The right measure for 50 years
Rexroth was one of the first companies in Europe to adopt JIC connector dimensions and thus helped move standardization forward.
Often it’s the little things that make a big difference. At G. L. Rexroth GmbH in the town of Lohr, at the beginning of the 1960s, the little things were connectors in standard dimensions, following the American model. “At the time we had no real idea how that would turn out”, recalls hydraulics pioneer Herbert Petters, “but hindsight shows that the move was absolutely correct”. Petters began his career at Rexroth as a design and development engineer — and over the next forty years helped push Rexroth hydraulic control valves toward worldwide success.
When he joined the company it — like many other mechanical engineering operations in Germany — was still following in-house standards, building components to the company’s own set of connector dimensions. This put German manufacturers at a disadvantage in relation to American competitors who were already building standardized connectors and thus dominated the market.
Standardized for new opportunities
The turn-around came in 1960 when a line of hydraulic equipment using international connector dimensions was developed. The incentive to do this was provided by American companies like Vickers Incorporated and the Abex Corporation’s Denison Division, which had set up operations in Germany. That forced German industry to act. One of the first companies to do so, Rexroth had by 1965 converted its entire hydraulics line to standardized dimensions — the right decision, as was soon found.
Standardizing hydraulic components was a door-opener for German and foreign car makers. Daimler-Benz and Volkswagen were already installing Rexroth’s standardized hydraulic components when in 1969 Ford’s European plants approved the valves. That was the starting gun for the international breakthrough. Reorienting its product range in this way also let Rexroth gain a foothold in plastic injection molding machines. Manufacturers in that sector had already converted to the international standard for connectors. “Things began to boom with the adoption of standardization,” Herbert Petters confirms.
The driving force
But the road to a uniform standard in Germany and Europe proved not to be smooth. Some German companies, in particular, were reluctant to adopt the dimensions worked out by the American “Joint Industry Conference”. This was in stark contrast to competitors in France and England, who aimed to introduce the standards. Those in charge at Rexroth were convinced from the very start that it was the only reasonable course of action. “Without standardized dimensions we would have had serious problems in the U.S.A. and England.” Hydraulics expert Petters is quite sure of that.
As a frontrunner in questions of standardization, the company devoted intense effort to introducing and implementing the international sizes. For 25 years Petters represented his employer on the standards committees of the Association of German Machinery and Plant Engineering Companies (VDMA). Right down to the present day Rexroth and its representatives continue to hold seats in standardization committees both in Germany (DIN) and at the international level (ISO).