Pilz through the ages

Pilz’s com­pany his­tory is char­ac­terised by inspi­ra­tional events and tech­no­log­ical mile­stones. A journey from 1948 to the present day.

© Westend61/[Westend61] via Getty Images, © Pilz GmbH & Co. KG, Ost­fildern

© mihailomilo­vanovic via Getty Images, © Pilz GmbH & Co. KG, Ost­fildern

Company’s foundation:
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.

On Pilz’s 75th anniversary, we asked our staff, customers and key partners: What does Pilz mean to you? Here are their responses.

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