Stuttgart/Gerlingen, Germany—There is a double anniversary at Bosch: in 2011, the Bosch Group is celebrating its 125th anniversary, as well as the 150th anniversary of its founder’s birth. On November 15, 1886, Bosch established his “Workshop for Precision Mechanics and Electrical Engineering” in Stuttgart, laying the foundations for what has since become a leading global supplier of technology and services. Born on September 23, 1861, in Albeck near Ulm, Robert Bosch was a technology pioneer who propelled his company to international success during his own lifetime. Robert Bosch died in Stuttgart on March 12, 1942, aged 80.
Bosch does business through more than 300 subsidiaries and regional companies in over 60 countries, and has a workforce of a good 280,000 associates worldwide. An international network of sales companies and partners spans some 150 countries, ensuring that the company’s products and services will continue to feature in important growth markets in the future.
“Our customers, as well as everyone who has ever used Bosch products, have also played a role in the company’s 125-year success story,” said Franz Fehrenbach, the chairman of the Bosch board of management.
Hermann Scholl, the chairman of the shareholders meeting and of the supervisory council, agrees, and adds: “Many of our pioneering technological achievements were the result of our fruitful interaction with our customers. And a spirit of innovation pervades our company to this day—an unceasing search for new areas of business, markets, and technologies.”
Anniversary activities reflect past, future
Through numerous activities around the world, including some 200 events for associates, the company will be celebrating its two anniversaries over the course of this year. The first of these activities is the interactive anniversary website, which is now online. At www.125.bosch.com, everything revolves around the “BoschGlobe,” which encourages visitors to explore and take part. In this multimedia Bosch world, visitors can embark on a journey through time, where they will experience not only the company’s history but also the new technologies of the present day. And if they turn the globe toward the future, they can leave their own mark on the map in the form of ideas and wishes. “In the anniversary year, we want to trace an arc from our origins to the future. To achieve this, we have prepared many activities for our customers, business partners, and associates,” says Uta-Micaela Dürig. As senior vice-president of corporate communications at Bosch, she is responsible for coordinating all activities worldwide in the anniversary year.
Well positioned for the future
With 3,800 patent applications filed each year and more than 3.5 billion euros invested annually in research and development, Bosch aims to maintain its focus on innovation in the future, and in this way to lay the foundations for further sustainable growth. In accordance with its strategic guiding principle, the products supplied by the three Bosch business sectors Automotive Technology, Industrial technology, and Consumer Goods and Building Technology are technology that is “invented for life.” Thus, Bosch has become one of the world’s leading manufacturers of diesel and gasoline injection systems and vehicle safety systems such as the ABS antilock braking system and the ESP electronic stability program. Bosch is also one of the largest suppliers of power tools, heating technology, household appliances, and security systems. The Bosch Industrial Technology business sector is a recognized specialist in drive and control technologies. The business sector also includes the Packaging Technology and Solar Energy divisions.
International market leadership
From the very beginning, Bosch played a decisive part in shaping the automobile’s evolution into the mass means of transport of the 20th century. The product range was steadily expanded. The year 1913 saw the launch of the Bosch automotive lighting system, with its own power supply from a generator and a battery. It was followed by innovations such as electric starters, horns, windshield wipers, power-assisted brakes, and direction indicators. These Bosch products made the cars of the time more suitable for everyday driving, and made a major contribution to more comfort and safety. With the establishment of the Bosch Service in 1921 and the development of its network of salesrooms and branch offices in other countries, Bosch created an extensive repair service for its customers. At the same time, it laid the foundations for an internationally comprehensive automotive aftermarket business. In 1927, a groundbreaking technology was finally ready for series production: the diesel injection pump. Initially for trucks, it was installed in the first diesel-powered passenger cars in 1936. In 1951, Bosch introduced gasoline injection into the automotive market, initially for the two-stroke engine of the compact Gutbrod Superior car. This paved the way for the development of passenger-car gasoline engines that combined higher performance with lower fuel consumption and emissions. Three years later, gasoline injection for four-stroke engines debuted in the legendary gull-wing Mercedes-Benz 300 SL.
Bosch also steadily expanded its portfolio in the field of automotive electrics. In the latter half of the 20th century, semiconductors became the key components of new electronic systems, featuring in everything from engine management systems to driver assistance systems. The first Bosch product to feature electronic components manufactured in-house was the Bosch alternator regulator introduced in 1958. It was followed in 1967 by the Bosch Jetronic fuel-injection system, the first-ever electronic fuel-injection system to be manufactured on an industrial scale. With automotive electronics playing an ever more important role, Bosch opened a new plant in Reutlingen near Stuttgart in 1970. This facility was exclusively devoted to semiconductor manufacturing. Without Bosch’s innovative semiconductor technology, the lambda sensor (1976), which allowed a catalytic converter to be used to make exhaust cleaner, would not have been conceivable. Nor would the ABS antilock braking system (1978) or the ESP® electronic stability program (1995) have been possible. Since their introduction, ABS und ESP® have helped significantly to improve road safety and reduce the number of road deaths. With the company continuing to focus on these future-oriented technologies, the year 2010 saw the inauguration of a new, ultra-modern semiconductor fab in Reutlingen. This new facility is the largest single capital investment ever made by the Bosch Group in its 125-year history – an investment totaling some 600 million euros.
Internationalization and diversification
Robert Bosch was so successful because he realized how important it was to branch out from Stuttgart and set up business internationally. He quickly saw the benefits of marketing his products worldwide, establishing his first international sales office in the United Kingdom in 1898 and setting up a sales company for the French and Belgian markets in Paris in 1899. Over the next few years, the company established additional subsidiaries in the United States (1906), South Africa (1906), Australia and New Zealand (1907), China (1909), Brazil (1910), and Japan (1911). In the decades that followed, Bosch produced numerous innovations in response to tremendous growth in the automotive sector and began to develop a worldwide development, manufacturing, and sales network. Local production in the key markets of Europe, the Americas, and Asia safeguards the company’s competitive position while providing a solid basis for long-term success.
Pioneering products and services meant that Bosch also acquired leading positions in other markets. In the wake of the 1926 crisis in the European car industry, the company began to expand beyond the automotive sector, branching out into other sectors at the end of the 1920s. The goal was to develop a broader business base to make the company less vulnerable to economic cycles – a tried-and-tested formula that Bosch still applies to the challenges it faces today. Franz Fehrenbach, the chairman of the Bosch board of management, is pursuing a strategy of focused diversification which aims to make acquisitions that are consistent with the company’s core competencies. Over the past few years, Bosch has expanded its business to include systems that use renewable energy – a strategy that has paid dividends in times of crisis, most recently during the worldwide financial and economic crisis of 2008 and 2009. Bosch first embarked on a course of diversification back in 1928, when it entered the market for portable electric power tools with its Forfex hair trimmer. The Forfex was followed by products such as the Bosch hammer drill in 1932 and a range of power tools in the 1950s. Today, Bosch is the leading supplier of power tools for DIY enthusiasts and professional users, offering a broad portfolio that includes cordless appliances based on lithium-ion technology. Over the years, the dictates of portfolio management have also made it necessary to abandon certain business sectors and product families.
Industrial technology and new “green” areas of business
As early as 1902, Robert Bosch had begun building his own production machinery to manufacture magneto parts – a response to what he saw as the poor quality of the machinery available at that time. This proactive approach led to the establishment of an in-house business unit for special-purpose machinery in 1932. This unit subsequently became the Industrial Equipment division in 1974, and started manufacturing production facilities for external customers in the same year. The innovations produced by this division included the world’s first swivel-arm robot, which was launched in 1984. In 2001, automation technology was made part of the Bosch Rexroth AG subsidiary. It now constitutes the Drive and Control Technology division and is part of the Industrial Technology business sector. Today, Bosch Rexroth offers a broad portfolio of products ranging from modern stage equipment – for the Oslo Opera House and for the lakeside stage in Bregenz, Austria – through to large gear units for wind turbines. Bosch Rexroth supplies some of the most innovative drive and control systems in the world.
The acquisition of the solar cell manufacturer Ersol in 2008 marked Bosch’s entry into the photovoltaics market. Since then, the company has expanded its portfolio of services in this key industry through a number of additional acquisitions. Bosch now develops, produces, and distributes a broad spectrum of silicon-based photovoltaic products as well as offering complete plant construction solutions. In addition, Bosch develops innovative packaging technologies for customers including well known food manufacturers and pharmaceuticals companies, a business that has enjoyed particular success in the Asian market.
New systems developed by Bosch are helping to reduce the fuel consumption and emissions of motor vehicles powered by internal-combustion engines. At the same time, the company is pushing forward with further electrification of the powertrain. The company’s parallel full hybrid technology, which allows vehicles to run solely on electricity, has already gone into series production at the German automakers VW and Porsche, and all-electric drives for cars are currently being developed as well. The Automotive Technology business sector continues to generate the highest sales for the Bosch Group. In 2009, the company spent almost 3 billion euros on research and development in this sector alone.
International activities in pioneering fields of technology are set to maintain the Bosch Group’s competitive position in the years ahead. Megatrends such as climate change, renewable energies, demographic change, eco-friendly mobility, and increasing interconnection as a result of the internet are becoming increasingly important. To tackle the entrepreneurial and ecological challenges these megatrends present, Bosch will draw on its innovative strength and international market presence. The company is placing a deliberate focus on the development of green technologies and is using the opportunities they present for sustainable growth in a number of fields, including vehicle electrification, heat pumps for building technology, and renewable energy from the sun and wind. Credibility, efficiency, and reliability – the fundamental values of the company founder Robert Bosch – are still core elements of the corporate culture and the company’s business strategy. In the spirit of its founder, the Bosch Group continues to place great emphasis on its social and environmental responsibility. Franz Fehrenbach’s eco-friendly management approach won him two accolades in 2009. The ADAC, the German automobile association, made him its “2009 Person of the Year,” awarding him the “Yellow Angel” for the Bosch Group’s ecologically driven innovations, and he also received the environment award presented by B.A.U.M., the German Environmental Management Association. On behalf of Bosch, he accepted the Award for Understanding and Tolerance of the Jewish Museum Berlin in the same year.