Founded in 1967 as a joint venture between Robert Bosch GmbH, of Stuttgart, and Siemens AG, of Munich, today BSH Hausgeräte GmbH is Europe’s biggest home appliance maker and one of the world’s leaders in its industry. Let’s have a look at the early days of appliance production at Siemens and the history of BSH.
Electrifying the home – A new market arises
Siemens has operated in the home appliance market since the beginning of the 20th century. In 1904, the company developed silicon carbide heating rods for use in electric hot plates and heaters. Two years later, it put its first vacuum cleaners on the market – called “dedusting pumps,” they had a one-horsepower motor and weighed a hefty 300 kilos.
As more and more homes electrified in the 1920s, home appliances proliferated. In 1924-25, Siemens produced its first electric food processing appliances and floor polishers. Washing machines and electric mangles for laundry followed in 1925-26. By the early 1930s, the company was making electric ranges and refrigerators (1926-27) as well as a wide range of small appliances like electric irons, coffee machines, tea kettles, and small spin dryers and mangles.
Siemens began marketing and selling its home appliances under the PROTOS brand in the fall of 1925. The brand soon became a symbol of reliability and high quality – and Siemens had captured a leading position in the German home appliance market.
Postwar upswing and beginnings of prosperity – On the way to BSHG
The early 1950s saw the start of a sharp postwar upswing in the electric appliance business. As the Federal Republic rebuilt in the following years, washing machines and refrigerators – along with automobiles, radios and televisions – came to symbolize West Germans’ growing prosperity. To better meet rising demand, Siemens management transferred all the company’s operations in consumer goods to a new firm, Siemens-Electrogeräte AG (SE), as of October 1, 1957.
A rising economy also brought rising competition – especially in the fiercely competitive washing machine market. A slight decline in domestic demand, in tandem with rising imports, primarily from Japanese and Italian competitors, raised the pressure on German producers. The 1960s saw a process of consolidation in which Germany’s large electric equipment companies bought up many formerly independent small and medium-sized producers of consumer goods.
Siemens and Bosch team up – A coalition of equals
Faced with this development, Germany’s two leading manufacturers, Siemens and Bosch, decided to pool their home appliance operations as of the start of 1967 under the heading of Bosch-Siemens Hausgeräte GmbH (BSHG). The articles of incorporation were notarized on January 13 of that year, and the company was entered in the Commercial Register on February 9. Robert Bosch GmbH and Siemens AG each made an initial contribution of DM 500,000. The business, with a total workforce of 14,000 employees, was managed as a joint venture that brought all seven Bosch and Siemens companies operating in this sector together under one roof. But the seven would remain legally independent until BSHG’s organizational restructuring at the end of September 1972.
A launch in Germany – And an entry into mass production
Bosch and Siemens had already begun supplying equipment to each other in 1966, but in 1967 they began optimizing production structures at their German factories. From now on refrigerators and dishwashers would be built in Giengen, while Traunreut would build ranges and Berlin would build washing machines. In the fall of 1976, a new dishwasher plant went into operation in Dillingen an der Donau.
Growing business, together with more streamlined and modernized production techniques, made it possible to get into mass production. The resulting cost savings boosted BSHG’s annual revenues during its first decade from DM 750 million (1967/68) to DM 2 billion (1977/78). Though the companies made their products jointly, for strategic reasons the two original brands BOSCH and SIEMENS were kept distinct in the public eye – each with its own full product lines.
Expansion in Europe – A corporate sales network, including logistics
In 1976, BSHG began selling products outside Germany for the first time. Jointly with Siemens Hellas, it acquired Pitsos, the Greek market leader in refrigerators. To strengthen its position in the European market, in 1984 BSHG began supplementing sales handled through its parent companies with its own European sales network, including the necessary logistics. Late in the 1980s, BSHG acquired an important foothold in the Spanish market with home appliance makers Balay and Safel, and in 1993 it launched its business in Slovenia. That opened up the pathway to building up a European development and production network. By 1994 the company had begun internationalizing beyond European borders.
The environmental challenge – Innovative and economical to use
New markets called for new products to meet their individual national needs, but an even greater challenge of the era was environmental protection. In 1993 – two years before the deadline set by law – BSHG became the first leading manufacturer in the industry to start series production of CFC/HFC-free refrigerators. And it made a significant ongoing contribution to sustainability by developing new water- and power-saving appliances. For example, the new Aqua Sensor system, developed in 1996-97, introduced variable, automated washing program controls that significantly reduced power and water consumption in dishwashers and clothes washers. The next year, BSHG brought out glass ceramic cooktops with retractable infrared sensors that measured the temperature in pots and kept them at exactly the desired heat.
Setting a new course – With 13 famed, successful brands
Renamed BSH Hausgeräte GmbH in 1998, the company has been a wholly owned subsidiary of the Bosch Group since the beginning of 2015. Over its 50-year history, the business has grown from a German exporter to the world’s second-largest manufacturer of home appliances. With some 61,000 employees, BSH generated 2018 revenue of EUR 13.4 billion.
The company operates 42 factories worldwide, producing a full line of modern home appliances – everything from ranges, ovens and range hoods to dishwashers, clothes washers, dryers, refrigerators and freezers to small appliances – consumer products such as vacuum cleaners, fully automated coffee machines, electric kettles, electric irons and hair dryers. With a portfolio of 13 brands, BSH now covers a very wide variety of consumer needs. In addition to its global brands Bosch and Siemens as well as Gaggenau and Neff, the portfolio comprises the local heroes Thermador, Balay, Coldex, Constructa, Pitsos, Profilo and Zelmer as well as products that other companies sell under the Junker and Viva brands.
You might also find this interestingFurther information on this topic
- 40 Jahre BSH – Eine Chronik, ed. BSH Bosch und Siemens Hausgeräte GmbH, München 2007 (available only in German)