of products in this area to include its own production of cups and bottles. “The new machinery we offer will save our customers materials, energy, and costs. For its part, Bosch Packaging Technology will improve its chances in the market,” Klefenz said.
Executive management maintains with company founders Tecsor’s business activities have been assigned to Bosch Packaging Technology’s Liquid Food business unit with immediate effect. Founded in 2005, the company will remain an independent unit and will be operated as a Bosch subsidiary. Its products will in future be marketed under the name of Bosch.
Executive management stays with the two company founders, Olivier Bedin, general manager, and Jean Tristan Outreman, technical director. “It is my pleasure to warmly welcome associates in Meyreuil, and I am certain that with their expertise we will unify the competencies of both companies to take another great step towards achieving further growth," said Jürgen Katzenbach, business unit vice-president for Liquid Food at Bosch Packaging Technology.
Market share in European core market increased to 26 percent
Bosch becomes leading brand for robotic mowers in homecenters
80 percent of new products for 2014 are cordless tools
Stuttgart – The Bosch Power Tools Division strengthened its market leading position in 2012 with its Lawn and Garden business unit. Bosch's sales of electric garden tools in the past year totaled 251 million euros, a growth of five percent over the previous year. The overall market for garden tools only managed to grow by two percent in the same period. Bosch therefore has once again grown faster than the market. The division expects a similar growth rate this year.
Bosch strengthens market leadership with garden tools in Europe In their core European market, where the division generates about 90 percent of its sales, Bosch Power Tools managed to strengthen its leading position with electric garden tools to a share of 26 percent despite the crisis in the southern European countries. In 2008 the market share was still 22 percent. “The key to our success continues to be our innovative strength”, emphasized Henning von Boxberg, president of Bosch Power Tools. He said that 44 percent of sales in 2012 were generated with products that were launched within the last two years. All in all, Bosch has launched more than 100 new garden tools onto the market in the past five years. “With our numerous innovations we meet the expectations of customers who are asking for made-to-measure solutions for an ever greater number of applications in the garden”, von Boxberg pointed out. He said that the demand for small, handy and powerful products is increasing – especially among users in urban regions. Moreover, Bosch has benefited from the trend towards higher-quality garden tools, which has been continuing for a number of years. “More and more customers are going for quality and reliability, and therefore opting for brand-name products”, explained von Boxberg. Evidence of this is provided by the market figures from the past year; although the number of units sold was one percent less than in 2011 (at 13.1 million tools), the market value of these products increased by two percent to 900 million euros. Seven of the ten best-selling electric garden tools in Europe were from Bosch.
Innovations prevail in the market Bosch has consistently opened new product segments with innovative lithium-ion garden tools. A current example of this is the Indego robotic mower. It was launched with great success in January of this year. In the first quarter of 2013, nearly every second robotic mower sold in European homecenters was an Indego – leading Bosch to very quickly become the market leader. “We have obviously set a new standard with our robotic mower”, noted von Boxberg. The Indego works with the “Logicut” navigation system and mows systematically in lanes. As a result, it only needs about a third of the time to mow the same lawn area as one of the robotic mowers in its class that mows randomly.
Now with 40 years of experience in cordless garden tools, Bosch continues to concentrate strongly on developing further cordless products. “More and more customers appreciate the low weight of cordless tools and the independence from cables”, said von Boxberg. In 2012 alone, Bosch sold about a million cordless garden tools – and will also continue to expand the cordless segment for garden tools in future: 80 percent of new products for 2014 are lithium-ion battery powered – including grass trimmers with new cutting technology and powerful lithium-ion mowers in the Rotak series.
Strong growth in the lawnmower segment With the Rotak mowers, Bosch has succeeded in achieving disproportionate growth in an established segment characterized by strong competition. Whereas the market for electric lawnmowers grew by only one percent per year on average from 2007 to 2012, Bosch recorded average annual growth of ten percent. Four of the seven best-selling electric garden tools in Europe in 2012 were Rotak mowers.
The most popular lawnmowers in France, Belgium and the Netherlands since 2010 have come from the Rotak series – and Bosch has also been the market leader in Germany since 2011. The Power Tools Division wants to build on this success with the Rotak generation in 2014. The new Rotak mowers are even more efficient than their predecessors, and they ensure an especially even cut due to their coordination of motor, special blade geometry and airflow, which reliably feeds the cut grass into the collection box.