A biography of Alois Kober, the company founder
|1908||Alois Kober is born in Edenhausen near Krumbach in June, 1908. At the age of 13, he joins his parents’ company and learns the locksmith’s trade from his father.|
|1931||In November 1931, aged 23, he becomes self-employed and buys a locksmith’s shop in Koetz. A year later, he receives his master craftsman’s diploma and enlarges his locksmith’s shop into an engineering shop.|
|1939||After he and his journeymen have been called up at the beginning of World War II, the company temporarily comes to a standstill.|
|1945||Mr Kober starts again with what has been left. From this time on, he dedicates his company to vehicle technology and mechanical engineering.
Thanks to his great entrepreneurial initiative and unflagging diligence, the company soon prospers. He is supported by his wife, Hedwig, and later on, by his three sons, who all learn the locksmith’s trade from him. With the assistance of his three sons, Herbert, Kurt and Wilhelm, he turns the business into an internationally active group of companies.
With a lot of talent and unremitting dedication he develops the company into one of worldwide reputation.
In recognition of his merits, Mr Kober is granted the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (”Bundesverdienstkreuz”) and also the major decoration of the Austrian State of Steiermark.
He is made freeman of both Koetz and Obdach/Steiermark.
Up until his death, he takes a lively interest in the company business.
|1980||Mr Kober is awarded the honorary master craftsman’s diploma in recognition of his outstanding services to Swabian handicraft.|
|1996||In February 1996, he dies at the age of 87 after an acute illness.|
Company history decade by decade
|1931||As a 23-year old locksmith Alois Kober becomes self-employed and establishes his company in a street called “Kurze Gasse” in Grosskoetz. He starts under the most modest of conditions and does the jobs which typically fall to a locksmith in a farming community and rural surroundings.|
|1936||Soon, the work of a locksmith’s shop becomes too limited for his entrepreneurial energy, and thus he expands his workshop to include vehicle construction and mechanical engineering.|
|1937||The small locksmith’s shop has already turned into a medium-sized industrial company.
In early 1940, Alois Kober’s locksmith’s shop, a company primarily engaged in locksmith’s work, the repair of agricultural machinery and the handicrafting of small vehicles, is one of many handicraft companies in Swabia employing a number of apprentices and journeymen.
The production workshops are those in which the company was established in 1931.
By the outbreak of war, Kober employs 10 employees.
He and his journeymen are called up and the company comes to a temporary standstill.
World War II and its consequences prove to be a trial, which, however, is successfully overcome
|1945||New start after the end of the war.
Orders from local blacksmiths are not sufficient for Alois Kober; he broadens his local clientele by offering special products and services, such as a farm vehicle with rubber tyres.
The craftsman’s business, which initially worked to order, now turns into a supraregional provider. A sales organisation thus becomes necessary. The number of incoming orders calls for efficient manufacturing and finally, extended and then new production facilities. Problem-solving innovations follow, such as a brake system for trailers, which can be operated from the tractor.
|1947||Under his father’s instruction, Mr Kober’s son Herbert starts his apprenticeship to become a locksmith and mechanic; he is the company’s sixth employee.|
|1950||Under his father’s instruction, Mr Kober’s son Kurt Kober starts his apprenticeship to become a locksmith and mechanic.|
In 1952, with the development and manufacture of hand-brake levers mainly for agricultural trailers, the company Kober experiences the beginning of a major upswing.
|1952|| Commencement of hand-brake lever manufacturing, marking the start of series production of vehicle parts.
Even if this sounds extremely strange, it is a bad car accident, in which Alois Kober and his eldest son Herbert are involved, that marks the beginning of AL-KO brake design and development.
The months of recuperation give Alois and Herbert Kober plenty of time to think about all sorts of things. Hence the idea arises to design an automatic overrun brake for farm vehicles which responds to the slightest pressure and thus prevents the trailer first having to ram the towing vehicle in the dreaded manner from behind. Only just recovered, Alois Kober sets out to realise his ideas and soon the first brake tests (using an old jeep) are carried out. Continuous refinement in design produces an automatic overrun brake which is superior to comparable products in many ways.
Soon, large companies operating in the relevant sectors start to show an interest in AL-KO products. Kober becomes their supplier since he is quick to develop efficient production methods, and is thus able to keep pace with his competitors as far as prices are concerned.
|1952||Manufacture of the first tested automatic overrun brake in Germany (test mark M1).|
|1952||First series production of hand-brake levers for agricultural trailers.|
|1953||Under his father’s instruction, Mr. Kober’s son Willy starts his apprenticeship to become a mechanic.|
|1953||AL-KO already employs 30 persons.|
|1955||In 1955 Kober is granted the first patent for a continuously variable hand-brake lever.|
|1954||The products catch on quickly, so that in 1954 when an extension of the old company premises becomes impossible, the construction of new business premises is started at a new site in “Ichenhauser Strasse” (seat of company headquarters still today).
The company continues to grow year by year; incoming orders make it necessary to recruit more and more employees. The factory has to be extended almost every year.
The manufacturing programme is broadened too, not least because many clients continually approach the company with new requests, all of which are fulfilled in some way or other.
|1954||This results in the development and manufacture of:
automatic brakes for farm vehicles and trailers,
automatic overrun brakes for passenger-car trailers,
automatic overrun brakes for travelling machines,
brake cable connections for all types of vehicle,
draw bars for farm vehicles and lorry trailers,
drawbar jack castor wheels,
and more than a hundred different types of hand-brake levers.
Apart from these key products, manufacture of steel wheel chocks for farm vehicles and lorries and for various types of wheel barrow.
The continuously variable hand-brake lever is awarded a gold medal.
|1954||The company’s success is the result of unflagging diligence and great entrepreneurial initiative.
In 1958, senior partner Alois Kober appoints his son Herbert commercial director.
Kurt Kober is appointed technical director.
Willy Kober is involved in operation and process planning.
The senior partner’s wife, Hedwig Kober, helps out in the office and assists her husband in every possible way.
|1954||The company has approximately 40 employees.|
|1958||The company already has 150 employees.|
|1958||Establishment of the first subsidiary, SCHWABENGER?TE GMBH, GROSSKOETZ, as sales and marketing organization for Germany; this subsidiary has to sell and market all products except those of the vehicle sector.|
|1958||A newspaper report is published in the “Guenzburger Zeitung” of October 15, 1958. Among other things, a factory tour is described.|
|1959||Re-organisation of the sole proprietorship into a KG (= limited commercial partnership).|
|1961||The company ALOIS KOBER KG, AUSTRIA is established in Zell/Tyrol, so as to serve the EFTA market better.|
|1961||30-year anniversary of AL-KO.
|1961||The DIY saw is included in the programme.|
|1963||Production of the first concrete mixers in Zell.
|1963||Production of the 100,000th hand-brake lever.
|1963||The company ALOIS KOBER S.A.S. is set up in Verona in order to obtain a better footing on the Italian market.|
|1964||A sales office is opened in Vienna.|
|1965||The AL-KO machine factory is established in Obdach to manufacture concrete mixers and supply the EFTA market.|
|1965|| The plant in Zell soon becomes too small, so that a further plant has to be set up in Obdach, in the Austrian state of Steiermark, as a branch of the Zell am Ziller business location.
Concrete mixers, cellar windows and snow shovels are manufactured there.
|1966||In 1966, the first lawn mowers are manufactured. The go-ahead for the manufacturing of gardening products is given in Kleinkoetz.|
|1966||The Klagenfurt sales office is opened.|
|1967||The company moves into a new office building in Grosskoetz.
The Kober company now employs more than 600 people.
|1967||The company starts the production of ‘builders’ winches, snow bobs (NORDSTAR I) and rotary snow ploughs in Obdach.|
|1967||Design and manufacturing of a hexagon rubber axle.
|1968||Chassis for caravans.
|1968||The Obdach plant manufactures the garden chimney “Serenade” and the new mixer ZB 100 L.
In June 1970, the company celebrates production of the 75000th concrete mixer.
|1968||First stage of construction of the Kleinkoetz plant.|
|1969||Takeover of two marketing and sales companies in England.|
Photo: Mr Kober honours an employee celebrating a round anniversary.
In the late 60s, development of a ball coupling for single-handed operation.
|1968||— one of the first lawn mowers.|
|1970||17th August, 1970: go-ahead for the trainee workshop in Koetz.|
|1970||More companies founded in England, France, Switzerland and Italy.
|1974||1973/74 AL-KO “Rückmatic” designed and launched on the market.|
|1974||1,200 employees/ turnover DM 125 million.|
|1975||Investment in the “Ventilation Technology” sector.
Takeover of the Fritz Haugg GmbH, founded in 1961, “polar air heater plant” based in Jettingen Scheppach;
AL-KO Polar GmbH, now called AL-KO THERM GmbH.
|1976||Warm-water and air-heating equipment and process-engineering components added to the programme.|
|1977||Start of activities in the alternative energy sector, with heat pumps and solar collectors.|
|1977||10th February, 1977: takeover of the ORION Werke AG Spreitenbach, Switzerland; and establishment of ORION AL-KO AG|
|1977||Large inspection and test facility including a roller dynamometer to simulate kilometres driven; practice-oriented stress tests can now be conducted within a very short time.|
|1977||1976/77 = introduction of the delta semi-trailing link axle.|
|1978||Investment in the Ventilation Technology sector; equipment and components for ventilation and air conditioning in buildings.|
|1979||Foundation of the Alois Kober GmbH, a machine factory in Koetz, to manufacture vehicle components.|
|1979||The company”Schobel-Klimatechnik” is taken over to round off the ventilation and air-conditioning equipment programme.
In 1979, development of the AL-KO amc chassis a system lightweight chassis. Development and construction of chassis made from components of the Peugeot J9 for camping and vending vans.
60s/70s foundation of further subsidiaries in Germany, Austria (1961), Italy(1963), Switzerland(1970), England (1970), France(1970), Spain(1988), Belgium(1979), Netherlands(1980), Norway(1983), Sweden(1982)
|1983||Design of the AL-KO geometric four-link drawbar.|
|1983||Production of the first garden shredder.|
|1983||Establishment of AL-KO CONSULTING-ENGINEERING GMBH for in-house services and management services within the AL-KO Group.|
|1985||Market launch of today’s amc chassis based on Fiat Ducato, Peugeot Boxer and Citroen Jumper.|
|1987||1st January 1987, re-organisation of ALOIS KOBER KG into a shareholding company,
the AL-KO KOBER AG, with Herbert, Kurt and Willy Kober as members of the Board of Management.
Board of Management:
Further decorations for Herbert Kober: large silver decoration of the Republic of Austria, state medal for outstanding services to the Bavarian economy, freeman of Obdach. In this way, tribute is paid to Herbert Kober’s personal commitment in the economic and cultural sectors, and also his largely unknown commitment in the social sector.
|1988||Foundation of AL-KO ENTSORGUNGSGER?TE- UND SYSTEME GMBH
(today “Suction and Extraction Technology” division).
|1989||Innovation prize for compact extraction apparatus.|
|1988||Optimisation of equipment and components by means of the plant-owned, T?V-calibrated test rig.|
|1988||Development and introduction of AKS 2000.|
|1989||Development of directional control programme.|
|1989||Establishment of AL-KO THERM WITTENBERG GMBH for the prefabrication of components used in ventilation appliances.
In the 80s/90s, establishment of subsidiaries in USA (1983), Australia (1986), Hungary, Poland and the CIS.
|1987||AL-KO MFK MASCHINENFABRIK GMBH, Lilienthal (founded in 1980) becomes a subsidiary of ALOIS KOBER GMBH. The company manufactures coupling devices and off-road accessories.|
|1989||Cooperation with the Japanese Yamaha Group in the production and development of lawn mowers.|
|1990||Optimised ventilation equipment following development of the free wheel.|
|1990||Establishment of a voluntary environmental-protection work group for employees in Koetz.|
|1991||Design of mobile suction and extraction systems especially for the wood processing sector.|
|1991||AL-KO takes over Aero Tech Gesellschaft f?r Klima- und K?ltetechnik GmbH (company active in air conditioning and refrigeration technology), Frankfurt, and starts with the production of air-conditioning cabinets and cold chambers.|
Start of the AQS programme (AL-KO quality and safety), the company-specific TQM system.
|1992||In April 1992, after thorough planning, construction of a new office building is started in Industriestrasse, Kleinkoetz, and the existing plant is extended.|
|1993||In July 1993, the new building is ready. Approximately 1,200 square meters of office space accommodate the following units: “Operation and Process Planning”, “Computing Centre/IT/Organisation”, “Production Control”, “Central scheduling”, “Personnel”, “Plant Management” “Quality Assurance”, “Production-Facility Design” and “Maintenance”.|
|1993||The AL-KO Euro-axle system designed for caravans and other trailers is awarded the “Golden C” of the Deutscher Campingclub e.V.(German Camping Club).|
|1994||AL-KO Koetz is certified as per DIN ISO.|
|1994||Establishment of a joint venture in China.|
|1995||AL-KO takes over the Ginge company.|
|1995||Organisational merger of the individual companies active in HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning technology) now named AL-KO Ventilation Technology and comprising the “Air-Conditioning Technology”, “Heating Technology” and “Suction/Extraction Technology” units.|
|1997||Introduction of SAP/R3.|
|1998||Re-organisation of the “Vehicle Technology” division into “Vehicle Technology Europe”, “Automotive” and “Vehicle Technology Overseas”.|
|1999||68 years of AL-KO — well equipped for the coming millennium.
The company AL-KO Kober has always been inseparably connected with the family Kober, the family who founded it and still owns it.
|2003||AL-KO takes over SECAMAI S.A. in France to force the air-technology distribution activities
Foundation of a subsidiary in Riga, Latvia, for the distribution of AL-KO Vehicle Technology and AL-KO Garden + Hobby products in the baltic states
|2004||Takeover of the SIEMON GmbH in Emmerzhausen, manufacturer of air technology appliances
Foundation of a distribution company for AL-KO Vehicle Technology and AL-KO Garden + Hobby in Kiev, Ukraine
|2005||AL-KO takes over RTN-Goett SAS in France, manufacturer of axes, brakes, overrun devices and other vehicle technology accessories
Harald Kober was appointed to the board of management