Alfred Kärcher, like Robert Bosch, Gottlieb Daimler and Graf Zeppelin, was one of the inventors and entrepreneurs that Württemberg 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 worked first of all at his father’s agency, which he developed into an engineer’s office. In 1935 he founded his own company in Bad Cannstatt, Stuttgart so that he could produce and market his own 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 in industry 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 high-pressure 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 in its second generation.
In 1962, Kärcher founded its first foreign subsidiary in France, followed by Austria and Switzerland. Internationalisation 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. By 2012, Kärcher was represented by subsidiaries in 57 countries and generating 85% of its sales abroad. With 40,000 customer service points in over 190 countries, Kärcher provides comprehensive support to its customers all over the world.
Growth through innovation
After a phase of diversification, Kärcher turned its attention to high-pressure cleaning in 1974. During this period, the colour of the machines was changed from blue to the now world-famous Kärcher yellow. 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 scrubber driers, 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 completely new sector of gardening, which includes pumps for watering, water removal and service water supply in households, as well as an extensive range of accessories.
In 1986, Kärcher launched its pioneering roller brush technology for scrubber driers 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 restore facades and strip concrete. In the same year, a multipurpose municipal sweeper was released onto the market and new target groups were gained with the launch of water dispensers.
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 characterised by its ingenuity, top performance and innovative problem solving.
Top performance for cleanliness and value
When it comes to quality and technology, Karcher are the leading provider of cleaning systems, cleaning products and services for leisure, households, trade and industry worldwide. Their customers benefit enormously from using their effective, efficient and environmentally friendly cleaning products. Karcher make a noticeable difference in the lives of their customers by providing effective, efficient solutions for everyday cleaning and watering tasks all over the world.
Kärcher have come a long way since the business was formed by Alfred Kärcher and is now a global brand. It remains family owned to this day and continues to push boundaries through innovation, evolving as a family firm all the time.
Find out more at www.karcher.com