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Discovering about the man behind the Bosch tool company

On my second day in Germany to learn about the Robert Bosch Company, I discovered a great deal more about the man who founded the company, as well as a little bit about his tools from the early days and in today’s market.

At the Bosch Archives (which is more like a Bosch museum, but they had already named it before I arrived) I enjoyed a guided tour through the facility from the curator. He told me about how Robert Bosch, born in 1861 in the area near Stuttgart, Germany, grew up with a desire to be a precision mechanic. He studied under a number of established practitioners in Germany and the U.S. (including Thomas Edison), and later found his calling making parts for internal combustion engines. His magneto, the part that generates the spark needed to burn the fuel in the engine cylinders, was his signature product, and his business grew well from that. That magneto is visible today as a cross section in the Bosch company logo. (Run out and grab a Bosch tool and study it, or just look at the photo here of one of the original magnetos, and you’ll see the logo in the cross-section of the armature.)

 As Bosch’s business grew, he delved into making parts for automobiles, and today that sector accounts for 60 percent of Bosch’s total business. In 1928 he launched his first power tool, the Forfex hair cutter, shown here. A few years later he added the first jigsaw, electric drill, and concrete hammer/breaker.

The Bosch company continued to make tools and automotive parts and also added other industries as it diversified. As you might expect, the Bosch factories were bombed in World War II as the company was forced to make armaments and supplies for the Nazis. But Robert Bosch was secretively helping the French resistance movement at the same time. Robert Bosch died in 1942, but he set in place a business model that would ensure the company would survive and thrive, primarily by investing in the workforce and developing new products. Bosch was a very philanthropic man, and his company continues that tradition 125 years after he started the company.

On a visit to Bosch’s headquarters for the power tool division in Leinfelden, I watched hundreds of workers machine parts for many Bosch products as well as assembling angle grinders and concrete breakers (jackhammers). It’s an efficient process with raw materials coming in one end of the facility and packaged tools leaving from the other end. And it was surprisingly clean given how many industrial cutting tools used oil while machining the metal parts. I also got to see lots of tools from one of Bosch’s training and development managers, and I even got to try out some of the tools, including concrete rotary hammers and breakers, which I’d never used before. Pretty cool!

They didn’t have any new tools to show me that might be coming to the U.S. market soon, so that was disappointing, but it’s due in large part to the fact that I saw many of the soon-to-hit-the-market tools at Bosch’s Chicago office in June. Anyway, I did get a closer look at many of Bosch’s green-branded power tools, which are marketed towards DIYers and home-owners. They’re comparable to Skil’s brand of tools sold in the U.S.—a more affordable option to the blue-branded professional line of tools.

One of the coolest tools I saw was the IXO Vino, a 3.6-volt cordless driver with a corkscrew attachment for opening bottles of wine. It’s really slick—but it’s not available in the states, and likely won’t be unless they launch it in the Skil line, which makes sense because Skil already has the IXO driver by itself. But Bosch officials said they don’t plan to sell the corkscrew attachment as a separate accessory.

Later that evening I got to enjoy a guided tour of the Porsche museum, also located in Stuttgart. That was really cool, but because I’ve got a lot of photos of the many cars I saw, I’ll add that later as a separate entry.

Tomorrow we head for Switzerland to see one of Bosch’s manufacturing facilities for accessories. Ciao!


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6 Responses to “Discovering about the man behind the Bosch tool company”

  1. Thanks for the post. Great.

  2. Someone told me that the parent company of Bosch is still owned by the Bosch family and that the profit from that is all donated to the Bosch foundation. Do you know if this is true?

  3. This is true, after the company has reviewed thier plans for the the up coming year it is in the trust of Robert Bosch that the balance is to be given to charity.

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