Alfred & Irene Kärcher
Alfred Kärcher – innovator and entrepreneur
Alfred Kärcher was one of the inventors and entrepreneurs who contributed greatly to the progress of Wärttemberg since the beginning of industrialisation, along with other figures such as Robert Bosch, Gottlieb Daimler and Count Zeppelin. He showed great dedication and commitment in implementing his ideas.
In 1924 the 23-year-old Kärcher completes his studies at the Technischen Hochschule Stuttgart and then works for his father’s company, which he develops into an engineering office. In 1935 the engineer founds his own company in Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt in order to develop his own product ideas in the field of heating technology and to bring them to market. With his own patent Alfred Kärcher builds, amongst other things, the so-called “Kärcher salt bath furnace” for tempering steel and hardening light alloys for industry.
In 1939 the company moves to Winnenden, where the family enterprise still has its headquarters. At this time the company manufactures pre-heating burners for aeroplane motors and cabin heaters, amongst other things. After the end of World War II the company concentrates on products for the most urgent of daily needs, such as circular furnaces, handcarts and tractor trailers.
Company Premises in Winnenden about 1940
Entry into cleaning technology
Alfred Kärcher makes his breakthrough into cleaning technology in 1950 with the development of the first European hot-water pressure washer (the DS 350 steam blaster). The construction for heating the water proves so future-oriented that today it still serves as the basis for all of the burners.
Like so many Alfred Kärcher no longer experiences the worldwide success of his innovations. When he dies on 17 September 1959 at age 58, his wife Irene assumes management and steers the fortunes of the company for three decades. Her children Johannes Kärcher and Susanne Zimmermann von Siefart of the second generation today carry responsibility for the family enterprise.
In 1962 Kärcher founds the first foreign subsidiary in France, followed by Austria and Switzerland. Internationalisation then consistently moves forward. In 1975 Kärcher opens a factory in Brazil; within ten years the enterprise founds 16 distribution companies in regions including North America, Africa and Australia. In 2008 Kärcher is represented in 41 countries with its own subsidiaries, earning 85 % of its turnover in foreign countries. 40,000 service centres in over 190 counties ensure uninterrupted service to customers worldwide.
Growth through innovation
In 1974 Kärcher concentrates on high-pressure cleaning after a phase of diversification. During this phase the colour of the machines is changed from blue to what has become the world-famous Kärcher yellow. In 1980 the company expands it product line to include general cleaning products, starting with the application areas of transport and buildings. The programme is gradually supplemented by wet and dry vacuum cleaners, sweepers, scrubber dryers, car washing systems, steam cleaners, cleaning agents and drink water and wastewater treatment plants.
Milestones in the history of Kärcher include the introduction of the first portable pressure washer, the HD 555 profi, in 1984 and the associated opening of the end consumer market. In 1993 the product line is expanded to include indoor cleaning. From that time on Kärcher provides, for example, steam cleaners and vacuum cleaners for private households. In 2003 the world's first fully autonomous vacuum robot, the RoboCleaner RC 3000, is launched on the market. In 2007 Kärcher enters into the completely new business segment of gardens, which encompasses watering pumps, drainage, and house water supply as well as an extensive line of accessories.
In the professional segment Kärcher becomes a pioneer in roller brush technology for scrubber dryers in 1986. The cleaning effect of high-pressure cleaners is nearly doubled due to a rotary nozzle (the Dirt Blaster) newly developed in 1995. The dust intake of commercial wet and dry vacuum cleaners is continually improved, and in 2007 the innovate TACT filter cleaning system is brought to market. Furthermore new processes are developed in worldwide cleaning projects. For example the 284 travertine columns of St. Peter’s Square in Rome are restored with a blasting process specially developed for this task, covering a total surface area of 25,000 square metres. Since 2009 Kärcher has sold ultra high-pressure cleaners which can not only clean but also renovate facades and strip concrete with pressures of up to 2,500 bar. In the same year a multifunctional municipal sweeper is launched on the market, and new target groups are reached with water dispensers.
Kärcher, the worldwide market leader
Innovation continues to be the most important growth factor for Kärcher. Since 2008 Kärcher has brought three worldwide innovations to market in the field of pressure washers for end consumers alone: the K HC 10 with hybrid technology, the K 2.20 with the 4-wheel concept and the world’s quietest models K 3.00 and K 4.00. The worldwide leader in cleaning technology will continue to distinguish itself in future with its inventive spirit, top-class performance and innovative solutions.