A tradition of movement
When a banker from Baden founded Süddeutsche Elektromotorenwerke (SEW) in 1931, no one dreamed it would one day be among the world's most innovative drive technology companies. We would like to invite you to join us on a journey through our history.
SEW – full of drive from day one
On June 13, 1931, banker Christian Pähr founded Süddeutsche Elektromotorenwerke – SEW – in Bruchsal, a city in south-west Germany. The start-up's product portfolio consisted of a variety of electric motors and gearmotors, Millicut electric bandsaws, Simplitt planers, Circuit electric circular saws and Poliglitt grinding motors.
Unfortunately, Pähr was unable to witness his company's major successes. Only four years after founding SEW, he died at the age of 70. His widow Kunigunde Pähr took over the company with the support of their daughter Edeltraut.
Start-up in black and white – SEW's founding employees
SEW building on the way to success
Motor production at SEW, circa 1940
Great opportunity for a great strategist
Although the bombs rained down on Bruchsal on March 1, 1945, most of the SEW building remained miraculously intact.
The end of the war ushered in the era of the fledgling company's most formative personality – Ernst Blickle . In August 1945, the farmer's son born in the Swabian Alps took over the company's reins from his mother-in-law, Kunigunde Pähr.
The former officer had had little to do with his in-laws' company prior to this, but he rapidly acquired engineering expertise and started masterminding SEW's progress with a visionary, entrepreneurial spirit.
The SEW building narrowly survived the destruction unscathed
Entrepreneurial spirit among the ruins
In spring 1948, most of Germany was still in ruins. Ernst Blickle, who had taken over the management of SEW only three years earlier, was thinking about more than reconstruction, though. The young entrepreneur wanted to expand. The factory halls in Bruchsal no longer had sufficient capacity to meet the growing demand for gearmotors, so he laid the foundation for a 10 000 square meter manufacturing facility in Graben, ten kilometers away.
During a subsequent plant expansion, he also added social rooms for his employees and training workshops.
No idling time for drive technology
Impressive bird's-eye view of the new plant
Initial foray abroad
In 1960, there were around 600 employees working in the SEW offices and production halls in Graben and Bruchsal. In the space of a decade, between 1950 and 1960, SEW's revenues jumped from 1.4 million to around 20 million German marks.
Alongside the sales system in Germany, which was divided into North, South and Central regions, SEW's first foreign subsidiary also made a contribution to this meteoric rise. SEW‑USOCOME opened in Haguenau, Alsace, in 1960.
SEW's modular gearmotor system
In the 1960s, a new entrepreneurial attitude from America centered on marketing made inroads into continental Europe. This management theory's doctrine was that the entire company must be consistently geared to the needs of the market – an approach that Ernst Blickle was already practicing at SEW. The market needed drives that met the specific requirements of a variety of industrial sectors and production processes. Producing customized gear unit-motor combinations of this kind had previously only been possible at an extremely high cost.
The solution was modularity – a modular system of gear units and motors that could be combined flexibly and cost-effectively.
This modular system was also perfect for industrial series production at low unit costs. Production needed to be as centralized as possible, in a small number of high-output plants.
View of the SEW motor warehouse, circa 1965
A vacation spawns growth
The modular concept was a brilliant idea. The company now just needed to convince the world of its merits.
It wasn't in New York, Rio or Tokyo that this process started, though, but in Jönköping, Sweden, where an assembly plant opened in 1968. Rainer and Jürgen Blickle can still remember the camping vacation and the very moment when their father Ernst said he would create a new SEW location "here, exactly on this spot."
That same year, the company's great strides in Europe continued as it expanded into Italy. Two small offices in Milan and Bologna marked the start of the SEW era in "bella Italia."
In 1969, SEW found itself following in the footsteps of Scotland Yard – not by solving crimes, but by finding a solution for all issues relating to drive technology in the offices of a former police station in Normanton, England.
Welcome, bienvenue and benvenuto SEW‑EURODRIVE
The official SEW agency in Limbiate, near Milan, ran out of space. The offices and assembly hall had to be expanded by 150 percent to keep up with increasing demand.
When the European subsidiaries' many successes and continuous growth led Ernst Blickle to make a clear statement that cast off the company's reputation as a medium-sized regional company in 1971, SEW‑EURODRIVE was born.
The year the name was born
By 1971, the company had already made a name for itself with its operations outside Germany. This called for a future-proof name incorporating "Euro" for Europe and "drive" for its core product, so Süddeutsche Elektromotorenwerke became SEW‑EURODRIVE .
Things that belong together grow together
In 1973, the regional press reported: "The negotiations were a success."
SEW‑EURODRIVE took over Obermoser AG, its major competitor in the post-war years. Specializing in gearmotors, direct drives, low-noise refrigerator motors and helical-worm gear units, the company was also based in Bruchsal, in the same neighborhood as SEW. A second Obermoser plant in Miesbach, a town in Bavaria, produced electric motors. Even before the oil crisis and the subsequent recession of 1973/74, the company was struggling. The takeover saw SEW streamline Obermoser's production program and split it between the three SEW locations in Haguenau, Graben and Bruchsal.
Healthy growth, even in difficult times
The takeover of Obermoser AG strengthened SEW‑EURODRIVE's position in the increasingly global competitive environment.
A global pioneer
The company continued its international expansion, starting its operations on the American continent in the southern hemisphere in 1975. SEW DO BRASIL Motores-Redutores LTDA opened in Guarulhos, in the industrial center of Sao Paolo. Following his move to Brazil in 1977, Rainer Blickle expanded the plant further and took over its management a short time later.
SEW DO BRASIL opens its doors
The site was originally purchased in 1975, the plant was built between 1975 and 1977, and production at SEW DO BRASIL in Guarulhos started in 1978. Exciting times lay ahead in South America.
The sons as founding fathers
Six years after starting up its plant in Brazil, SEW‑EURODRIVE crossed the border into the United States, signing the articles of incorporation of its new American subsidiary SEW‑EURODRIVE INC. in Lyman, South Carolina, in 1983.
End of an era, but the success story continues
Ernst Blickle spent over four decades turning a medium-sized family-run operation from Bruchsal into a global player – SEW‑EURODRIVE.
His death in July 1986 also marked the end of an era of German entrepreneurship, dominated by post-war visionaries who took control of the German economy to lead the country out of the ruins.
The legacy of a success story
The death of the great company patriarch left a gap that needed to be filled. In 1987, Rainer and Jürgen Blickle took over as Managing Partners of the SEW‑EURODRIVE Group. Prior to that, Rainer had run SEW DO BRASIL for ten years, while his brother Jürgen had worked for the company in Canada.
From following in their father's footsteps to blazing a new trail
It was a case of like father, like son – or, in this instance, sons. Both Rainer and Jürgen Blickle drove the company's further development and steady growth with new ideas and foresight.
Examples include acquiring a majority holding in Pfeffer & Partner Getriebebau GmbH in 1990 and founding the SEW‑USOCOME subsidiary SEW‑EUROCOME S.A. in Forbach, eastern France, in 1992.
Drive to innovate – innovate with new drives
The evolution with steel gearing in the SPIROPLAN ® right-angle gearmotor series provided further proof of SEW‑EURODRIVE's drive to innovate in 1994. The sturdy gearmotors' steel-steel gearing and special tooth meshing ratio attracted a great deal of attention and met with an enthusiastic response following their market launch.
SEW‑EURODRIVE in China
In 1994, SEW‑EURODRIVE also conquered another continent. The newly founded subsidiary SEW‑EURODRIVE Co, Ltd. made the port city of Tianjin the hub for all the company's activities in China. When SEW‑EURODRIVE acquired a holding in Santasalo Ltd. to reinforce its expansion in northern Europe, the Finnish capital, Helsinki, was also added to its map of the world.
Pioneering the future of drive engineering
The market launch of the pioneering 7 gear unit series met with the same positive response as the SPIROPLAN ® right-angle gearmotor series launched the previous year.
Award-winning electronics production plant
The group was also restructured in 1995, creating holding and management companies in Rotterdam and an affiliated public limited company in Bruchsal.
The company's growth continued and peaked in 1999, when a new production plant for electronic components was built and started up in Bruchsal. Just one year later, this plant took pride of place on the victory podium when it won the title of "Best Factory of the Year 2000."
New service center in Brazil
SEW‑EURODRIVE is known for both its products and its excellent service. The service center in Brazil needed to expand to meet growing demand and ensure rapid service provision.
The new millennium began as successfully for SEW‑EURODRIVE as the old one had ended. In 2003, the company's revenues topped the one-billion-euro mark for the first time. That same year, the Ernst Blickle Innovation Center – EBIC for short – opened its doors in Bruchsal. The futuristic glass building, and the laboratories for tests and experiments located right next door, have served as the global control center for all of SEW‑EURODRIVE's research and development work ever since. An homage to Ernst Blickle's pioneering company leadership, the building is large enough to accommodate 400 workstations.
The next construction phase ended in 2004 with the opening of the Service Competence Center Mitte in Graben-Neudorf. To coincide with this, SEW‑EURODRIVE also launched its Complete Drive Service – CDS ® for short. This excellent modular service system enables the company's service operations to be tailored to the specific needs of its customers.
75 years and still full of drive
A party fit for a king is a must to celebrate a 75th anniversary, so on May 20, 2006, everyone raised their glasses to SEW in the courtyard of Bruchsal Palace. At this milestone in its history, the company had 11 production plants and 58 assembly plants, together with sales offices and representatives in 44 countries.
Wonderful memories and wonderful prospects
While some people were still indulging in nostalgia, SEW‑EURODRIVE already had both feet in the future – at the DriveAcademy ® , the company's central training facility for customers, employees and the next generation of qualified specialists. The DriveAcademy ® training rooms at the Bruchsal, Garbsen, Meerane and Langenfeld sites have always been well-attended training and continuing education facilities.
The basis of a new industrial gear unit series
In 2008, the groundbreaking ceremony took place for the trendsetting new industrial production facility in Bruchsal, which was designed specifically to manufacture the P planetary gear unit series and the newly developed X industrial gear unit series. The X series helical and bevel-helical gear units added a whole new level to the SEW‑EURODRIVE portfolio, serving the global need for large and sturdy high-torque gear units for parts and bulk handling technology and large process machines.
Big gear units with a big future
In the run-up to the opening of the plant for large gear units in Bruchsal, a construction site that was the largest in the state of Baden-Württemberg for a time was transformed into an impressive production landscape in less than two years.
SEW‑EURODRIVE owner and Managing Partner Rainer Blickle opened the new plant together with minister president Stefan Mappus. This marked the start of the production line for large industrial gear units for use in ports, mining and cement mills.
The 100-million-euro project covers a built-over area of 60 000 square meters and also sets standards for sustainability, with the photovoltaic plant installed on the roof generating around 145 000 kilowatt-hours of electricity.
SEW DO BRASIL makes a new start
When the plant in Guarulhos became too small and it was impossible to expand at the existing location, initial production operations started at a new plant in Indaiatuba.
80 years of SEW‑EURODRIVE
A birthday with a zero at the end is always something special, but SEW‑EURODRIVE doesn't feel like it's been around for 80 years. The company is putting a great deal of passion into new goals and keeping the industry moving with its ideas.
An eye on the future
On May 1, 2012, the former International University (IU) campus in Bruchsal became a research campus for electric mobility.
SEW‑EURODRIVE joined forces with Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences, one of Baden-Württemberg's top research universities for applied sciences, to establish a research and work campus.
The aim was to create a close link between research and application, and to gain an innovative edge in a rapidly developing sector of the future by combining existing areas of expertise.
This involved SEW‑EURODRIVE setting up part of the development department in the converted buildings of the former army barracks, while the university developed plans to establish the Institute of Energy Efficient Mobility .
The campus offers both partners the ideal conditions for close cooperation, a fact also reflected in their shared use of laboratories and workshops.
Global data center completed
The global data center marks the start of a new era. The new building on the Schafswiese site in Bruchsal signals a further significant improvement in the availability of the company's international IT services.
A plant relocates
The Indaiatuba plant in Brazil went into full operation in 2014. It relocated from the old site in Guarulhos while production continued, without any negative impact on delivery capacity. The Indaiatuba site also offers space for future growth. At present, the plant takes up 100 000 square meters of the 300 000 square meter plot.
The production facility's architecture boasts installations that are in line with the latest sustainability concepts. The halls were designed to enable more efficient use of key resources such as water and energy. This includes the generation of solar energy. In addition to reducing environmental pollution, the project thus also provides employees with a safer, more comfortable working environment. The building layout has created larger, well-ventilated rooms with natural light.
SEW‑EURODRIVE DO BRASIL has 2 assembly plants in Rio Claro and Joinville, 16 regional sales offices, 16 service centers, a national service network and 1500 employees.
New parking options
A new parking garage for visitors, employees and the company's fleet of vehicles was built as part of the general building plan for Bruchsal.
The former staff car park had to move to make way for the new electronics production facility. This meant building a new six-story parking garage at the intersection of Ernst-Blickle-Strasse and Fritz-Erler-Strasse.
New assembly plant in France
The company is readying itself for further growth and shorter delivery times on the French and European markets by building and opening a new assembly plant. The official inauguration of the new Brumath plant marked another milestone for SEW‑EURODRIVE in France.
The company is continuing to set new standards with a third production and assembly location alongside Haguenau and Forbach. The latest plant's built-over area amounts to 32 200 square meters. Full production started in fall 2015 and some 500 jobs are based there.
The Brumath plant has the potential to optimize processes and speed up delivery for SEW‑EURODRIVE customers in France, as it offers excellent prospects for expansion, including for the main site nearby in Haguenau. It also signals a clear commitment to this location, region and market.
Staff were fully involved in the intensive design process for the new factory, which was planned and constructed based on Industry 4.0 principles. The production process, from order to delivery, does not just exist in the conventional sense. All elements and parts of the process are digitally connected and networked. "We have reworked the entire process. The aim is to cut delivery times so that we can be the best on the market, offer the best to our customers and optimize our processes through a completely revised organizational structure," says Jean-Claude Reverdell, Managing Director of SEW France.
Family and career in harmony
SEW‑EURODRIVE's Morgentau daycare center opened on September 1, 2015. As a company daycare center, it is located in the immediate vicinity of the works site in Bruchsal. The center has space for up to 100 children.
Offering both full-day and extended-hours arrangements, it remains open for up to 11 hours per day and is only closed a few days each year, which provides excellent conditions for achieving a good balance between family and career. Teaching is based on a state-of-the-art early-years schooling concept specially developed by educational science, early-years education and teaching methodology experts.
85 years of SEW‑EURODRIVE
Despite turning 85 this year, the company is still just as enthusiastic as ever about drive and automation technology, and its customers' exciting and varied challenges. We would like to say thank you for your loyalty and we look forward to working with you over the next 85 years!
The beginning of something big
The MOVIDRIVE ® modular application inverter is the first stage of a product innovation that forms part of the MOVI‑C ® modular automation system. Its launch marks a new generation of SEW‑EURODRIVE technology.
The new MOVI‑C ® modular automation system covers the entire field of drive electronics – from control technology, software and inverter technology all the way through to motor technology.
Bring on the future!
New electronics production facility completed
In addition to expanding production capacity, the completion of the company's new electronics production facility in Bruchsal also combines the previously separate parts production operations in a new building. It goes without saying that processes here are optimized based on lean principles and Industry 4.0.
Groundbreaking ceremony for the new fire station in Bruchsal
As part of the Bruchsal site's expansion, the Bruchsal fire department and thus the city are getting a new fire station. Bruchsal has been given free use of the building for 30 years. The new fire station's ideal location means the fire department can quickly reach emergencies in the city, on the freeway and in surrounding communities. It also provides excellent coverage of the company's facilities should the need arise.
New precision gear unit plant in Bruchsal
Following the decision to manufacture a new range of servo planetary gear units, SEW‑EURODRIVE is also building a new plant for precision gear units on company premises in Bruchsal.
Start-up of Graben-Neudorf's South Hall
December saw the start-up of the new motor production operation in the new South Hall at the Graben-Neudorf production site.
Forbach site in France expands
The French plant in Forbach is expanding by around 11 500 square meters, which confirms its position as the SEW Group's aluminum foundry. This expansion represents an investment of some 30 million euros in the period to 2020.
This year we celebrate our 90th birthday. Even though we have now reached a proud age in human years, our world is always moving on. New transmissions, new solutions, new assistance systems, new plants and expansions.
We look forward to the next 90 years!