September 23, 2011, marks the 150th birthday of Robert Bosch. “I would rather lose money than trust” is one of his best known sayings. Values such as credibility, reliability, and legality formed the basis of his entrepreneurial action – and have lost none of their validity for the company he founded. They are the compass for the Bosch Group’s innovative strength, quality standards, international orientation, and corporate social responsibility. In combination with these, they form the basis for ensuring the company’s lasting business success, as well as its ability to meet the challenges of the future, just as Robert Bosch would have wanted. Apart from the 150th anniversary of the birth of its founder, Robert Bosch GmbH is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year.
Turning a workshop into an international industrial enterprise
Robert Bosch was born on September 23, 1861, in Albeck near Ulm in southern Germany. Following an apprenticeship as a precision mechanic, and after having worked for several companies outside Germany, he opened his “Workshop for Precision Mechanics and Electrical Engineering” in Stuttgart on November 15, 1886. Referring to these early years, he once said: “My business, which was originally very small, gradually began to develop more swiftly after long and painstaking efforts.” Even then, this success was due to his innovative drive and high quality standards. The construction of a low-voltage magneto ignition device for vehicle engines in 1897 was the start of a long list of Bosch innovations. But It was its successor system, the high-voltage magneto ignition system launched by Bosch in 1902, that was the decisive commercial breakthrough for the young company. Under the guidance of Robert Bosch, the company developed a whole series of technical and technological innovations that made people’s everyday life and work significantly safer, more comfortable and more efficient. Examples include windshield wipers, the diesel injection pump, and power drills and drivers.
Bosch founded its first agency outside Germany in 1898, in the United Kingdom. This was the start of global expansion, with new branch offices and manufacturing sites being set up around the world. The early decision to nurture the company’s global presence and transform the business into a successful worldwide development, manufacturing, and sales network was one of the most important strategic initiatives undertaken by Robert Bosch.
Responsibility and social commitment
Robert Bosch was a socially minded entrepreneur. “Employer and employee are equally dependent on the fate of their company,” he wrote in an essay dating from 1920. In 1906, when he became one of the first employers to introduce an eight-hour working day, he was once again well ahead of his time. By shortening working hours, Robert Bosch eased the burden on his workers, and at the same time increased productivity by introducing a second shift. In other words, this was an entrepreneurial decision that benefited both the company and the workforce in equal measure. Apart from making several donations for civic initiatives and charitable causes, Robert Bosch also endowed a hospital in Stuttgart, which still bears his name to this day. In addition, the occupational and further training of his associates was an issue of the utmost importance to Robert Bosch. In 1913, he set up his own apprenticeship department with a training workshop. Associate training and qualification still command an important position at Bosch to this day. In September 2011, some 1,500 young people began a career at Bosch in Germany. In 2010 alone, each associate worldwide attended an average of two training courses.
His last will – still relevant today
Robert Bosch died in Stuttgart on March 12, 1942. In his will, he set out the fundamental guidelines for his successors. The financial independence and autonomy of Robert Bosch GmbH were especially important for him, since they would secure the company’s long-term success in the future as well. After the end of the second world war, Robert Bosch’s legacy paved the way for his company’s renewed rise to a global supplier of technology and services – in 2011, it is expected that the company’s roughly 300,000 associates will generate sales of more than 50 billion euros. The company’s successful rise has been marked by technological progress and corporate social responsibility – just as the company founder would have wanted.