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Miele celebrates 125 years

'From former grain mill to a global company will billions in turnover'

125 years ago yesterday, on 1 July 1899, engineer Carl Miele senior and businessman Reinhard Zinkann found Miele & Cie. with their first product: a cream separator. What begins with eleven employees in a former grain mill in the small town of Herzebrock is to develop into a globally successful high-tech company with more than 22,000 employees in 49 countries and a turnover of € 4.96 bn. More than almost any other company, Miele stands for quality and durability - and has thus become one of the most respected brands in German economic history. A journey through 125 years of striving for quality and pioneering spirit.

Founded the company Miele & Cie. in 1899: Carl Miele senior (l.) and Reinhard Zinkann. Photo: Miele.

A year later, the cream separator is joined by the butter churn, a round oak tub with a stirrer. The first Miele washing machine follows in 1901 – a larger wooden tub with a rotating drum, initially operated by a lever. In 1907, Miele moves its head office and production facilities to its current location in Gütersloh, Germany, where a much larger workforce is available and the company's own railway siding facilitates delivery of the rapidly growing quantities of wood required. The young company's order book develops beyond all expectations.

The founders' commitment to social responsibility is also evident at an early stage – for example, by introducing one of the first company health insurance schemes in Germany in 1909. Miele also sets an example when it comes to environmental and climate protection, starting with the proverbial longevity of its appliances. Today, the focus is on energy efficiency and the recyclability of appliances as well as the use (and generation) of renewable energy at the company's sites. This is recognized, for example, by the German Sustainability Award 2014 and 2024.

On the product side, Miele initially develops into a supplier of a wide range of agricultural equipment. These include appliances for preparing animal feed ("feed steamers"), ladders, handcarts, wooden sheds, bicycles, and mopeds. Even cars are produced, but this is abandoned two years later due to the anticipated need for capital. At the end of the 1920s, the Bielefeld factory (built in 2016) produces the first vacuum cleaners and, in 1929, Europe's first electric dishwasher. From then on, however, the company gradually focuses on high-quality electrical appliances for the kitchen, laundry, and floor care. Laundry technology is added in 1924, followed by commercial dishwashing and cleaning, disinfection, and sterilization equipment for medical facilities and laboratories (today: Professional Business Unit).

The Executive Board of the Miele Group in its anniversary year (from left): Dr Markus Miele (Executive Director and Co-Proprietor), Olaf Bartsch (Finance & Administration), Rebecca Steinhage (Human Resources & Corporate Affairs), Dr Reinhard Zinkann (Executive Director and Co-Proprietor), Dr Axel Kniehl (Marketing & Sales), Dr Stefan Breit (Technology).

In 1960, Miele ceases production of bicycles and mopeds in Bielefeld. Instead, the company concentrates on dishwashers, which are becoming increasingly popular in kitchens. At the end of the 1980s, the milking technology division is sold, followed by kitchen furniture in 2005. A milestone in strengthening the strategically important built-in kitchen appliances business is the 1989 acquisition of cooking appliance manufacturer Imperial, with plants in Bünde and Arnsberg.

In 1987, Miele set new standards in dishwasher loading convenience with the patented Miele cutlery drawer – followed by laundry care in 2001 with the patented Miele honeycomb drum. In 1998, Miele paved the way for intelligent domestic appliances with the InfoControl function, which uses a compact radio receiver (pager) to signal the end of a washing machine or tumble dryer programme. This was followed ten years later by the first automatic control of the hood via the hob. Today, the company is a pioneer in AI cooking and climate-friendly washing and dishwashing.

At the same time, global sales structures and the factory network continue to grow. In its anniversary year, Miele is represented in 49 countries by its own sales companies and more than 200 brand stores.

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