Bernhard MüllerWalterscheid GmbH Logo


Mitarbeiter posieren voller Stolz mit einem Zahnkranz auf dem Werksgelände.
Traktoren wie der weit verbrei- tete Lanz Bulli erleichtern ab den 1950er Jahren die Arbeit – bei der Heuernte und vielen weiteren Aufgaben.
Der Durchbruch: Bei der Fach- messe der DLG 1953 zeigt Walterscheid erstmals seine innovativen Gelenkwellen und erregt großes Aufsehen.
Vor Ort und nah bei der Anwendung: Mit seiner mobilen Messtechnik im VW Bulli unterstützt Walterscheid die Landwirte.
Krones Stalldungstreuer Optimat – angetrieben von einer Walterscheid-Gelenkwelle
Berthold Kurscheidt (2. von links), später Geschäftsführer, spricht mit Mitarbeitern in der Fertigung.

To new shores –
the era of Bernhard Walterscheid-Müller


Setting the course

Beginning in 1952, Bernhard Walterscheid-Müller, long-time Managing Director and adopted son of Jean Walterscheid, forms a successful team with engineer Kurt Schröter. The team opens up a new business area: they successfully enter the agricultural sector by making drive shafts with an innovative guard. As part of the GKN Group, Walterscheid continues to develop these drive shafts and launches pioneering products, such as the Walterscheid Coupling System (WKS).

Zahnkränze sind ab 1950 das neue Produkt der Walterscheid- Fertigung. Mitarbeiter posieren voller Stolz mit einem Zahnkranz auf dem Werksgelände.
Zahnkränze sind ab 1950 das neue Produkt der Walterscheid- Fertigung. Mitarbeiter posieren voller Stolz mit einem Zahnkranz auf dem Werksgelände.

Gear rings are a new product manufactured by Walterscheid beginning in 1950. Employees proudly pose with a gear ring on the factory premises.

Bartering and improvisation end with the currency reform and the introduction of the Deutsche-Mark on 21 June 1948, and economic life is quickly revived. Walterscheid also once again increases production rather than just keeping afloat with repairs and small orders. Things are looking up: major customers, such as machine manufacturer Klöckner-Humboldt-Deutz (KHD) regularly procure their axle shafts from Walterscheid.

Bernhard Müller now wants to expand production and needs space for a larger factory. He finds a property that meets his requirements in his home town of Lohmar. Situated south-west of the town centre, it provides good access to the main transport route and to the A3 Cologne-Wiesbaden. It also offers a connection to the (now no longer existent) railway line. In January 1949, Walterscheid leases the 15,000-square-metre area and applies for the construction of “an extensive industrial hall”. The municipality of Lohmar welcomes the plans, which it believes will “effectively support economic activities in the municipality”.

Müller also expanded the company’s product range so as not to be dependent on a single product. Besides axle shafts, beginning in 1950 the company also manufactures starter ring gears – the so-called AZ range. When Jean Walterscheid retires for health reasons, Bernhard Müller takes on more responsibility and makes his mark at the top of the company. The employees are impressed at “how energetically, diligently and tirelessly this young man tackled his set tasks”. In particular, he has “an unerring ability to identify future opportunities”. The childless Jean Walterscheid decides to adopt his authorised representative and Managing Director and makes him the heir to the company. On 1 August 1952 he invites the entire workforce and their families, almost 200 people, to the factory at the mill stream. A long-term employee plays the violin and there is an entertainment programme before Jean Walterscheid delivers a speech. “We instinctively felt that this was an act that guaranteed the security of our jobs and the future of the company”, reports a participant. Walterscheid appoints Bernhard Müller as a joint owner; the Managing Director now bears the name Bernhard Walterscheid-Müller.

Bei einer Feier mit Mitarbeitern gibt Jean Walterscheid (links) 1952 bekannt, dass er Bernhard Müller (2. von links) adoptiert und zum Unternehmensnachfolger macht.

At a celebratory event with employees in 1952, Jean Walterscheid (left) announces that he is adopting Bernhard Müller (2nd from the left) and making him the successor to the company.

“Why don’t you sing” – the history of the factory choir

Polyphonic: the factory choir records numerous vinyl records in the 1980s.

Even as a successful businessman, Jean Walterscheid remains a cheerful soul who enjoys celebrating birthdays and Saint’s days in the factory. “Why don’t you sing”, he prompts the guests. This leads to the idea of a factory choir. Walterscheid’s brother-in-law, Karl Buchholz, founds the choir, with Peter Neuhalfen as the first conductor. The choir holds its first performance on 24 May 1946, Jean Walterscheid’s 54th birthday. The factory choir is soon not just singing at company events but also holding public concerts. After the choir fell silent at the end of the 1960s, it is revived by HR manager Ulf Clodius in 1978, who is able to get long-term chorister Heinrich Herchenbach involved. Karl-Josef Kappes is appointed as the conductor and a board is created. The choir now also attends events with soprano Margaret Price and tenor John Lapierre, and even releases records in 1981 and 1985. A highlight is the anniversary concert at the Hennef “Meys Fabrik” in October 1996. In 2003, the choir disbands following the death of long-term conductor Karl-Josef Kappes, due to a shortage of new recruits.

Entry into agricultural engineering

In the early 1950s, agriculture benefits from high prices for its products and invests primarily in mechanisation. Walterscheid takes advantage of this development. In the autumn of 1952, engineer Kurt Schröter joins the company and forms a perfect duo with Bernhard Walterscheid-Müller. “A brilliant designer and a visionary business owner joined forces”, gush companions decades later. The two men take a close look at agriculture and note the increasing popularity of tractors and agricultural machinery. Together they develop the idea for Walterscheid to enter this market.

Agricultural machines need drive shafts, but the requirements of agricultural machinery manufacturers differ from those of other Walterscheid customers. In motor vehicles and many other machines, the drive shafts are permanently installed and are only slightly angled, while agricultural machines require compact joints with short fork legs. In agriculture, devices are often coupled and uncoupled and operated at large angles, especially when cornering and in narrow fields. Many agricultural machinery manufacturers produce their own drive shafts at the time; Walterscheid repairs quite a few and knows their weaknesses. There are a multitude of different types; repairs are difficult and spare parts are scarce. Dangerous accidents are often caused because drive shafts between the machine and the tractor do not have a guard and are freely accessible. There is also a lack of overload clutches, which prevent the overloading of the machine. Walterscheid is convinced that they can offer a better product. The company takes the step into agricultural engineering with a special drive shaft designed by Kurt Schröter.

Mechanisation of agriculture

Until well into the 20th century, agriculture is primarily reliant on the labour of humans and animals. The advent of the milking machine in the 1920s marks the start of the mechanisation of the industry. It soon also extends to field work: larger operations use motorised tractors, whose number increases to around 30,000 by 1939. The changes in West Germany after the Second World War are particularly severe: between 1950 and 1965 more than a million horses are replaced by 800,000 tractors. The agricultural industry becomes increasingly important as, in addition to a number of tractor manufacturers, producers of combine harvesters and tilling machines generate huge amounts of revenue. The transformation is impossible to ignore. Workers stream into the industry, but the number of people employed in agriculture halves to around 2 million by the mid-1960s. Their work is now largely performed by all kinds of machines.

In the meantime, agricultural machinery develops from pure tractor units to drive sources. For example, the US company McCormick launches a sheaf-binding harvester on the market, which binds the grain stalks into bundles (sheaves). The machine is driven by the tractor via a PTO shaft. Soon afterwards, this new type of drive is being used by other agricultural machinery manufacturers. The power take-off even leads to the development of new machines, such as high-pressure balers for hay and straw.

Traktoren wie der weit verbrei- tete Lanz Bulli erleichtern ab den 1950er Jahren die Arbeit – bei der Heuernte und vielen weiteren Aufgaben.

Tractors, such as the popular Lanz Bulli, make work easier in the 1950s – during the hay harvest and many other activities.

Kurt Schröter bringt Walterscheid mit seinen Konstruktionen für die Landtechnik entscheidend voran.

Kurt Schröter takes Walterscheid a giant step forward with his designs for agricultural engineering.

Jean Walterscheid (links) und Bernhard Walterscheid-Müller haben in den 1950er Jahren Gründe zum Feiern und nutzen sie.

Jean Walterscheid (left) and Bernhard Walterscheid-Müller have plenty of reasons to celebrate in the 1950s, and so they did.

Walterscheid findet mit seiner Schutzeinrichtung eine Lösung für die Unfallgefahr bei Gelenkwellen.

Walterscheid finds a solution to the accident risk of drive shafts with its guard.

Convinced by quality

When Walterscheid presents its new drive shaft series at the German Agricultural Society (DLG) trade fair in Cologne in 1953, it is a minor sensation. It is the first appearance of a drive technology specialist in agriculture. The presentation of drive shafts for agricultural machinery is also a gamble. While Walterscheid does not have any competitors at the time because no specialist manufacturers exist, there are also no customers. The aim now is to convince agricultural machinery manufacturers to give up their in-house production and purchase these from suppliers. The key is the high quality of the Walterscheid drive shaft. It is suitable for a wide range of agricultural machines, such as harvesters, sprayers and manure spreaders.

Walterscheid drive shafts have a number of benefits – above all, the world’s first drive shaft guard. In addition, the drive shafts have integrated overload clutches, which prevent damage to the tractor and machine if the agricultural machinery is blocked or overloaded. Walterscheid offers customised solutions for different machines. For instance, in high-pressure presses or rotary mowers, the large rotating masses run-on after they are switched off, so that the drive shaft also rotates and is able to lock. Overrunning clutches, which transmit the torque in only one direction, prevent this dangerous situation.

The quick-disconnect pin, which enables convenient coupling, is another innovation. The telescopic profile tubes are also new. These allow the distances between tractors and machines to be increased and adjusted. The profiling also ensures that the two driveshaft halves can only be pushed together with a 180-degree offset so that the correct fork position is always ensured. This makes incorrect assembly impossible. In use, the profile impresses with its low vibrations and low displacement forces, as well as low wear thanks to its large contact surfaces.

Walterscheids Gelenkwellen bewähren sich, wie hier bei einer Sämaschine von Amazone, und überzeugen vor allem durch ihre Sicherheit.

Walterscheid’s drive shafts prove their worth – for example, here in an Amazone seeder – and particularly impress with their safety.

Walterscheids Gelenkwellen bewähren sich, wie hier bei einer Sämaschine von Amazone, und überzeugen vor allem durch ihre Sicherheit.

Growth with shafts

The acquisition of axle shaft manufacturer Vernimb in 1953 strengthens Walterscheid with an additional production site.

In 1953, Walterscheid acquires axle shaft manufacturer Max Vernimb from Kiel and enters into the export market, as Vernimb’s success is primarily international. The year after, the company becomes a limited partnership. Jean Walterscheid and Bernhard Walterscheid-Müller are joined by Kurt Schröter and two other limited partners. Walterscheid starts mass-producing agricultural drive shafts (LGW) and grows rapidly. The Heinrich Lanz AG agricultural machinery factory in Zweibrücken, which is subsequently taken over by John Deere, is a customer from the very beginning. In 1954 the first mass-produced Walterscheid drive shaft is in operation in the Lanz potato harvester. The sprayers in the Standard range manufactured by Holder und Stalldungstreuer in 1955 also use Walterscheid drive shafts.

The LGW programme runs so well that there is no longer enough space on the first floor of the old “Hansenmühle”. Even a 2,000-square-metre hall erected at the Siegburg mill stream in 1954 only provides short-term relief. But Bernhard Walterscheid-Müller has prepared for this and has now purchased the initially leased property in Lohmar. An assembly hall covering around 4,000 square metres is constructed.

In addition, Walterscheid establishes national customer service centres to advise farmers, while representative offices are also opened abroad. These local contact points allow Walterscheid to supply farmers with spare parts and also learn a great deal about their practical requirements. This gives the company a good insight into developments in agriculture, and it aligns its production accordingly. In 1955, Walterscheid employs 400 staff and annual sales exceed a million marks for the very first time.

Walterscheid bewirbt sich 1953 – direkt nach der Entscheidung für die Landtechnik – beim VDMA, der bis heute größten Organisation des europäischen Maschinenbaus.
In Lohmar baut Walterscheid Ende der 1950er Jahre erste Hallen – der Umzug von Sieg- burg nach Lohmar beginnt.
In Lohmar baut Walterscheid Ende der 1950er Jahre erste Hallen – der Umzug von Sieg- burg nach Lohmar beginnt.

Walterscheid builds its first hall in Lohmar at the end of the 1950s – this marks the start of the relocation from Siegburg to Lohmar.

Dr. Bernard Krone, Seniorchef der Krone Group und langjähriger Geschäftspartner von Walterscheid

Dr Bernard Krone, owner of the Krone Group and long-term Walterscheid business partner

Krone: “A strategic partner on which we can rely one hundred percent”

Today, Maschinenfabrik Bernard Krone, from Spelle, founded in 1906, is a leading global manufacturer of agricultural machinery for grassland technology. Bernard Krone, from the third generation of the family-owned company, first heard of Walterscheid while completing his Mechanical Engineering degree. He remembers how “references to occupational health and safety constantly made mention of the safety aspect of the Walterscheid drive shaft, the first fully-protected drive shaft. There is no doubt that this has prevented numerous serious accidents over the decades”. The companies first work together on the Optimat manure spreader, which Krone launches on the market in 1957. The universal loader for loading and unloading grass, straw, hay and silage, launched in 1963 also operates using Walterscheid drive shafts. Krone and Walterscheid develop components for machines in a cooperation spanning decades. Even though Bernard Krone “has to swallow hard on one or two occasions due to the prices”, he was convinced by the “outstanding” quality. This was also true for the spare parts supply and the service. His conclusion after six decades of cooperation: “Walterscheid is an important strategic partner and systems supplier on which we can rely one hundred percent”.

Krones Stalldungstreuer Opti- mat – angetrieben von einer Walterscheid-Gelenkwelle

Krone’s Optimat manure spreader, driven by a Walterscheid drive shaft.

Quality, trust, cooperation

On location and close to the application: Walterscheid supports farmers with its mobile measurement technology in the VW Bulli.

Mit dem Weitwinkelgelenk bietet Walterscheid eine praktikable Lösung für Kurven und enge Räume.

Walterscheid’s wide-angle joint is a practical solution for cornering and narrow areas.

What works well, and what can be improved? To implement and test suggestions from agriculture, in 1955 Walterscheid sets up testing department, known as “the Test” for short. It develops ideas and concepts that are discussed and optimised together with important customers. The regular exchange of ideas improves quality and establishes trust. After just a few years, Walterscheid is able to make significant improvements, such as for one general problem with drive shafts: they transmit rotary motion unevenly when cornering. This leads to strong vibrations and high wear, which causes damage to the machines and drive shaft. As a result, Kurt Schröter designs a joint for large angles. The externally controlled double joint permits a power transmission of up to 75 percent. It is used in drive axle trailers and drawn combine harvesters, among others, which are still very popular in the 1950s.

The need for overload clutches increase in this period. Inside soundproof tractor cabins, drivers could barely even hear a machine malfunction. Walterscheid therefore develops clutches that automatically switch off and then back on when the speed is reduced or after stopping. These type K60 automatic clutches are widely used, including in field harvesters.

Expansion of service and internationalisation

When Walterscheid publishes its first practical technical manual with comprehensive product and application descriptions in the spring of 1956, the catalogue contains 106 drive shafts. Beginning in 1957, Walterscheid produces this wide range in its new factory in Lohmar. The company also continues working on innovations, always in cooperation with machine manufacturers and users. As the performance data provided by agricultural machinery manufacturers is often imprecise, in 1958 Walterscheid establishes a torque measurement service. “The Test” constantly deals with the problems that arise when drive shafts are not optimally adapted to machines and tractors. Drive shafts must work smoothly and transmit power. It is therefore important that overload clutches are aligned to the tractor/trailer combination. Walterscheid starts to determine the power requirement of machines directly in the field together with customers. This benefits both sides: test times are shortened and the risk of malfunctions and complaints is reduced.

Walterscheid’s success arouses interest, and two European competitors are interested in purchasing the company: the already affiliated Glaenzer Spicer (France) and Hardy Spicer from Great Britain. But Bernhard Walterscheid-Müller has other plans, and convinces the Spicer Group to enter into a cooperation. In 1958, they come together to establish two national sales companies for drive shafts: Hardy Spicer Walterscheid Ltd. in Birmingham and Glaenzer Walterscheid in Poissy (near Paris). Walterscheid itself is increasingly relocating to Lohmar. In September 1959, the administration department moves into a new, modern building, while the axle shaft production department moves into a second machine hall (hall 2). Lohmar is now the official company headquarters.

New business areas

In 1958, Walterscheid turns its attention to a new business area and buys Stuttgart-based Arnold Mohr, which manufactures hydraulic tube fittings. These are used in construction and forestry machinery, in shipbuilding and in the food industry. Tube fittings are also required for agricultural machinery, such as combine harvesters and forage harvesters. The fitting consists of a body, a union nut and a flow ring. The tube is fastened in the fitting by the ring and sealed.

Bernhard Walterscheid-Müller develops the product even further, performing pressure tests and declaring the connection system to be “disappointingly poor”. His solution: he replaces the flow ring with a double wedge ring and files a patent application for the new design, called the Walterscheid tube fitting. This is available beginning in 1960; the new sales manager Leo Schwertje and his team present it at the industrial fair in Hanover in April. The key customers primarily include construction machine manufacturers and shipyards, such as AG Weser and Bremer Vulkan. Annual sales of the new product quickly rise to a million marks. But, given the total sales of 50 million marks in 1961, this is only a small business area.

Walterscheid and its almost 1,000 employees are primarily focussed on agricultural engineering. Schröter uses his contacts at the Agricultural Engineering department of the Technical University of Cologne to acquire well-qualified personnel. At the International Motor Show (IAA) in 1963, his team holds discussions with tractor and transmission manufacturers and introduces ideas for a dual clutch. The aim is to combine the gearbox and power take-off with a single clutch in each case. The dual clutch allows Walterscheid to attract additional tractor manufacturers, which had previously already purchased axle shafts, as customers. This includes Steyr, Schlüter and Kramer Lamborghini. In 1962 the Max-Eyth-Gesellschaft Agrartechnik awards Kurt Schröter its highly esteemed commemorative medal for the design of these clutches and the drive shafts, among others.

Eine Rohrverschraubung in neuer Konstruktion verschafft Walterscheid ein zusätzliches Geschäftsfeld.

A new tube fitting design opens up an additional business area for Walterscheid.

Strong together: Uni-Cardan

After the company’s successful entry into agricultural engineering, Bernhard Walterscheid-Müller looks for new sales markets and establishes production outside Germany. In 1963 Walterscheid and its partner company Hardy Spicer, which becomes part of the English Birfield Group shortly thereafter, establish a plant in Bruneck, Italy. Birfield-Trasmissioni, the plant in South Tirol, begins operation in an economically underdeveloped region and soon develops very positively.

These good experiences with the Spicer Group induce Walterscheid-Müller to take an unusual step: he proposes the merger of six drive shaft manufacturers from four countries. Besides Walterscheid, this includes Gelenkwellenbau from Essen and Löhr as well as Bromkamp from Offenbach and Schmiede- und Presswerk, founded in Trier. Other partners are Birfield-Trasmissioni in Italy, Glaenzer Spicer in France and the Birfield Group. In 1964, they jointly found the Uni-Cardan public limited company.

The merger is financially strong and enables the exchange of knowhow, as each manufacturer has its own areas of focus. Sales and service are easier to organise together. Bernhard Walterscheid-Müller remains the Managing Director of Walterscheid and is appointed the CEO of Uni-Cardan, which establishes its headquarters on the Walterscheid premises in Lohmar. The name Uni-Cardan is coined by Kurt Schröter after Gerolamo Cardano, the inventor of the cardan shaft. Walterscheid shares, including those of Kurt Schröter, the Walterscheid family and Bernhard Walterscheid-Müller, are converted to Uni-Cardan shares. This makes Walterscheid a subsidiary of Uni-Cardan and, for the very first time, it has joint owners from outside the company. The most important of these is the Birfield Group, which holds just under 40 percent of Uni-Cardan.

Ein europäischer Zusammenschluss: Die Uni-Cardan AG vereint Werke aus mehreren Ländern.

A European merger: Uni-Cardan AG unites plants from several countries.

Bauarbeiten vor alpenländischer Kulisse: In Bruneck in Südtirol entsteht 1963 Birfield-Trasmis- sioni, das Werk von Walterscheid und seinem Partnerunternehmen Birfield.
Bauarbeiten vor alpenländischer Kulisse: In Bruneck in Südtirol entsteht 1963 Birfield-Trasmis- sioni, das Werk von Walterscheid und seinem Partnerunternehmen Birfield.

Construction work in an alpine setting: Birfield-Trasmissioni, the plant owned by Walterscheid and its partner company Birfield, is constructed in Bruneck, South Tirol, in 1963.

Employees across generations

In the 1960s, workers from Portugal are welcomed with open arms and stay with their families, often across generations.

At the peak of the “economic miracle” at the start of the 1960s, full employment prevails and there is a shortage of qualified personnel. Even Walterscheid struggles to attract and retain employees. The company therefore offers a number of benefits: from 1958 onwards, after a period of ten years’ employment, employees enjoy protection against dismissal that goes beyond legal regulations. In 1964, Walterscheid is one of the pioneers of the Christmas bonus. Many employees move into company apartments or spend their holidays in company holiday homes. For a time, they can even refuel for free on the company premises. Walterscheid is renowned for its high level of employee benefits.

Walterscheid is a popular employer in the region, but the demand for workers outstrips supply. Like other companies, Walterscheid even looks to attract guest workers and employs unusual measures. Berthold Kurscheidt, who later becomes the Managing Director, establishes contact with church groups in Portugal via the Steyler Mission religious community in Sankt Augustin. This attracts some initial families (incl. Matos and da Silva) to Siegburg and Lohmar. The workers originally acquired as guests often stay in the region, and later many of their children and grand-children also work at Walterscheid. The connection, particularly to the Portuguese town of Vila Verde, is very strong; a town twinning agreement with Lohmar still exists today.

Berthold Kurscheidt (2. von links), später Geschäftsführer, spricht mit Mitarbeitern in der Fertigung.

Berthold Kurscheidt (2nd from the left), who later became the Managing Director, talks to employees in the production area.

Extensions and innovations

By 1970, the Lohmar plant has grown impressively, and the administration building now extends across five storeys. The hangar that contained the training workshop is located on the front right, with the combined heat and power station with chimney behind it.

In 1964, the year in which Uni-Cardan is founded, Walterscheid builds a facility for fixture construction, the development department, the training workshop and the exhibition storage depot near the motorway in Lohmar. This also includes the construction of a crane track hall. The space freed up in Siegburg is used to make tube fittings, while the old site at the mill stream is used as a warehouse. In 1965, a second administration building is constructed in Lohmar, including a dispatch hall as well as a combined heat and power station with a distinctive chimney. These are the years of building, relocating and restructuring. In retrospect, one long-term employee asks himself: “Was there ever a period during which we weren’t building?”

In the mid-1960s Walterscheid employs 1,400 staff with annual sales of 83 million marks. In 1966 the AZ production department relocates to Kiel (formerly Max Vernimb). That same year, the British mechanical engineering group Guest, Keen & Nettlefolds (GKN) takes over Birfield. This means that GKN also acquires shares in Uni-Cardan and therefore Jean Walterscheid KG.

Walterscheid expands its agricultural engineering activities in Lohmar. To establish itself as a development partner, the testing department is expanded and new test benches with the latest measurement technology are set up. This is where innovations in drive shafts are tested for their specific applications, among other activities. This is necessary because the requirements differ depending on the machines being operated by the shafts.

The 70-degree joint presented at the DLG in Frankfurt in May 1966 solves a common problem: side-loading trailers that operate on the side of the truck, for which conventional drive shafts are unsuitable, are becoming increasingly popular. By contrast, the new wide-angle joint transmits rotating motion under full load up to an angle of 70 degrees when cornering. This opens up new possibilities for designers of agricultural machinery.

The CV joint introduced in 1967 is an innovation for front-wheel drive vehicles. As rotating motion is uneven when cornering, this causes vibrations that have to be absorbed with complex special-purpose designs. The CV technology solves this problem using constant velocity. Constant velocity joints transmit rotating motion uniformly and free of vibrations. Walterscheid delivers these to customers that include Volkswagen, Porsche, Lancia, Peugeot and Renault.

Decisions for the future

Walterscheid experiences years of enormous growth and now employs over 2,000 staff. The company generates sales of around 140 million marks and, in 1967, the five millionth drive shaft is delivered. In 1969, Walterscheid extends the administration building in Lohmar and also invests in the plant in Kiel. The training workshop in the hangar also commences operation.

The overall development of Uni-Cardan is just as positive as that of Walterscheid, but GKN CEO Raymond Brookes is unhappy with GKN’s weak position in the merger. With a holding of 38.8 percent, the business’s influence is too small, and Brookes wants to obtain a majority shareholding. In 1971, he uses a joint tour of the Uni-Cardan site to induce Walterscheid-Müller to sell. Space is tight in the chartered private jet and Brookes puts pressure on the Uni-Cardan founder and CEO. Whatever the case, GKN will enter the European drive shaft market and if necessary compete with Uni-Cardan and its own minority holding. To prevent this, he proposes a cooperation with the strong partner GKN.

The offer is enticing because, after years of strong growth, Walterscheid is starting to reach its financial limits and needs capital for investments. Still Walterscheid-Müller asks for a night to consider the offer made during the trip. While the return flight is delayed, Brookes and Walterscheid-Müller take a stroll across a decommissioned runway. This is where Walterscheid-Müller announces his decision: he will transfer the majority holding of Uni-Cardan.

Gelenkwellen sind Walterscheids Hauptprodukt und in einer breiten Fülle erhältlich.

Drive shafts are Walterscheid’s main product and are available in abundance.

New times

As GKN increases its share in Uni-Cardan to 58.7 percent, Uni-Cardan becomes a subsidiary of the British group. As Uni-Cardan is a general partner of Walterscheid, Walterscheid is now also part of GKN. In 1972, Jean Walterscheid KG, together with Schmiede- und Presswerk Trier, is transformed into a joint-stock company (GmbH). Bernhard Walterscheid-Müller is appointed the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the new Jean Walterscheid GmbH, while Berthold Kurscheidt is joined by Helmut Hochstatter on the Management Board.

The first consequences of the new ownership structure is the end of the dual clutch business, as GKN distributes these kinds of products itself through the company Laycock. Besides this, Walterscheid employees are confident that they will be able to develop their strengths in agricultural engineering as part of GKN.

1972 is also a year of sorrow: Jean Walterscheid, the company’s founder and driving force over its first few decades, passes away on 1 October, at the age of 80. Kurt Schröter passes away a year later. Due to a heart condition, he had already given up his position as Chief Designer a few years prior, but was still employed in a consulting role.

The takeover by GKN coincides with the end of the post-war boom. The first oil price crisis of 1973 leads many to the realisation that the times of seemingly unlimited growth are coming to an end. Walterscheid also struggles from a lack of orders for its large workforce, which had previously grown so quickly, meaning that staff have to be let go. In 1973, the Management Board introduces short-term work for the company’s employees.

Ground-breaking products

Eagerly awaited by journalists and farmers: at the DLG in 1974, Walterscheid presents the innovative Walterscheid coupling system (WKS) in its practical application.

Product development continues. The tube fittings division of Walterscheid designs a DIN-compliant fitting that appeals to a larger customer base. As the base elements are exchangeable, the new fitting is also compatible with the existing system meaning that no conversion is required by customers. Walterscheid’s introduction of these fittings with DIN-compliant cutting and wedge rings beginning in 1973 also leads to the acquisition of new customers in agricultural engineering. In addition to drive shafts and overload clutches, Grimme, Krone and KHD now also purchase tube fittings from Walterscheid.

In its tireless work on solutions for agricultural engineering, Walterscheid is particularly committed to safety, because despite improved drive shaft protection, accidents continue to occur when coupling and uncoupling machines. A more convenient and safe system would be one that allows coupling to take place from the tractor cab. This is first made possible by the Walterscheid coupling system (WKS), which is presented at the DLG in Frankfurt in 1974. The key element of the WKS is the hook coupling as a tractor attachment. Following the market launch of the WKS in 1974, the next year Walterscheid presents an improved three-point coupling system under the brand name Walterscheid two-stage coupler.

These days, this innovation is an indispensable part of agricultural engineering, but it was initially met with scepticism. Tractor manufacturers are hesitant to install the new coupling system due to the cost. But Walterscheid is tenacious and goes directly to farmers to convince them of the benefits of the system. Technicians travel to villages and weld the hook – the key element of the new system – onto tractors on location. It is a resounding success: the benefits in practical application are obvious. Farmers now exert pressure on manufacturers to integrate the new system into their machines as a standard solution. This once again made crystal clear that benefit for the user is the deciding factor in the success of Walterscheid products.

Walterscheid remains particularly successful with its drive shafts and, in 1974, sets a production record: 1.1 million drive shafts in one year! That same year, the company is also able to acquire an industry giant, Claas, as a customer in Germany. Claas has already been manufacturing some of its Markant presses in Algeria using Walterscheid drive shafts for a number of years. The agricultural machinery manufacturer now decides to purchase the drive shafts for its Markant presses in Harsewinkel as well.

Walterscheid decides that the time is right to look for business outside Europe and, in 1976, establishes a US subsidiary in Burr Ridge, Illinois (near Chicago).

Zusammenhalt hat bei Walterscheid einen hohen Wert – am Arbeitsplatz, wie hier in der Lohmarer Schmiede, und nach Feierabend, wie beim gemeinsamen Kegelabend.
Zusammenhalt hat bei Walterscheid einen hohen Wert – am Arbeitsplatz, wie hier in der Lohmarer Schmiede, und nach Feierabend, wie beim gemeinsamen Kegelabend.

Walterscheid places great importance on cooperation – at the workplace, like here in the Lohmar forge, and after work, such as at a joint bowling evening.

Cathrina Claas-Mühlhäuser, Aufsichtsratsvorsitzende der Claas Gruppe, eines langjährigen Partners von Walterscheid

Cathrina Claas-Mühlhäuser,
Chairwoman of the Supervisory Board of the Claas Group, a long-standing partner of Walterscheid

Claas: “The cooperation has always worked exceptionally well”

Claas, a family-owned company founded in 1913, with its headquarters in Harsewinkel, East Westphalia, is a market and technology leader in harvesting technology. Today, Cathrina Claas-Mühlhäuser, from the third generation, is the Chairwoman of the Supervisory Board of the Claas Group. She can see similarities with Walterscheid. Both originated as small regional operations and grew to become global players, and both value reliability and quality.

Yet their decades of positive cooperation start quite late as as, for a long period, Claas places importance on its independence and relies on its own technical expertise. This changes in the 1960s, as the company grows significantly and soon generates more than half of Germany’s total sales of combine harvesters. “Once you start producing large quantities, at some point complete independence is just no longer feasible”. Claas has installed Walterscheid drive shafts in combine harvesters and other harvesters since the early 1970s.

These days, their share of Walterscheid drive shafts is at around 50 percent. Cathrina Claas-Mühlhäuser emphasizes the importance of the purchase decision: “Drive components account for 15 to 20 percent of the overall costs”. This experience reflects positively on Walterscheid: “We never had any problems; the cooperation has always worked exceptionally well”.

Im Claas Jaguar F6 aus den 1970er Jahren waren Walterscheid- Wellen verbaut.

Walterscheid shafts were installed in the Claas Jaguar F6 beginning in the 1970s.