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Robert Bosch’s first factory in Stuttgart

The early years in pictures

People pass between two buildings to emerge onto a street.

Robert Bosch set up his first factory amidst residential buildings in the center of Stuttgart in 1901. His plan was to start producing magneto ignition devices for automobiles there. But the factory quickly became too small to cope with the rapid rise in demand for Bosch ignition systems. Four years later, a second factory building was constructed next door. That was the end of the growth, Bosch thought at the time. Historical photos illustrate just how wrong he was. Within mere decades, Bosch expanded into an industrial enterprise that took up virtually an entire neighborhood. Known as the “Bosch-Areal,” the complex became a site where the company produced a wide range of automotive equipment. Not only did Robert Bosch place great value on having state-of-the-art facilities, he also ensured good working conditions for his workers.

 A row of buildings. One wall bears the words “Robert Bosch.”
The first factory, 1901: “I am a houseowner now!” With pride, Robert Bosch had erected a new building in the center of Stuttgart to produce his magneto ignition devices. Despite its appearances, the modern reinforced concrete building offered 45 associates well-lit and well-ventilated spaces.
Two buildings, one behind the other, with large windows. One roof bears the words “Robert Bosch.”
The second factory, 1905: Robert Bosch constructed his second factory building in 1905. Located in the courtyard of the first one, workers there built the 100,000th magneto ignition device in 1906. The industrial architecture of the new building, with its functional design and large windows, was instantly recognizable. The building behind it went up in 1909.
A view of a construction site in front of a row of buildings.
A building frenzy, 1911: More factories would follow. Bosch was still figuring out which materials were best suited for industrial architecture. Ultimately, modern reinforced concrete prevailed. A look at the construction site, however, shows that horses still provided a fair share of the power for building things.
A man sits at a desk. The man is Robert Bosch.
Robert Bosch, 1906: Seen here at his desk in 1906, the 45-year-old entrepreneur presented himself as a serious and conscientious businessman. The state-of-the-art wall-mounted telephone in the background illustrates that Bosch embraced the latest technology at his factories and in his own office.
People pass between two buildings to emerge onto a street.
Coming and going, 1916: Shift change at the Stuttgart plant. Back in 1906, Robert Bosch became one of the first industrialists in Germany to introduce the eight-hour working day. He was also known for paying above-average wages. In 1916, 5,600 men and women worked for Bosch.
View from above of the buildings and neighborhood forests.
Bigger and better, 1925: This aerial photo illustrates the scale of the Bosch-Areal complex in 1925 (marked in red) and its location in the middle of a residential area. By the end of the 1930s, the Bosch site would once again double in size (marked in green). The new buildings were designed to blend into the cityscape.
A man stands at a workbench with his hand on a screw thread.
Early days of production, 1906: This early and heavily retouched photograph shows how the pole shoes for magneto ignition devices were drilled out. Assembly-line production still was not commonplace in the early years.
A man sits at a workbench with a lever in his hand. Next to him, in a row, are a dial and an ignition device.
The assembly line before conveyor belts were introduced, 1926: Modern techniques made work easier for laborers. Turning the handwheel helped transport workpieces to the next stop on the line so that they could be processed without workers having to leave their stations.
A view of the factory floor from above. Women sit next to each other to the left and right of a long conveyor belt.
Assembly in motion, 1939: Industrial direction indicator production in 1939. The introduction of the conveyor belt to the assembly line in 1926 made it possible to work easily and efficiently in bright, spacious, and well-ventilated factories.
View from above of the ducts under the ceiling of a factory space. Under them sit women at workbenches.
State-of-the-art fresh air system, 1935: Ducts on the ceiling brought fresh air into the rooms of the factory. Vents at the bottom of the doors and walls drew stale air out into the staircases, where fans sucked it out. The air was completely exchanged three to four times an hour.
A garbage bin is being tipped into a vehicle. A man looks out the window. Another man stands next to the vehicle with a garbage bin.
Keeping it clean, 1938: Because Bosch cared deeply about hygiene, he maintained a dedicated waste management department at his plant. The modern transport vehicle, equipped with lifting gear, made it possible to empty garbage bins cleanly.

Author: Vera Dendler

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