Pilz’s company history is characterised by inspirational events and technological milestones. A journey from 1948 to the present day.
Pilz, the glass-blowing business
In 1948, in the difficult economic period after the Second World War, Hermann Pilz founded a glass-blowing business in Esslingen, in southwestern Germany. This laid the foundation for our family-owned company, whose current mission statement is “Safety for human, machine and the environment”.
Postwar period at Pilz: From glass to electronics manufacturer
In the postwar period, Pilz first produced glass apparatus for medical technology as well as mercury relays that formed the basis for future industrial relays. At this decisive point in the company history, it was the pioneering spirit of Peter Pilz, the son of Hermann Pilz, that drove the transformation from glass apparatus manufacturing to electronics in the 1960s. At the end of the 60s, Peter Pilz took over his father’s company and initiated not only the technological transformation but also the internationalisation that characterises Pilz to this day. He founded the first subsidiaries in the 70s – in Austria, France and Switzerland.
The first PLC control systems from Pilz
Peter Pilz was a visionary: he recognised the opportunities that electronics and miniaturisation could offer in this field – particularly for industry. In addition to electronic control and monitoring devices, at the same time Pilz also developed programmable logic controllers (PLC) – a product range that contributed significantly to the company’s success. In the early 70s, Pilz was one of the first companies in Europe to introduce PLC systems to the market.
Synonym for machinery safety: PNOZ
In 1987, Pilz introduced the PNOZ: the first safety relay to ensure that machines stop reliably in the case of danger is now at home all over the world. Smaller than a conventional circuit, easier to operate, and above all safer thanks to a certified type examination – just the right thing in an era when machinery safety was becoming increasingly important, also with regard to the legal situation, but at the same time, implementation was to be as uncomplicated as possible for the plant operators. Initially, machinery safety was achieved with the PNOZ – which is why the name PNOZ is generally synonymous with safety relays to this day. As the first to offer this on the world market, Pilz has been able to defend its position as world market leader to this day.
Following a tragic accident: Renate Pilz takes over
Peter Pilz did not live to see this breakthrough. In 1975 he died in a plane crash. However, his wife Renate committed herself to continuing his life’s work, even though at this point she had not had much to do with the company and its products, as a housewife and mother of two small children. Renate Pilz never even considered selling. Instead she familiarised herself with technology and economics. Initially she took the role of Chair of the Advisory Board, then became Managing Director in 1995. Renate Pilz strengthened the company’s global presence. Pilz is active all over the world, helping to create safer work conditions. For example, in 2004 it became the first foreign company to become a member of China’s most important standards committee in the field of machinery safety.
The world’s first freely programmable safe control system PSS 3000
In 1995 the world’s first freely programmable safe control system PSS 3000 came onto the market. Once again, Pilz was making industrial history. At this point it was finally possible to use electronic controllers in safety technology. Up until then this was strictly prohibited. The legal requirements only changed following tough negotiations with federal ministries in Germany and European committees.
Automation system PSS 4000 – Digital safety and automation
Pilz had already anticipated digitisation and the trend toward software before the fourth industrial revolution dominated the headlines under the name “Industrie 4.0”. In 1998 Pilz founded its own software development department in Cork in Ireland and in 2009 introduced PSS 4000 to the market, an automation system with which even distributed plants can be controlled centrally – Safety and Automation included.
No Safety without Industrial Security
With digitisation and networking, Security is taking on an increasingly important role in automation. Pilz offers not only Safety, meaning the protection of people, but since 2018 also products and services for Industrial Security at the machine. The focus is on the availability of plant and machinery and the integrity and confidentiality of machine data and processes.
myPNOZ: World’s first modular safety relay in batch size 1
The introduction of pioneering products for safe automation was the focus during the early years – and remains so to this day. For example when Pilz introduced myPNOZ in 2021, the world’s first modular safety relay in batch size 1. With the intuitive online tool myPNOZ Creator, users can assemble “their” myPNOZ: it’s delivered pre-assembled, set up and tested and so is a completely individualised system, ready to install.
Pilz – Third generation family business
Since the end of 2017, the children of Peter and Renate Pilz, Susanne Kunschert and Thomas Pilz, have jointly managed the company as the third generation of managing partners. They and their predecessors have at least one thing in common: the joy in innovation.
Susanne Kunschert and Thomas Pilz continue to follow the philosophy of their parents, based on Pilz’s company values. “Values. Create. Future.” A slogan that is both a statement and a commitment: Pilz will remain as it is, and always has been – an independent and innovative company under family ownership.
Pilz is currently represented globally with 42 subsidiaries and four production facilities around the world.
In 2022 the automation expert generated turnover of € 403 million with around 2,500 “Ambassadors for Safety” worldwide.