Hansgrohe Assembly Line_1950s_120 Year Logo
What began 120 years ago with three employees in the Black Forest town of Schiltach is now the Hansgrohe Group, an international fittings and shower specialist with around 4,700 employees.
September 2021. There are three characteristics that run like a thread through Hansgrohe’s corporate history and have made a decisive contribution to the successful development of the Hansgrohe Group. With an inexhaustible passion for the element of water, sustainable innovative power and the constant pursuit of perfection, the fittings and shower specialist has become a global player in the sanitation industry since its founding 120 years ago. In Schiltach, a highly innovative region of the Black Forest, where the heart of the company still beats today, Hans Grohe, a trained clothier from Luckenwalde in the Eastern part of Germany, began producing metal spinning products with three employees. Today, with around 4,700 employees, Hansgrohe is considered one of the world’s leading manufacturers of faucets and showers. The company markets high-quality products under its brands AXOR and hansgrohe, the majority of which are manufactured in Germany, at its headquarters in Schiltach and in nearby Offenburg. It also has foreign production capacities in France, China and the USA. Worldwide, the sanitation specialist operates 32 companies and 22 sales offices and supplies faucets and showers to more than 146 countries around the globe.
The Right Instinct
Without a doubt, it was a courageous step that Hans Grohe took two years after moving from Luckenwalde to Schiltach. At that time, he turned his back on weaving and discovered the production of metal goods such as brass pans, clock parts or stovepipe rosettes for himself. From the very beginning, sheet metal showers were also part of the product range of Hans Grohe’s small business. The tinkerer had the right instinct: at the beginning of the 20th century, the private home bathroom came into fashion and Hans Grohe soon specialized entirely in metal goods for the sanitary sector. In the decades that followed, he devoted himself passionately to the further development of his showers and quickly advanced to become the shower specialist in the German sanitary industry. With his ideas, he played a decisive role in shaping Hansgrohe’s corporate history and the future of shower culture. From 1928, his hand-held shower developed into a comfortable alternative to the overhead shower that was common at the time. His ideas continued to shape the style of modern shower technology for many decades. Even at the age of 82, the company founder achieved a stroke of sanitary genius: He invented the shower bar, on which the hand-held shower could be fixed at any height – today a standard in bathrooms all over the world.
Alongside company founder Hans Grohe, who ran the business for 54 years, it was above all his youngest son Klaus who had a decisive influence on the development of the sanitation specialist. He joined his father’s company in 1968 and led it for 33 years from 1975 onwards, developing Hansgrohe from a German drain specialist into one of the world’s leading manufacturers of faucets and showers. The Hansgrohe Group is not to be confused with Grohe: In 1934, Friedrich Grohe, second eldest son of founder Hans Grohe, left Schiltach and two years later took over a faucet factory in Hemer, in the Northwestern part of Germany. This company is known today as Grohe and is managed as a brand of the Japanese Lixil Corporation. At Hansgrohe in Schiltach, Klaus Grohe took over in 1977 and introduced the hansgrohe brand name in the same year. For the first time, he made environmental protection and sustainability an issue in the sanitary industry, drove forward the development of energy- and water-saving products, and paid attention to environmentally friendly and resource-conserving production. With the launch of the AXOR brand in 1993, Klaus Grohe laid the foundation for the creation of iconic objects for luxurious bathrooms and kitchens. Since then, in collaboration with world-renowned architects and designers, faucets, showers and accessories have been created in a wide variety of styles and to the highest quality standards. These distinctive design objects are another expression of the passion for perfection that Klaus Grohe instilled in the company. His management style was characterized by his pragmatic approach and energetic drive, but also by down-to-earth character. His credo as a perfectionist was: “Good is the Enemy of Better.” He chaired the Hansgrohe Supervisory Board from 2008 to 2015 and is now its honorary chairman.
From Family Business to Global Corporation
Klaus Grohe’s two eldest sons continued the family tradition in the operating business. Richard Grohe was Deputy Chairman of the Executive Board from 2008 to 2016. He developed hansgrohe into a world-renowned premium brand with numerous innovations. His brother Philippe led the design brand AXOR from 2001 to 2016. In his tenure, he collaborated with many renowned designers such as Philippe Starck, Antonio Citterio or Patricia Urquiola and helped the brand achieve its international break-through. Both brothers made a significant contribution to the success of Hansgrohe’s corporate history in the new millennium and laid the foundation for the transformation of the Hansgrohe Group from a family business to a medium-sized corporation. The brothers stepped down from executive positions in 2016. Since then, the founding family has accompanied the company from a shareholder perspective. Since May 2018, Klaus Grohe’s son Richard has been a member of the Supervisory Board of the Hansgrohe Group, which is run as a European public limited company but is not listed on the stock exchange. The two main shareholders are the US-based Masco Corporation (68 percent of the shares) and the Grohe family via Syngroh Verwaltungs- und Beteiligungs-GmbH (32 percent of the shares).
Pushing Ahead with Structural Change
Hans Juergen Kalmbach has led the company as Chairman of the Executive Board since August 1, 2018. A graduate in business administration, he began his career with the Hansgrohe Group in 1998. Since then, he has held several national and international management positions, most recently being responsible for international sales as a member of the Executive Board. “We are driving structural change through efficient processes, a targeted growth strategy and the further development of our corporate philosophy. In doing so, we benefit today, and have benefitted in the past, from the qualities that have distinguished Hansgrohe and made it strong for 120 years,” says Hans Juergen Kalmbach. “Firstly, from a culture of quality-oriented innovation that has grown and is practiced in all areas of the company; secondly, from consistent international market cultivation, the core of which dates back as far as 1907 with the start of the export business by Hans Grohe. And thirdly, from the extraordinarily high level of commitment and great flexibility of our employees, on whom we can always rely. Even as a globally active group, we have never forgotten our roots as a medium-sized family business. Passion, innovation, and the pursuit of perfection have a long tradition with us. And so, in the future we can continue to build our strength on the basic building blocks of our success: continuous innovation, uncompromising quality and design, and responsibility towards society and the environment.”
Focus on People
“The fact that our company is today considered one of the innovation leaders in technology and design in the international sanitary industry is primarily due to our relentless search for better solutions,” CEO Hans Juergen Kalmbach is convinced. “Like our company founder Hans Grohe and his son Klaus, we are not satisfied with good things today, but look for even better solutions for tomorrow. The goal of every new development is to increase customer benefits and thus create real added value. Innovation must make people’s lives easier or more convenient.” Examples of pioneering innovations include the shower bar (1953), to which any hand-held shower can be fixed at any height, the Tribel (1974), the world’s first hand-held shower with adjustable spray types, and the Select technology (2011), which allows the flow of water in the kitchen and bathroom to be controlled at the simple touch of a button. Even 120 years after the company was founded, the constant optimization of water flow is a driving force within Hangrohe. Throughout its history, Hansgrohe has adhered to inventing quality products for the bathroom and kitchen. From an early stage, the highest functionality of products goes hand in hand with beautifully designed products. When Klaus Grohe began commissioning industrial design professionals such as Hartmut Esslinger (Frog Design), Phoenix Design and Philippe Starck to develop products in the 1970s, design became an integral part of the corporate culture. As a decisive quality feature, it established the success of branded products from the Black Forest in global competition. More than 15,000 industrial property rights and more than 600 awards from independent juries in international design competitions show, that the art of engineering and creativity are of outstanding importance. In collaboration with some of the world’s most successful architects and product designers, timeless forms are created for bathrooms and kitchens. As individual and as different as people themselves, the products express different styles: from the vibrantly functional eat-in kitchen to the nature-inspired haven of calm in the bathroom.
Just as it was in the three-man operation back in the days, quality is also a cornerstone of the Hansgrohe philosophy today. The “Made by Hansgrohe” quality concept applies to all production sites around the globe, from Schiltach to Shanghai. This stands for “German Engineering” and encompasses the highest standards of product quality. “Our customers can rely on safe, stable and sustainable faucets, showers and shower systems with a long service life,” the Chairman of the Executive Board explains. “For the Hansgrohe Group, quality also means the highest standards of service. Customer wishes are already included in the development process.” In production today, Hansgrohe continues to rely on selected materials, high-tech and precision work for high-quality and environmentally friendly manufacturing.
Responsibility for the Environment, Employees and Society
Hansgrohe’s passion for water since 1901 is strongly linked to its corporate and social responsibility for the environment, its employees and society. For example, the company was one of the first in the sanitation industry to start looking at water and energy efficiency of its products. The research and development department passionately works on new technologies that reduce water consumption, such as EcoSmart, Air Power or CoolStart. This allows water and energy to be saved in everyday use without sacrificing design or ease of use. AirPower technology, for example, mixes water with air, making drops plump and soft, enhancing showering pleasure and water efficiency. Always oriented to the needs of its customers, Hansgrohe develops and optimizes its products to ensure their durability, repairability, resource conservation and safety.
Efficient products and manufacturing processes are only part of Hansgrohe’s lived responsibility. As early as the late 1980s, it was one of the first companies in the sanitary industry to introduce an environmental management system. In 1992, Klaus Grohe implemented the construction of what was then the largest roof-integrated solar power plant in Europe on the new factory building in Offenburg, Germany. Three years later, the state Minister of Environment awarded the company with the Environmental Prize for special achievements in environmental protection. In the same year, Hansgrohe became the first company in the sanitary industry to be certified in accordance with the EU’s Eco-Audit Regulation. And today, too, the focus is consistently on further development into a sustainable company. “At Hansgrohe, protecting the environment and assuming social responsibility are integral parts of the corporate culture,” confirms CEO Hans Juergen Kalmbach. “It is lived at all of our production, logistics and sales locations worldwide. We operate an environmental performance indicator system and are focusing on the climate compatibility of our sites and products in this decade. Our goal is to have climate-neutral production at all our production sites worldwide in terms of direct emissions and energy by 2022, and additionally in terms of products by 2030.
For Hansgrohe, sustainability also means taking responsibility for social issues. The company offers its employees numerous initiatives on health, occupational safety, employability, and work-life balance. At the same time, employees can continue their training and development within the company’s internal campus. Outside Hansgrohe, too, the sanitary specialist is committed to fair, humane working conditions and demands these from its partners. In addition, the Group is involved in a wide range of social projects that focus on water as the elixir of life, such as the current “Clean Danube” project with Dr. Andeas Fath, or the reintroduction of salmon to the Kinzig River in the Black Forest.
“The future needs origins, they say. We are proud of our roots and our company history and look forward to continuing this with our inherent passion, flexibility and our dedicated employees,” affirms Hansgrohe CEO, Hans Juergen Kalmbach.
120 Years Hansgrohe
From a Black Forest Workshop to a Global Player
About the Hansgrohe Group – Setting the Beat of Water. Since 1901.
With its brands AXOR and hansgrohe, the Hansgrohe Group, based in Schiltach/Southern Germany, enjoys a reputation as a leader in innovation, design and quality within the bath and kitchen industry. Founded in 1901 in the Black Forest, the company gives water form and function with its faucets, showerheads and shower systems. The 120-year history of the company is marked by innovations, such as the first hand-held shower with multiple spray types, the first pull-out kitchen faucet, and the first wall bar to hold a hand-held shower.The company holds more than 15,000 active property rights. The Hansgrohe Group stands for long-lasting quality products and for responsibility towards people and the environment. Sustainable production of resource-conserving products is central to the company’s business activities around the globe. With 32 subsidiaries and 22 sales offices supplying products in more than 146 countries, the globally active company in the sanitary industry is a reliable partner to its customers in all regions of the world. The Hansgrohe Group, its brands and products have won numerous awards, including more than 600 design prizes since 1974. The products of the Hansgrohe Group are found worldwide: on renowned cruise ships, in luxurious 5-star and boutique hotels, in international metropolitan cities, in extraordinary spas, exclusive bathrooms of lodges and luxury villas, public facilities, as well as in countless private homes. The Group’s high quality standards are ensured by five wholly-owned production facilities: two in Germany, one each in France, the United States and China. In 2020, the Hansgrohe Group generated a turnover of EUR 1.074 billion. It employs more than 4,700 people worldwide, about 60 percent of whom work in Germany.