Rohde & Schwarz GmbH & Co. KG History

Mühldorfstraße 15
D-81671 München

Telephone: (49) (89) 4129-0
Fax: (49) (89) 4129-12-164

Private Company
Incorporated: 1933 as Physikalisch-technisches Entwicklungslabor Dr. Rohde & Dr. Schwarz
Employees: 5,000
Sales: DM 1.6 billion ($800 million) (2000 est.)
NAIC: 33422 Radio and Television Broadcasting and Wireless Communications Equipment Manufacturing; 334515 Instrument Manufacturing for Measurement and Testing Electricity and Electrical Signals; 334419 Other Electronic Component Manufacturing

Company Perspectives:

We develop and produce instruments, devise systems and define projects according to the maxim: high-quality, state-of-the-art technology to the maximum benefit of the user. We offer our customers future-proof solutions--fit for meeting challenges far beyond the needs of today. With high-tech products from Rohde & Schwarz, you will always be one step ahead. Key Dates:

Key Dates:

Physikaltechnische Entwicklungslabor Dr. Rohde & Dr. Schwarz (PTE) is established in Munich.
PTE develops the world's first portable quartz clock.
Rohde & Schwarz establishes the first VHF FM radio station in Europe.
The company sets up Europe's first air-traffic noise monitoring system.
Company becomes known as Rohde & Schwarz GmbH & Co. KG.
Friedrich Schwarz becomes company's third CEO in history.
Co-founder Dr. Lothar Rohde dies.
Cooperation agreement is forged with Japanese measurement instrument maker Advantest Corp.
Cooperation with Tektronix Inc. in the United States begins.
Co-founder Dr. Hermann Schwarz dies.

Company History:

Rohde & Schwarz GmbH & Co. KG is Europe's top maker of electronic test and measurement equipment. The company is also among the world's leading manufacturers of professional radio systems used in ground stations, ships, and aircraft. Another Rohde & Schwarz product line includes a complete range of equipment for analog and digital audio and TV broadcasting. Finally, the company offers automatic radio-monitoring and frequency management systems--such as receivers, direction finders, signal analyzers, and antennas-used by national and international authorities. Berlin-based Rohde & Schwarz SIT GmbH develops crypto products and systems for information security in electronic data processing systems used by industry and government. Rohde & Schwarz products are developed and manufactured at the company's three German production plants in Memmingen, Teisnach, and Cologne, as well as in the Czech Republic. The company maintains sales offices in more than 70 countries around the globe and cooperates with Beaverton, Oregon-based maker of test and measurement products Tektronix Inc. in North America and with Tokyo-based manufacturer of semiconductor test systems Advantest Corporation in Japan. The private business is owned by the Rohde and Schwarz families.

Two Physicists Set Up Shop in 1933

It was late in the autumn of 1929 when two third-year physics students met in Jena University's physics department. Lothar Rohde, who had studied at Cologne University, and Hermann Schwarz, who came to Jena from Munich University, were both working on dissertations with Jena's physics professor, Dr. Esau. Both students were awarded their doctorates in 1931--Rohde on the discharge of electrical charges in gases at very high frequencies and Schwarz on the measurement of electrical currents at very high frequencies. At the time, during worldwide economic depression, the job market was difficult, so the two young physicists continued to work in university labs. After a number of joint experiments, Rohde and Schwarz developed their first measurement instrument--an interference measurer with a large wavelength range for laboratories--and publicized their work in a professional journal.

In 1932 they met their first potential client, an engineer from Hermsdorf-Schomborg-Isolatoren-Gesellschaft (Hescho), a company that developed industrial ceramics. The company was looking for a measurement instrument that could measure frequencies of one to 100 megaherz (MHZ) to demonstrate the electric characteristics of their materials. Rohde and Schwarz were able to provide exactly what they were looking for. Hescho promised to give the two physicists more assignments, and there were other signs that high-frequency measuring instruments were a promising market niche.

Rohde and Schwarz took a gamble in August 1933 and set up their own research laboratory. Although Berlin was the German capital of the electric industry at that time, the two physicists set up their firm in Munich; Schwarz was a native Bavarian, and Rohde's parents lived there too. They set up shop in an apartment in Munich's Thierschstraße and established the Physikaltechnische Entwicklungslabor Dr. Rohde & Dr. Schwarz (PTE). Equipped with some used furniture and laboratory equipment, they started development work on three condenser sorting machines for Herscho. Besides themselves and the mechanic who accompanied the two men to Munich, three craftspeople from the immediate neighborhood were a part of the early operation.

Thriving During the 1930s

To promote their business, Rohde & Schwarz published essays about their measurement technologies and instruments in professional journals and exhibited them at the Leipzig Spring Fair at Hescho's booth. Their first assignment from abroad came in 1934 from an English company that ordered one of the measurement instruments they had publicized. Another surprise was a Bavarian government authority that ordered a one kilowatt (kW) shortwave transmitter. In the following years business flourished. By 1937 PTE was employing 40 people. In summer of that year the company acquired a building at Munich's Tassiloplatz which provided enough space to house the laboratories, workshops, and warehouses. Up to 1937 PTE's promotional literature consisted of typewritten flyers with photos of the different instruments glued on. By 1938, however, the company's price list included about 100 items. That year an office was set up in Berlin to maintain contact with the capitol's many government and industrial institutions.

When World War II broke out in September 1939, PTE employed about 100 people. The company which had earned a reputation as a specialty firm for high-frequency measurement technology was renamed Rohde & Schwarz. Soon the company was struggling to keep up with its growing order load as a vendor of measurement instruments for the German war industry, especially in the area of radio and communication technology. The good news was that many Rohde & Schwarz employees did not have to serve in the German army. The company was even able to request more personnel. Quartzkeramik, another subsidiary specializing in quartz ceramics, was set up in Stockdorf in 1939. By 1941 the company had 260 employees on its payroll.

During the war the Nazi administration requested that Munich enlarge its eastern train station. Because Rohde & Schwarz was located on property needed for the construction project, the company acquired a large piece of land on the edge of the city where they planned to relocate the business. However, as the war gradually moved back into Germany, the construction project was postponed then forgotten, and Rohde & Schwarz was able to stay at Tassiloplatz. Its new property eventually became the core of the company's complex of plants built in the following decades.

War and Reconstruction Years 1942-52

Between 1942 and 1943 several of the company's facilities were partially destroyed in bombings. In 1944 Rohde & Schwarz purchased a knitting factory in Memmingen and took over its 60 employees who were trained for assembling and soldering jobs. Another 60 jobs were transferred from other company locations to Memmingen. The factory was managed by Meßgerätebau GmbH (MB), a subsidiary founded in 1942 which was activated in 1944. MB manufactured serial measurement instruments primarily, in particular radio-observation-receiver 'Samos.' The development department was moved to Wolznach in the same year. When the Allied army marched into Bavaria in 1945, Rohde & Schwarz employed about 600 people, its subsidiary MB about 200.

In mid-1945 the American military government allowed Rohde & Schwarz to resume its business operations. The first order was placed by the Americans themselves who wanted the company's subsidiary Quartzkeramik to adjust their quartz stock to new frequency channels. Another important service contract was signed with the U.S. Air Force for maintaining and repairing radio receivers in their central warehouse in Europe located in Erding near Munich. The U.S. Signal Corps delivered walkie-talkies by the ton, which Rohde & Schwarz disassembled, conserved, function-checked, and repaired. In the following years the company also started developing and manufacturing radio amplifiers, intercoms, and even auto radios. In 1948, the year of the West German currency reform, Rohde & Schwarz employed 400 people in Munich and 80 in Memmingen.

After the war, mid- and long radio bands were reallocated in Europe at a conference in Kopenhagen in 1947, documented in the 'Kopenhagener Wellenplan.' As World War II's loser, Germany also lost most of its middle-wave frequencies; the country was not even allowed to send a representative to the conference. As a result, Germany did not have enough available frequencies to satisfy the country's radio listeners, especially in the evening hours. Dr. Rohde participated in the discussions about possible alternatives and advocated the idea of broadcasting in the ultra-short wave band, between 87 to 100 MHZ, a frequency not restricted in the international treaty. Within a few months Rohde & Schwarz developed and built Europe's first FM transmitter for the Bavarian radio station Bayerischer Rundfunk. However, only the few people in Germany who had a car radio from the United States with an FM receiver were able to listen to the station. To promote the new technology in Germany, Rohde & Schwarz developed sample receivers and sent them together with the documentation to electronics manufacturers Grundig and Nürnberg and gave them away to opinion leaders. The brilliant sound quality convinced the industry, which soon started building FM receivers. Rohde & Schwarz won several new clients for its new broadcasting technology, among them British and American military radio stations in Germany.

Dynamic Growth After 1949

The 1950s and 1960s became a period of unprecedented growth for the German economy. At the same time the demand for radio and telecommunication technology increased significantly. For Rohde & Schwarz this translated into annual growth rates of 40 to 50 percent. After several trade show presentations in 1949 and 1950 in Germany as well as in Italy and Turkey, Rohde & Schwarz was approached by many firms and independent sales people interested in selling the company's products. Besides cooperating with such partners, the company opened its own sales offices. Between 1952 and 1960 Rohde & Schwarz offices opened in Hanover, Karlsruhe, Cologne, and Hamburg. The company's repair shop in Cologne developed into a production plant in the early 1960s. In addition to Deutsche Bundespost, the German Post Office, the radio broadcast industry, and the airport security administration, the new West German army, the Bundeswehr, became a fourth big account. Rohde & Schwarz products also sparked interest outside Germany. In 1950 the company exported one third of its total measurement instrument production to 24 different countries. By 1961 Rohde & Schwarz products were being shipped to most of western Europe, South Africa, India, the United States, and Mexico.

During the same period, the company once again broadened its product range. Encouraged by the success of its radio broadcast stations, beginning in 1952 Rohde & Schwarz developed transmitters and receivers for other uses such as telegraphy and telephone communication in the 100W to 20 kW range. The new television technology opened new growth possibilities. Rohde & Schwarz developed measurement technology and added UHF-TV broadcasting and receiving technology later on. The company also developed new professional communication devices and systems for flight security crews at airports. In 1957 the first automatic VHF-guidance system developed by Rohde & Schwarz was installed at Munich's Riem airport. In 1958 the company introduced oscillography-measurement stations.

Within 30 years Rohde & Schwarz had become Europe's biggest manufacturer of electronic measurement instruments. The company had about 3,000 people on its payroll. Sales had grown at a rate of 25 percent annually since 1950 and from 1963 to 1973 they doubled once again. To ensure further growth, between 1969 and 1970 the company acquired two large properties in Munich's Mühldorfstrasse and in Teisnach in the Bavarian Forest. Hermann Schwarz' son Friedrich became the company's third principal in addition to its two founders who--both in their 60s--stayed actively involved in the company's management.

Two trends determined the direction measurement technology took in the 1960s. First, new digital technology in connection with electronic data processing led to more powerful and precise measurement instruments which were also easier to use. Second, system integration became increasingly important. One of the first such systems Rohde & Schwarz developed was a noise monitoring system developed in 1964 for the Rhine-Main airport in Frankfurt. A year later a weather satellite receiving station was delivered to the central office of the German weather services in Offenbach. Bigger projects followed in the late 1960s. In 1969 Rohde & Schwarz delivered equipment for the German satellite project AZUR. To realize the million dollar plus deal, Rohde & Schwarz specialists were sent to the polar circle to set up and test the stations. In 1971 the company supplied the central German ground satellite station system in Lichtenau near Weilheim with antennas. By means of these projects, the company gained valuable know-how for large projects in the areas of systems development and project management.

Modernization and Innovation After 1973

Despite the slowdown in the German economy that began at the end of the 1960s Rohde & Schwarz was able to double its sales again in the ten years between 1973 to 1983. This was mainly due to new product developments in which electronic components replaced work-intensive fine mechanics and used modern production methods. An automated component assembly line started putting together CAD-designed circuit boards in the Memmingen plant beginning in 1979. A modern high-shelf warehouse made the distribution of parts and shipping of products easier and more efficient at the company's Munich plant in 1982.

The company's significant investment in product development gave it a leading position in the new field of automated testing systems for the broadcasting industry and the military. All airports in Germany and many in other countries were equipped with Rohde & Schwarz guidance beacons that featured many independent channels and an interface that connected them to monitors and radar stations. Rohde & Schwarz radio beacons with their unprecedented accuracy of 0.1 degrees were also used to guide traffic through the &Auml®elkanal and along the German North Sea coast. In 1982 the company organized 'the world's largest guidance beacon show' at Munich-Riem airport which was attended by 400 experts from all over the world. Most Bundeswehr aircraft were equipped with Rohde & Schwarz radios in the 1970s and 1980s. The company also installed radio networks in embassies.

On July 25, 1985 co-founder Dr. Lothar Rohde passed away after a short illness. When he was asked about the event that most impressed him, on his 75th birthday in 1981, Rohde recalled: 'It was the friendship with Hermann Schwarz. The reconstruction after the war was only possible because of the complete mutual trust and understanding between two friends.' Dr. Hermann Schwarz turned 80 in 1988. For the next seven years he remained involved in the business, continuing to go to his office almost every day. Schwarz died in November 1995.

Strategic Partnerships in Global Markets: Late 1990s

Trends began to take shape in the 1980s that fundamentally changed the world economy, and they accelerated during the 1990s. Europe opened its borders and became a free trade zone with few boundaries; markets were deregulated and government-owned companies were privatized throughout much of the industrialized world; Asian and Latin American countries opened up their economies; the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact were dissolved; and globalization set in. For Rohde & Schwarz this translated into fewer orders from government institutions (which instead postponed investments), the breakdown of important markets in Eastern Europe, and increased international competition. CEO Friedrich Schwarz focused on intensive efforts to speed up innovations and at the same time make product development more efficient. Research and development investments at the company represented 23 percent of total sales in the 1980s. In 1991 the company initiated the project Halbe Zeit zum Markt (HZM) ('to the market in half the time'), which cut the time needed from the first product idea to its introduction in the market in half. In 1980 an office was set up in Silicon Valley to learn about the latest trends in semiconductors and to promote Rohde & Schwarz technology in the Californian high-tech Mecca. This led to a closer cooperation with Wilsonville,Oregon-based Tektronix Inc., a manufacturer of test and measurement products, that began in August 1993. Tektronix agreed to help Rohde & Schwarz market and distribute their measurement instruments in North America while Rohde & Schwarz did the same for Tektronix in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and some countries in the Mediterranean. A year before Rohde & Schwarz had entered another agreement with the Japanese maker of measurement instruments, Advantest CorporationAdvantest Corporation.

For the second half of the 1990s Rohde & Schwarz focused on growth markets such as mobile telecommunication, digital radio and television, and data security. In 1996 the company formed a consortium called Tetracom together with German telecommunications firm DeTeWe and Simoco International Ltd. to cooperate in the area of professional mobile telecommunication. Based on a European standard, they developed the new 'Tetra' technology, for digital streamlined radio communication for organizations with security functions such as the police, fire departments, and disaster prevention and management groups. In 1997 the company was chosen by British satellite communication company ICO Global Communications (later known as New ICO) to develop technologies for so-called dual-mode cell phones which were able to communicate with terrestrial as well as satellite-based signals. Another assignment, this one for Rohde & Schwarz's Berlin subsidiary SIT, came from the German data security authority. The request was for a 'D-channel filter,' a device that could shield the ISDN-based telecommunication of government agencies between Bonn and Berlin from being monitored by spies. In 1999 Rohde & Schwarz was chosen to equip the Spanish DVB-T television network with transmitting technology which was used in many new digital TV networks such as in England, Finland, and the United States. In 2000 the city of Hamburg asked Rohde & Schwarz to establish a mobile radio network to be used by security, transportation, and courier services. As a worldwide leader in mobile communication measurement systems and digital radio communication, family-owned Rohde & Schwarz seemed well positioned for the future as a specialty firm in the global communications market.

Principal Subsidiaries: Rohde & Schwarz Meßgerätebau GmbH; Rohde & Schwarz Vertriebs-GmbH; Rohde & Schwarz International GmbH; Rohde & Schwarz Engineering and Sales GmbH; R & S BICK Mobilfunk GmbH; Rohde & Schwarz FTK GmbH; Rohde & Schwarz SIT GmbH.

Principal Competitors: Agilent Technologies, Inc.; Teradyne, Inc. Thales.

Further Reading:

  • 'Digitaler Bündelfunk `Tetra' soll 1998 lieferbar sein,' Deutsche Verkehrszeitung, December 17, 1996.
  • Habermann, Albert, 'Geschichte des Hauses Rohde & Schwarz. 1. Jahrzehnt 1933-1943,' Zeitzeichen, February 1996, p. 10.
  • Habermann, Albert, 'Geschichte des Hauses Rohde & Schwarz, Teil 2,' Zeitzeichen, June 1996, p. 11.
  • ------, 'Geschichte des Hauses Rohde & Schwarz, Teil 3,' Zeitzeichen, October 1996, p. 8.
  • 'Hermann Schwarz,' Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, November 15, 1995, p. 26.
  • Huber, Franz Reinhold, 'Geschichte des Hauses Rohde & Schwarz, Teil 4,' Zeitzeichen, February 1997, p. 8.
  • ------, 'Geschichte des Hauses Rohde & Schwarz, Teil 5,' Zeitzeichen, June 1997, p. 3.
  • ------, 'Geschichte des Hauses Rohde & Schwarz, Teil 6,' Zeitzeichen, October 1997, p. 8.
  • Ludsteck, Walter, 'DYNASTIEN, AUSSENSEITER, NEWCOMER: Familien Rohde und Schwarz Vom Zwei-Mann Labor zur High-Tech-Schmiede,' Süddeutsche Zeitung, December 4, 1993.
    1933-1993; 60 Years Rohde & Schwarz, Munich, Germany: Rohde & Schwarz GmbH & Co. KG, 1993, 15 p.
  • 'Satellitenkommunikation; Dual-mode-handys Schon Bald In Sicht;
  • Rohde & Schwarz Erhaelt Referenzmesstechnik-auftrag,' Elektronik, September 2, 1997, p. 30.
  • Schöne, Bernd, 'Weltweiter Lauschangriff,' Süddeutsche Zeitung, November 5, 1999, p. V2/6.
  • Schwarz, Dr. Hermann, 'Die Geschichte der Firma Rohde & Schwarz,' Neues von Rohde & Schwarz, Fall 1983, p. 4.
  • Wessel, Claudia, 'Umstrittene Entlassungen bei Rohde und Schwarz,' Süddeutsche Zeitung, December 14, 1993.

Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 39. St. James Press, 2001.