Knorr-Bremse AG is a German manufacturer of braking systems for rail and commercial vehicles that has operated in the field for over 110 years. Other products in Group's portfolio include intelligent door systems, control components, air conditioning systems for rail vehicles, torsional vibration dampers, and transmission control systems for commercial vehicles. In 2017, the Group's workforce of over 27,000 achieved worldwide sales of EUR 6.24 billion.[self-published source]
The Group has a presence in over 30 countries, at 100 locations.
Engineer Georg Knorr established Knorr-Bremse GmbH in 1905 in Boxhagen-Rummelsburg, Neue Bahnhofstraße, near Berlin (since 1920 part of Berlin-Friedrichshain). Its production of railway braking systems derived from a company ("Carpenter & Schulze") founded in 1883. In 1911 the company merged with "Continentale Bremsen-GmbH" to found Knorr-Bremse Aktiengesellschaft (AG). From 1913 onwards, a second manufacturing plant, new headquarters, a heating plant and other annex buildings were erected.
The initial basis for Knorr's commercial success was provided by an agreement with the Prussian State Railways, which at that time had formed the Prussian-Hessian Railway Company, to supply single-chamber express braking systems, first for passenger and later on for freight trains. A compressed-air brake, the "Knorr Druckluft-Einkammerschnellbremse" (K1), along with its derivatives, offered considerably enhanced safety performance compared with traditional systems.
In the early twentieth century, train guards still had to operate brakes by hand, from so-called "brake vans". The first pneumatic brakes were of a basic design, but before long, indirect automatic systems using control valves were developed. See History of rail transport in Germany for an overview.
In 1920 the manufacturing plant of the first Bayerische Motoren-Werke AG (BMW, established in 1917/1918) located in Munich, Moosacher Straße, became a subsidiary of Knorr-Bremse, delivering brake systems as Süddeutsche Bremsen-AG for the Bavarian Group Administration, the former "Royal Bavarian State Railways".
There was no further interest in motor engines for aircraft and automobiles. The engine construction and the company name "BMW" were sold in 1922 to financier Camillo Castiglioni to be combined with the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke AG (BFW, located not far away), establishing the company a second time. For details see History of BMW and BFW/Messerschmitt.
1922 until 1927 the new main manufacturing plant in Berlin at the Hirschberger Straße/Schreiberhauer Straße next to the Berlin Ringbahn was erected, a tunnelled road combined both the old and the new site.
The second main area of activity emerged in 1922, when Knorr moved into pneumatic braking systems for commercial road vehicles. The company was the first in Europe to develop a system that applied the brakes simultaneously to all four wheels of a truck as well as its trailer. The resultant reduction in braking distances made a significant contribution to improving road safety.
In 2002 Knorr takes over from Honeywell International Inc. its share of joint ventures in Europe, Brazil and the United States, buying Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems to make it the leading company in the brake system industry.
|1900||Georg Knorr invents Knorr-Einkammerschnellbremse (K1) compressed-air brake for passenger trains.|
|1905–24||Knorr founds Knorr-Bremse GmbH near Berlin. Knorr-Bremse develops air brakes for trains and becomes a major European manufacturer of rail vehicle brakes.|
Bruno Kunze and Knorr invent Kunze-Knorr brake, later enhanced to Hildebrand-Knorr brake with Wilhelm Hildebrand.
|1911||Georg Knorr dies during reconvalescence in Davos, Switzerland. Foundation of Knorr-Bremse Aktiengesellschaft.|
|1918–27||Kunze-Knorr (KK) automatic compressed-air brake equipped by the Deutsche Reichsbahn on passenger and freight trains.|
|1920||Former BMW plant in Munich becomes a subsidiary, manufacturing braking systems as Süddeutsche Bremsen-AG.|
|1923||Development of air brakes for commercial road vehicles and trailers.|
|1931–39||The Hildebrand-Knorr (HiK) braking system is used for express trains in 17 countries.|
By that time 90% of all German lorries in the 7–16 t range are fitted with Knorr braking systems.
|1945–53||Company headquarters are relocated from Berlin to Munich (former Süddeutsche Bremsen-AG) in Bavaria.|
Development and manufacture of braking systems resumed in the western part of Germany, with emphasis on HiK system.
|1955||Introduction of the Knorr-Bremse mit Einheitswirkung (KE) braking system for passenger and freight trains.|
|1972||Anti-lock braking system for commercial road vehicles.|
|1985–93||During a difficult phase in the company's development, Heinz Hermann Thiele acquires a majority share and launches a radical restructuring program.|
Knorr-Bremse becomes a global player. The AAR DB60 control valve for freight trains gains access to North American market.
|1992||Pneumatic disc brake for commercial vehicles introduced. Series production begins in 1996.|
|1999||Robert Bosch GmbH merges activities in the electronic brake control sector with Knorr-Bremse Commercial Vehicle Systems. Knorr-Bremse takes a 60% share, giving it overall managerial control of the joint venture; Bosch retains a 20% share.|
|2002||Knorr-Bremse takes over Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems from Honeywell, Bendix becoming a subsidiary.|
Knorr-Bremse Group achieves sales of EUR 2.1 billion for the first time. Modular braking system for locomotives is introduced.
|2004||Oil free compressor for railway vehicles. System-compressor with coupling for road vehicles.|
|2005||Centenary of operation.|
Knorr-Bremse not only produces complete braking systems for all types of rolling stock but also door systems, toilets, air conditioning, couplings and windscreen wipers. In 2000, it purchased British manufacturer, Westinghouse Brakes (formerly the brakes division of Westinghouse Brake and Signal Company Ltd), from Invensys, and subsequently moved its operations from Chippenham to the nearby English town of Melksham, Wiltshire.