“We look to the past with gratitude and to the future with complete joy”

Founded in 1948, Pilz has con­tin­u­ously trans­formed itself – from a glass-blowing busi­ness to an elec­tronics com­pany, to an automa­tion and digi­ti­sa­tion com­pany. In con­ver­sa­tion with Susanne Kun­schert and Thomas Pilz, Man­aging Part­ners, they give their per­sonal insights into the devel­op­ment of the safe automa­tion com­pany.

Pilz is celebrating 75 years in business. How do you feel about this anniversary?

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On the company’s 75th anniver­sary, Susanne Kun­schert and Thomas Pilz, Man­aging Part­ners of Pilz, extend their thanks not only to employees but also to their sup­pliers and, in par­tic­ular, Pilz’s cus­tomers.

Pilz was founded as a glass-blowing business in 1948, then transformed itself into an automation company, and today is a digitisation company. Can you plan such a development?

Thomas Pilz: It was always a planned, con­scious trans­for­ma­tion – first from glass appa­ratus man­u­fac­turing to relays, then to con­troller man­u­fac­turer – to the dig­ital Safety and Indus­trial Secu­rity experts of today. Change and inno­va­tion are part of our DNA. That’s why we were always able to focus on the chal­lenges and become the com­pany we are today.

Susanne Kun­schert: When our father died unex­pect­edly, our mother con­tinued his entre­pre­neurial legacy. He had written down his vision, his roadmap; that sus­tained the com­pany. Our mother then devel­oped Pilz from an automa­tion com­pany to an automa­tion spe­cialist with Safety as its core com­pe­tency. She has the gift of being able to listen incred­ibly well. To hear the direc­tion cus­tomers want to go in, and pick up on how mate­rials change. She also has an unerring sense of where the future lies. Under her man­age­ment, Pilz has become increas­ingly inter­na­tion­alised.

“We want to work for one another – everyone together for the cus­tomer.”

Renate Pilz

In your opinion, what were the key factors for Pilz’s success?

Thomas Pilz: We addressed the issues seri­ously. Once we have iden­ti­fied what to do, imple­men­ta­tion fol­lows directly at Pilz. For example, we iden­ti­fied early on that the engi­neering require­ments laid down by leg­is­la­tion are very dif­fi­cult to imple­ment using con­ven­tional tech­nology. So we acted and, with the world’s first safety relay PNOZ, pro­vided our cus­tomers with a better tech­nology, because it is easier to handle. Our employees play a key part because they are our fellow entre­pre­neurs. They act on behalf of the cus­tomer. That’s why we stand here now as market leaders for func­tional safety, as an automa­tion com­pany, as a partner for engi­neering and for multi­na­tional con­sumer goods man­u­fac­turers. We have devel­oped that together. Because with many things, we just did it.

Susanne Kun­schert: My brother has put it beau­ti­fully. We have this curiosity that drives us on, and the joy of inno­va­tion, com­bined with our con­stant activity. That has car­ried us for­ward. Our resilience, our togeth­er­ness and the values that con­nect us, our busi­ness cul­ture; all of this has brought us to where we are today. Because we are a coura­geous com­pany, and a pow­erful, strong com­pany.

How do you see your automation company at the moment? How is Pilz doing?

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Susanne Kun­schert, Man­aging Partner of Pilz, sees a healthy and resilient com­pany.

What motivates Pilz at the moment?

Thomas Pilz: Pilz is a mature com­pany, part of society and, as ambas­sador for safety, we see it as our respon­si­bility to be part of the solu­tion for automa­tion tasks glob­ally. We are com­mitted to envi­ron­mental pro­tec­tion, we develop new mate­rials. We are helping to shape digi­ti­sa­tion. I’d like to say, to modify a state­ment from Pro­fessor Baldur Kirchner: “To digi­tise others, you first ought to learn to digi­tise your­self”. I think we have achieved this with myPNOZ, the first mod­ular safety relay in batch size 1, with the cor­re­sponding soft­ware tool myPNOZ Cre­ator.

We can see the cur­rent chal­lenge on the market, that there can be no digi­ti­sa­tion without cyber­se­cu­rity, and no cyber­se­cu­rity without a holistic Indus­trial Secu­rity Man­age­ment System. That’s why the triad of Secu­rity, Automa­tion and Safety are quite clearly enshrined at Pilz. Safety is our strength. This comes into its own in automa­tion. Indus­trial Secu­rity pro­tects Safety. The nec­es­sary legal frame­work is cre­ated by cur­rent laws such as the Cyber Resilience Act and the Data Act; the new Machinery Reg­u­la­tion also makes Secu­rity manda­tory from 2027.

“Safety is our strength. This comes into its own in automa­tion. Indus­trial Secu­rity pro­tects Safety. That’s why the triad of Secu­rity, Automa­tion and Safety are quite clearly enshrined at Pilz.”

Thomas Pilz

How is Pilz reacting to the challenge of Industrial Security?

Thomas Pilz: We are devel­oping a new core com­pe­tency in our con­sulting offer. We address Indus­trial Secu­rity at the machine.

Susanne Kun­schert: We have been working on the issue of Secu­rity for fif­teen years already. Six years ago, we launched our Secu­ri­ty­Bridge indus­trial fire­wall, because even then we were aware that Safety must also be pro­tected. Our devel­op­ment is also secure. We are con­tin­u­ally working on the issues of Automa­tion and Secu­rity, with Safety as the core com­pe­tency. That’s the beauty of it. We’re standing on such a foun­da­tion because we have always started on these issues at the right time.

We have always cared about envi­ron­mental pro­tec­tion too, because my brother and I have always really embraced nature in our heart. We both feel it is our duty to pass on a good world and a healthy planet to future gen­er­a­tions.

“Our Chris­tian values are our roots, our foun­da­tion.”

Susanne Kun­schert
The motto for Pilz’s 75th anniversary is also a good fit for the issue of sustainability: “Values. Create. Future”. Why are values still relevant and important today?

Susanne Kun­schert: Our Chris­tian values are our roots, our foun­da­tion. They are expressed in the togeth­er­ness, inter­ac­tion, trust, reli­a­bility and help­ful­ness at Pilz. I have to say, that’s why you really notice the values within the com­pany. They guide us daily. The resulting team spirit enables us to stand strong as we go through crises.

How will Pilz face the future of safe automation?

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Thomas Pilz, Man­aging Partner of Pilz, is con­vinced: Pilz will con­tinue to exist because the automa­tion com­pany will con­tinue to trans­form itself.

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