Alfred Kärcher – inventor and entrepreneur
Alfred Kärcher, like Robert Bosch, Gottlieb Daimler and Graf Zeppelin, was one of the inventors and entrepreneurs that Württemberg, Germany produced in such great number since the beginning of the industrial era. With the utmost commitment, he dedicated himself to bringing his ideas to fruition. In 1924, the then 23-year-old completed his studies at the Technical University of Stuttgart and began working at his father’s agency, which he ultimately helped to develop into an engineer’s office. In 1935, he founded his own company in Bad Cannstatt, Stuttgart so that
he could produce and market products in the field of heating technology. Alfred Kärcher designed and built the “Kärcher salt bath furnace,” among other products, for tempering steel and light metal according to his own patent.
In 1939, the family-owned company relocated to Winnenden, where it still has its headquarters. By this time, the company was also producing heating devices for aircraft engines and cabin heating systems. Following the Second World War, the company turned its attention to products for urgent, everyday use: round stoves, small cookers, handcarts and trailers for tractors.
Move into cleaning technology
Alfred Kärcher made his breakthrough into the cleaning technology industry in 1950 with the development of the first European hot water highpressure cleaner (the DS 350 steam jet). The design of the water heater proved to be so pioneering that it still forms the basis of all burners today.
Like so many, Alfred Kärcher did not live to see the global success of his innovation. When he died on 17 September 1959 at the age of 58, his wife, Irene, took over the management of the company and steered its fortunes for three decades. Today, their children, Johannes Kärcher and Susanne Zimmermann von Siefart, are in charge of the family-owned company, which is now in its second generation.
In 1962, Kärcher founded its first foreign subsidiary in France, followed by subsidiaries in Austria and Switzerland. Internationalization then continued apace. In 1975, Kärcher opened a factory in Brazil; 10 years later, the company had founded 16 sales companies in North America, Africa, Australia and elsewhere across the world. By 2016, Kärcher is represented by subsidiaries in 60 countries and generates 85% of its sales abroad. In 2018, Karcher continues to generate 85% of its sales abroad, but has 110 subsidiaries in 67 countries with 40,000 distributors and 50,000 service points.
Growth through innovation
After a phase of diversification, Kärcher turned its attention to high-pressure cleaning in 1974. In 1980, the company expanded its product range to cover basic cleaning requirements, initially in the areas of transport and buildings. Step by step, the range was expanded with the addition of wet and dry vacuum cleaners, sweeper vacuums and floor
scrubbers, vehicle washing bays, steam cleaners, cleaning agents, and drinking water and wastewater treatment systems.
Among the milestones in Kärcher’s history was the introduction in 1984 of the HD 555 profi, the first portable high-pressure cleaner, and the subsequent expansion into the consumer market. In 1993, this range was expanded to include indoor products and Kärcher has since added steam cleaners and vacuum cleaners for private households to its range. The RoboCleaner RC 3000 was launched in 2003 as the world’s first fully automatic robotic vacuum cleaner. In 2007, Kärcher moved into the new sector of gardening and this year introduced the consumer FC5 Floor Cleaner, which has a two-in-one function that allows you to mop and suction wet and dry dirt in just one step.
In 1986, Kärcher launched its pioneering roller brush technology for scrubbers in the professional range. Thanks to the development of a new rotary nozzle (dirt blaster) in 1995, the cleaning effect of the high-pressure cleaner was almost doubled. The dust intake of commercial wet and dry vacuum cleaners was continuously improved, and in 2007 the innovative Tact filter cleaning system was launched. New procedures were also developed in the course of worldwide cleaning projects: the 284 travertine columns on St. Peter’s Square in Rome were restored using a specially developed spray process over a total area of 25,000 m². Since 2009, Kärcher has been selling ultra-high-pressure cleaners, which, at up to 2,500 bar pressure, not only clean, but also restore facades and strip concrete. This
year they introduced to the market their first autonomous cleaning scrubber, KIRA B 50 Intelligent Cleaning Robot.
Kärcher becomes a global market leader
Innovation has been and continues to be the most important growth factor. In 2011 alone, Kärcher launched over 100 new products. The global market leader in cleaning technology will continue to be characterized by its ingenuity, top performance and innovative problem solving.
Courtesy of Kärcher North America. For more information, visit www.kaercher.com/us/.