The continuous change in the markets in particular was an element that followed the business at all times. The limit to product life cycles and the practical meaning of a change in technology gave Schmalz new challenges time and again.
It all started with a machine for high-quality razor blades that Johannes Schmalz designed in 1910.
Motivated by an award from the factory director, he developed a machine for manufacturing high-quality razor blades. When he didn’t receive the recognition he sought, the ambitious inventor decided to leave the clock factory. In order to implement his ideas, he bought an oil mill driven by a water wheel at what is now company headquarters in Glatten, and founded Schmalz Rasierklingenfabrik in November 1910.
Initially, the resourceful native of the Black Forest developed and built all the important machines himself, including a grinding and polishing machine for the razor blades. But the company eventually had to buy new machines to keep up with its constant growth in the years that followed. The automatic blade packaging machine the company purchased in the 1920s, which could handle up to 70 razor blades per minute, shows how dynamic its development was at that point. During this time, the company founder also made his first contacts in Turkey and Russia. A short time later, he succeeded in exporting a large quantity of razor blades to China and Africa.
In 1938, the razor blade company Glattis was finally born in Glatten. Schmalz registered the term as a brand name. With sales of up to 600,000 razor blades per month, the company was extremely successful for a period of decades.
The rise of the electric razor after the Second World War meant that the company needed to take a whole new direction. During this period, Artur Schmalz, the company founder’s son, took on responsibility for the company. The engineer realized that the farms in the surrounding area were making increasing use of tractors, but didn’t yet have the right trailers for them. As a result, the young managing director – who had already won a technical competition in the field of steering systems while he was still in school – developed the Schmalz-Kipper, which was ideal for driving on steep slopes. He immediately had the support wheel used in this product patented.
In the years that followed, Artur Schmalz expanded the company’s product range to include other innovative transportation equipment for the agricultural and industrial sectors. The company’s success continued with orders from the German federal railway and the postal service. At the same time, the glider plane enthusiast turned his attention towards the transportation requirements of airports. Soon his company was producing special luggage carts, mobile gas stations and cockpit ramps. Over time, Schmalz supplied its vehicles to nearly all the major airports in Germany, and in Paris.
In the early 1960s, the paint drying trolley brought about a new and important focus of the production. These trolleys dried pieces of furniture efficiently and allowed for storage between individual production steps. At the start of the 1970s, Schmalz was selling around 1,000 paint drying trolleys a year and was delivering not only to Africa and North America, but also to Eastern European countries.
In 1984, Dr. Kurt Schmalz, the grandson of the company founder, took over as managing director of the company. In 1990 his brother, Wolfgang Schmalz, also became a managing director. Even while he was in school, Kurt Schmalz was already working on projects and orders for the company, and developing his passion for innovative thinking. He soon realized that it would be necessary to introduce a new range of products.
A carpentry company at a trade show requested a device for holding door panels in place during processing. This request finally caused Dr. Kurt Schmalz to use vacuum technology. He developed a special workbench with vacuum suction cups and a vacuum generator driven by compressed air. When the operator pressed a foot pedal, it would start up the vacuum generator. As soon as a workpiece was applied, the suction would hold it tightly and it could then be rotated or turned.
As business continued to improve, the company opened its first foreign subsidiary in 1998 in the Swiss town of Nürensdorf. 17 others have since followed: in Europe, Asia and North America. Schmalz also has a network of trade partners in 80 other countries. This means that Schmalz is represented in all the most important markets worldwide. In early 2017, Schmalz acquired “GPS Gesellschaft für Produktionssysteme GmbH”. The company develops innovations, strategies, methods and tools for industrial production in the context of digitization.
Over the past few decades, Schmalz has left its mark on the vacuum technology market, and there is still enormous potential for applications where workpieces are moved and lifted by a vacuum. For instance, vacuum components are becoming increasingly intelligent and now provide users with important process data. Schmalz is a trend setter in this area as well: Our vacuum and pressure switch uses NFC (near-field communication) to send information directly to a smartphone or tablet, which is a completely new feature in automation technology. This product landed Schmalz in the “Top 5” for the 2016 Hermes Award, one of the most sought-after industry awards in the world.
Schmalz's knack for always looking over the horizon is demonstrated by our entry into a new area of business: Schmalz is using its extensive expertise in production systems, plastics and handling technology to develop and produce solutions for energy storage systems.
Our company's exciting history is defined by the capacity to adapt, the will to innovate and a passion for our customers—and those same qualities will guide us toward a successful future.