45,000 Volts of Enthusiasm
Read about the thrilling history of BAUR GmbH
BAUR looks back at an eventful company history. What began 75 years ago as a small family-owned set-up, is one of today's leading international companies in the field of testing and measurement technology. BAUR counts most of the energy providers in the world among its satisfied customers.
Since 1945, when Josef Baur established the "physical and technical workshops" with three employees in his father’s old embroidery building, passion for technology has been his motivation. His extensive experience in radio and broadcasting technology was a big contribution to his young company. He built the first battery radio receiver in Vorarlberg when he was just 14. The first customer of the fledgling company was the City of Vienna with its order for a custom-made design for a highly sensitive mine detector.
The key periods
Let's get started right away!
June 1945, World War II is at an end. Josef Baur sees this as a new beginning and the perfect time to bring his ideas to life. Filled with euphoria and enthusiasm, Josef and his brother Willi lay the foundations for the BAUR company in the old embroidery building behind their house. With nothing more than a few boards, the brothers create the first departments and get to work. Under the then name “Josef Baur physikalisch-technische Werkstätten” (Josef Baur Physical and Technical Workshops), the four-man team shared a common goal: to do something positive for the people of Austria and the country’s economy by putting their know-how and tools to good use. Together with his cousin Ewald Baur and Alois Knünz, Josef Baur often found himself repairing radios and X-ray units. High-voltage transformers with a voltage of up to 150,000 volts were a central component of this equipment. Such voltages could also be used to test power cables and insulating liquids. However, Josef was not aware of this yet. In the excitement and fervour of those first few days, Josef Baur forgets to register the business. That’s why the official history of the Baur company does not start until 15 October 1945.
Although the small team in Sulz is family-based, the young company has an open outlook when it comes to developing new devices. Engineers from near and far come and go in the small workshops at the back of the house. Even back then, Josef Baur recognised the potential of good networking and laid the foundations for today's global network.
The economy is on the up! The old 6 kV medium-voltage network is upgraded to modern 10.8 kV cables. The general demand for electricity is increasing.
The problem: plans and records of the cables that had been laid were lost during the war. So how would it be possible to now locate the most sensitive part, the connection joints?
Electrical engineer Christoff Mittelberger, who worked at VKW, already had a solution in mind. His idea: to short a cable pair at one end and connect an AC voltage with a fixed, "audible" frequency at the other end using a synthesiser. This creates a longitudinal magnetic field around the cable which, depending on the length, "oscillates" over the route and cable. These “oscillations” should be quite easy to measure with a magnetic antenna or coil. The audio frequency signal is much stronger over a joint and disappears completely after a cable fault or short-circuit. This is also known as the twist method.
As for the BAUR logo, was it the shape of the housing of one of the company's first measuring devices that led to Maria Baur's design for the lettering or was it the other way around? Either way, the lettering has remained almost unchanged to this day. The brand claim "Ensuring the Flow" has accompanied the logo for several years. BAUR not only ensures the flow of current, but also flow in development processes and in relationships with customers and employees.
An important year: Josef Baur and Christoff Mittelberger meet for the first time and quickly discover that they are on the same wavelength. Together, they succeed in putting theory into practice and achieve something the competition hasn't managed to do: develop a high-voltage generator that is around 100 kg lighter than other devices of this type. The result? The PKG 35 – a compact, portable cable test device weighing just 20 kg. A short time later, they increase the voltage from 35 to 45 kilovolts. The device has a new name: PGK 45.
Josef Baur understood that the cable business could only be of commercial significance if it reached the international market. Germany's leading industrial fair, the "Deutsche Industrie-Messe", in Hannover provided the perfect opportunity. Despite not having his own stand at the fair, Josef was sure that he would have the opportunity to demonstrate the PGK 35 somewhere. Josef was in luck. He managed to demonstrate his product in the corner of the stand belonging to the oldest cable manufacturer. It flashed and banged, drawing the attention of visitors, who crowded around Josef and his device. As Josef noted at the time, it was a "huge success!".
Josef Baur acquires the worldwide exclusive licence. The cable fault location business area is born!
Following the development of the cable test generator, BAUR invents a special transformer winding technology that makes it possible to build lighter devices. Based on this, the team in Sulz designs a prototype for oil testing: the PGO 60. It is five to ten times lighter than existing devices. It is a major breakthrough, which even results in changes to the VDE 0370 standard.
"I would like to supply as many countries as I have employees." - Josef Baur
And so we come to the first meeting of representatives in Viktorsberg. Representatives from Germany, Switzerland, the Balkans, the Benelux countries, France, and Spain are all in attendance. These relationships had been fostered since the mid-1950s. A great deal of importance is attached to friendly cooperation. Josef Baur gave his representatives free rein and relied on their market knowledge. The only sticking point was language. Neither Josef Baur nor engineer Paul Birck, the then director of operations and second in charge at the company, could speak another language. German language skills are therefore a deciding factor in the selection of representatives.
By the end of the 1960s, BAUR is already producing all the devices required for cable fault location in low- and medium-voltage cables. But how to get the devices to the place where they need to be used?
Longstanding representative and friend of the family Hans Gasenzer paved the way for the cable test van that is used today. The devices are subsequently installed in a delivery van that is so light in weight that anyone with a standard driving licence may drive it. The first test van is delivered to Bratislava in person by Martin Baur.
Martin is called to Sulz, with him comes internationalisation
A new decade begins. The BAUR family now has more than 50 employees. Josef Baur presides as the head of the family. He is highly regarded by all and known for having a knack for dealing with employees. Paul Birck, his trusted number two, has worked by his side for several years, managing day-to-day operations in Sulz while Josef is away on numerous business trips. Paul Birck retires in 1973. His successor, Volker Krieg, has worked as a sales engineer in the company since the early 1960s and brings a great deal of experience to the role, as well as a good understanding of customer requirements.
In the early 1970s, Josef’s son Martin joins the company. He speaks several languages fluently. Internationalisation is in full swing. BAUR devices find their way to Asia, North and South America, and are soon available right around the world! From 1974 onwards, Martin makes regular trips to demonstrate the company's ideas, and their great benefits, on site.
In 1976, Josef hands over full responsibility to Martin. On the first of April, “Baur physikalisch-technische Werkstätten” is renamed “Baur Prüf- und Messtechnik KG”. Martin’s goal is the future-oriented organisation of the company. It is to become a modern company with lean processes.
By the end of the 1970s, the company already has seventy employees. Baur now has clearly structured departments: development, mechanical design, processing planning, production, technical management, sales, and executive management will all be separate from now on.
Competition is growing non-stop
At this time, the company’s main competitors are based in Germany. They include Seba Dynatronic and Hagenuk, which will end up being bought out by fierce rival Seba in 1995. BAUR is something of a rarity in this market, enjoying worldwide recognition. The devices are seen as practical, the measurement results are accurate, and employee commitment exceeds the average.
Internationalisation still remains high on the agenda. 1982 sees the opening of the company’s first branch in Germany, followed by Spain in 1984 and Great Britain in 1986.
What makes BAUR special is that Martin ensures that the relationships with sales partners get the personal touch. He is an important link between BAUR Sulz and the rest of the world.
All departments are working at full speed. BAUR launches the DTA on the market. It is the first processor-controlled insulation tester with a digital display and automatic mean value calculation.
The DTL is born – a world first! It is a programmable device that combines several methods for measuring the dissipation factor and calculating the resistance of transformer oils .
Since the 1970s, energy suppliers all over the world have been puzzled by something: on new cables, short-circuits accumulate after ten to fifteen years. After some initial confusion, technicians discover "trees" in the insulating layer of faulty cables, the consequence of which is a short-circuit. If these cables that have minor faults are tested using conventional DC voltage methods, the cables will be destroyed. Teams all over the world looked for a solution, and the solution was found in Sulz. AC voltages are measured with several quality criteria. The measurement of the dissipation factor, the ratio of active current to reactive current in the insulation, provides the ideal basis. To ensure that the measuring devices for this are as compact as possible, the selected test current frequency is much smaller: 0.1 Hertz, Very Low Frequency (VLF) – one oscillation in 10 seconds.
BAUR amazes its customers by introducing the world's smallest portable oil tester. The DPA 60 weighs 20 kg and is designed for 60,000 V measuring voltages.
BAUR goes global
A new decade begins and BAUR ventures across the pond! In 1991, it establishes joint ventures in the USA and India. Our devices are durable – Baur wants to tap into new markets by first concentrating on Asia, specifically the Far East, as well as Australia and the Arab world. Martin Baur and the team of sales engineers travel to these countries frequently and in the early 1990s they manage to impress engineers in China with Baur's measuring devices for cable fault location. What once took three days to accomplish, can be completed in just a few minutes using these devices. The result: BAUR sells more systems in 1995 than in the previous ten years.
In 1994, BAUR introduces a reliable VLF tester to the market, the PHG 80 , and patents the truesinus method, which to this day continues to provide the technical basis for extremely precise measurement results.
The coming years bring change. Martin Baur concentrates on his consultancy activities. The company is no longer managed internally. Everything is intended to be more cost-effective; there are staff cutbacks and the apprenticeship programme is wound down. Even production is to be moved to the Czech Republic to cut costs.
The Baur family and employees intervene. Together, they manage to establish a better working hours model. These are eventful times.
Rumours are circulating that Baur has been sold to a German company. The workforce becomes increasingly downhearted. This is especially difficult for Josef Baur to witness. In his speech on the occasion of his 80th birthday, he is deeply moved that Baur employees still hold their senior boss in such high regard. With tears in his eyes, he thanks them for their loyalty and dedication, which has not wavered even in times like these. In 1996, Josef transfers his company shares to Martin and his wife Valentine Baur. The company becomes BAUR Prüf- und Messtechnik GmbH.
Josef Baur dies on 2 December 1997 at the age of 85.
The fight for BAUR continues. It is led by Martin Baur. He respects the opinions of longstanding employees, who make it clear to him that he should take over the management of the company again. Martin heeds their advice and takes over as CEO in 1998. The workforce breathes a sigh of relief.
And so, following turbulent times, BAUR returns to its former work ethic and corporate philosophy.
A short time later, BAUR is able to present the first PHG TD/PD VLF diagnostics system with tan delta and partial discharge measurement to its customers.
A new era begins
A new millennium is upon us! In 2003, Valentine Baur's particular perspective as a woman and her social competence are greatly valued by the company as she takes up the role of assistant to the executive board. And no wonder, since her marriage to Martin in 1974 she has always been a welcome “boss” in the company.
The new extension is opened and provides new space for the workforce. Production and installation space have been increased by 50%. There is additional office space, plus a new customer area and acceptance area.
The next generation of the Baur family joins the company. Markus Baur begins his career at the company in HR.
The company enters 2006 with growing optimism. Within the space of two years, BAUR recruits around 40 new employees. There is a gold-rush atmosphere.
Unfortunately, BAUR too falls victim to the global economic crisis of 2008. BAUR must cut back wherever it can, including staff.
But these difficult years also deliver some great things. In 2008, the BAUR innovation process is established in the company. Developed by key members of staff and Martin Baur, this process is intended to ensure that new developments are as target-oriented and practicable as possible, thus leading BAUR successfully into the future. 2008 also marks a huge achievement for BAUR, when it receives the Great Place to Work award for the first time! A title it still holds today.
The new generation
Having learnt some important lessons from the global economic crisis, BAUR strides into the future full of energy. The annexe, which was only built in 2004, is being extended. As an interim measure, an office set up in a portable container in the West Car Park provides space for ideas, developments, and improvements.
What was initially conceived as a temporary solution ends up being in use for almost a decade.
Where there's space for new ideas, there also needs to be space to implement them. The demand for electrical system assembly prompts further growth at BAUR: the "Kopfhalle" is opened in Röthis as a second production location for the Electrical System Assembly department.
To mark the 100th anniversary of Josef Baur's birth, the book "45.000 Volt Begeisterung" (45,000 Volts of Enthusiasm) is published.
In 2014, Markus Baur takes over as CEO, becoming the third generation of the family to manage the company.
The BAUR team is noticeably expanding: at the 2014 Global Sales Conference, the new titron® test van is presented to the company's global representatives.
In 2015 and 2016, it becomes necessary to realign the organisational structure.
BAUR continues to develop and in the coming years impresses with its innovation and quality.
The result is protrac®, a new fault location device.
As a company, BAUR has always been not only innovative, but also an attractive prospective employer. BAUR acknowledges that young employees come with needs, such as a healthy work-life balance. In 2018, the company is recognised as a "family-friendly company" by the state of Vorarlberg.
BAUR introduces the market to the software of the future. With the statex® analysis software, it is possible to calculate the statistical remaining life time of cables more accurately than ever before. Investments can be planned and current flow is ensured.
In 2019 BAUR once again receives the "Great Place to Work" award. In a modern organisation, the values of transparency, interconnectedness, and participation are a natural part of the work ethic.
In the autumn of 2019, the staff in the office container move into the new halls of the extension.
The anniversary year of 2020 starts with a high level of motivation and a positive outlook. However, BAUR too is impacted by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Working from home, quarantine, bans on foreign travel, and a high degree of uncertainty regarding business development are the new normal. The company is unable to celebrate its anniversary in a fitting fashion.
And yet, the adverse circumstances are unable to hold BAUR back from improving in many areas. In terms of the company's processes, an important innovation is introduced in the form of the CRM software, which is enables BAUR to deliver even better customer service. BAUR has evolved into a versatile and agile organisation, ready to take on the coming decade.