Safety and security automation developer Pilz celebrated its 25th anniversary in ANZ, and 75 years since it was founded, with a lively evening event in Melbourne for staff, customers, partners, and friends, and with Thomas Pilz over from Germany.
Rosanne Jessop, managing director of the Australian business, paid tribute to the Pilz business, highlighting the culture and focus of the company. Thomas Pilz, grandson of the founder, and now in charge of the global company, along with his sister Susanne, said, “I would like to thank the wonderful teams in Australia and New Zealand for their dedication and professionalism.”
The celebrations, held at the Melbourne Musuem, saw a cutting of a birthday cake, in the form of a PNOZ Multi safety controller, which included a touching moment when Thomas Pilz called his mother, Renate Pilz, on Facetime in Germany, to join in. She is an integral part of the remarkable Pilz story, she took the company from tragedy to triumph.
Most of the APPMA Board was at the celebration, which also included Jonathon Reichwald, director of manufacturing and industry for the Victoria state government.
The family-owned Pilz business, part of the German Mittelstand movement, and with a reputation for innovation, established a direct ANZ subsidiary in 1998, with three staff in Melbourne. Today, there are 22 people working for the Australian business, and another seven in the New Zealand subsidiary. Pilz is an integral part of the nations’ manufacturing landscape, thanks to its safety and security systems developments.
Mittelstand is the term given for German businesses that are typically family-owned, dedicated to excellence, successful around the world, stable, and have a common ethos and culture of how they conduct themselves, which could best be described as understated and thoughtful.
ANZ became the first Pilz subsidiary in this region, and along with Brazil and Japan, the first outside Europe, when it was established in 1998. Since then, it has moved locations half a dozen times as it has grown. Adam Hallinan, who has been with the company for the past 21 years, and is now national training manager, gave the guests an overview of the Pilz ANZ story, running it alongside the story of the Collingwood football club to give it context, or that’s what he said.
Thomas Pilz then gave a brief overview of the business, which rose out of post-war Germany in 1948, established by his grandfather Hermann as a glass blowing enterprise. By the 1960s, it had moved into electronics, and invented the world’s first transistor-based relays, becoming a control company, and seeing major success around the world.
Pilz received a significant boost in 1986 when the European Union made safety on machines mandatory. Two years later, Pilz launched the PNOZ, the world’s first safety relay.
Tragedy struck in 1975, when Hermann’s son Peter, who was now running the business, was killed in a plane crash in East Germany. His wife, Renate, at that stage a housewife with two young children, Susanne and Thomas aged eight and five, refused to sell the company, and with no engineering background took the helm, and went on to lead it to great success, expanding the business around the world, and taking it from 200 staff to 2000.
She only stepped down six years ago, with Susanne and Thomas taking over, and she was then awarded the Federal Order of Merit, the only federal decoration of Germany, and only awarded for special achievements in political, economic, cultural, intellectual or honourary fields.
The presentations on the night then finalised with a large cheque presented on behalf of Pilz, to Alf and Nadia Taylor’s tna Foundation, and specifically to THOR (The Hands of Rescue) birthing centre the foundation has built in Papua New Guinea.
Nadia Taylor wanted to give a gift to Pilz on its anniversary that was meaningful, so she decided to dedicate the home that the Foundation is building for THOR in PNG as a gift from Pilz, with a plaque that will be put up outside the home to indicate it is now called Pilz Home.
Guests at the anniversary celebration then mingled and danced the night away.