Milestone Process Automation
Milestones in Process Automation From a Small Company to a Global Player in Process Automation
While the early days of Endress+Hauser were all about delivering reliable and accurate measured values, today the family company is driving digitalization and Industry 4.0 projects at high speed — always with a focus on the customer.
It is well known that opposites attract. And sometimes this can result in something really special. This is exactly what happened at the start of the 1950s in the Markgräflerland region in the southwest of Germany. In 1953, the young Swiss engineer Georg H. Endress and Ludwig Hauser, the experienced director of a Lörrach cooperative bank, laid the foundations for what is now the globally active full-service provider for measurement and automation technology. Endress had brought along innovative electronic level measuring instruments from UK company Fielden in Manchester. From a modern point of view, these were technical behemoths with electron tubes, a large steel housing and two meters of high-frequency cable, but at the time the equipment was cutting edge and represented the global state of the art. The young company was soon no longer content to merely distribute the Fielden units in Germany. Instead, Endress started to develop his own measuring devices: level testers (“Nivotester”) and silometers were launched — manufactured in an old carpenter’s workshop.
Soon after, the young company had grown to 78 employees and needed to relocate. At the new location in Maulburg, they added further methods for level measurement to the established capacitive measurement techniques: ultrasound, radiometry, conductivity and electromechanics. The new equipment had little in common with the devices from the early period. Transistors, first made of germanium and later silicon, replaced the bulky tubes. Another milestone was the separation of the electronics in the measuring probe from the signal processing in the transducer. This technical coup was enabled by the introduction of longer transmission cables and was implemented in 1964 for the first time in the Nivotester NC 70.
Just four years later, there was already great demand for Endress+Hauser units in the market, and the steady rise from a small craft business to an industrial enterprise began. This led to major changes in terms of the company’s structures, management and employee management. At the start of the 1970s, annual business targets were formulated, and codetermination within the company and IT systems were introduced. In terms of human resource policy, there was a stronger focus on employee self-initiative. Much of what was set out in the management guidelines from this era can still be found today in the guidelines and values catalog of the company.
The subsequent years were shaped by strong investments. Endress+Hauser founded other companies and made a number of acquisitions. The areas of business were expanded — an important cornerstone for the subsequent evolution of the company into a full-service provider of measurement and automation technology solutions, i.e. into what makes the “People for Process Automation” what they are today.
In the 1980s, the company unveiled an incredibly wide range of new products and product innovations. Humidity sensors, the magnetic-inductive flowmeter Autozero 2000 and the revolutionary fill level limit switch Liquiphant were real benchmarks that made the market sit up and take notice.
Microelectronics Open Up New Opportunities
The introduction of microelectronics opened up the possibility of brand new functions, e.g. continuous self-monitoring of the entire measuring system. Josef Kathmann, longstanding Head of Sales at the Endress+Hauser Technical Office in Hanover, is convinced that “these developments laid the ground work for our current broad portfolio, which enables us to operate as a full-service provider.”
No doubt, Endress+Hauser was often ahead of its time with many of its developments — to the point where the technology was sometimes received with a degree of skepticism. “When we launched the Liquiphant, a competitor told the dairy company that this limit switch would turn the milk into cream,” Kathmann still chuckles. However, the example also clearly shows how important the understanding of technology is and how important it is to have a good relationship with the customer. Sales expert Kathmann had his own ideas about how to explain the operating principle of the Liquiphant. In order to prove that it would reliably detect the boundary between foam and liquid, he was fond of inviting customers for a beer, at which point he would then give a “live” demonstration to show how well the measuring instrument worked in a beer glass.
At the same time, the first magnetic-inductive flowmeter (MID) with microprocessor technology was launched onto the market, followed soon after by the M-Point, the first straight-tube mass flowmeter, which was also capable of detecting gas trapped in liquids. “This device was completely new, and there was nothing comparable on the market yet. But experiences gained by our customers helped to shape its development. Products and users still benefit from this close coordination today,” emphasizes Kathmann.