In 1862, Georg Michael Pfaff, an instrument maker by trade, made his first sewing machine and founded the G. M. PFAFF sewing machine factory in Kaiserslautern. This talented master craftsman developed his machines further and continuously up-dated the production shops of his company. It did not take long before he abandoned individual manual production to change over to steam-driven drilling, milling and planning machines.
In 1872, ten years later, Pfaff was already producing a thousand machines a year with 30 employees; the share of exports was 50%.
In 1874 Pfaff introduced a company sickness benefit scheme for his employees and a fund for the surviving dependants of deceased workers. Jakob Pfaff, the eldest son of Georg Michael Pfaff, introduced Pfaff advertising and the sales organisation; the latter first consisted of travelling salesmen and later exclusive agencies.
November 1, 1882. From THE JOURNAL OF DOMESTIC APPLIANCES AND SEWING MACHINE GAZETTE
SEWING MACHINE NOTES
Mr. G. M. Pfaff, of Kaiserslautem (Germany),is about to produce a gathering machine, it will be an imitation of the Heberling.
In 1883 Mr. Pfaff, of Kaiserlauten, occupies a large oval space and makes a very good display of imitation Singer machines. I notice that he is very lavish with his circulars, in which he politely informs the public that he is in hopes of competing for a prize with the Singer Manufacturing Company, but that his machines are imitations and in many respects are superior to the original. In order that the catalogues thus widely distributed may not be merely glanced at and thrown away, Mr. Pfail attaches to each a number, which will represent a chance in a lottery for a machine that will be raffled for at the close of the exhibition. There are many valuable improvements in Mr. Pfaff's machine as also in many others, and I only think it a pity that in design and mechanism they should not show more originality, and not only copy leading English and American machines. I saw imitations of Jones, Bradbury, Wanzer, Wheeler and Wilson and Singer.
In 1885 Pfaff opened a sewing machine shop in London with show rooms at 105-7 Wood Street, EC. (Sole Wholesale Agents: McCLELLAND & STIBBE, 40, Union Street, GLASGOW.) The PFAFF factory was continuously extended and modernised.
From 1880 to 1890 the company employed 400 workers on a regular basis. Georg Pfaff, the second son of the Founder, took over the management of the company after his father’s death in 1893 and expanded it further with great success.
In the years 1901 to 1906 the factory was re-located to the outskirts of Kaiserslautern. Pfaff began building machine tools for its own sewing machine production. The new factory provided employment for 1,000 workers.
The first special sewing machines and industrial machines were manufactured and sold in 1907/08.
From 1909 onwards the company began with the production of household-, craftsmen and light industrial machines with electric motor drives.
In 1910 Georg Pfaff presented the one millionth Pfaff sewing machine in very elaborate equipment to the History Museum of Speyer.
In the fiftieth year of its existence Pfaff was already exporting to 64 different countries: 34 European, 22 African, seven Asian countries, and Australia. Georg Pfaff, a highly successful and widely travelled businessman, stayed single the whole of his life and died in 1917.
In these difficult times, Lina Pfaff, Georg Pfaff’s sister, took over the management of the company. Despite the odds, she built the Pfaff housing estate and, for the welfare of the public, the Pfaff baths in Kaiserslautern.
When the company was converted to a share company in 1926 its management was placed in the hands of Karl Pfaff, the grandson of the founder. The company then employed 2,600 persons and introduced an old-age pension insurance. Three hundred machines left the Works every day. Assembly was carried out in direct-flow assembly lines. The sales range of high-speed special sewing machines for the garment and shoe industries was rapidly expanded. In the thirties, Karl Pfaff travelled to the USA, India and Central- and South America, to gain access and a foothold for his company on new markets. India and Brazil had then become the most important export countries.
In 1932 the company brought out a household sewing machine that soon conquered the world market.
In 1935 the three millionth Pfaff sewing machine was made.
During World War II, production suffered considerably, but the development of the first cycle-sewing machines was continued.
From 1940 onwards Pfaff worked on the development of plastic heat-sealing machines. The first cam-controlled sewing machines were also brought at that time.
After the extensive destruction of 1944 the factory was reconstructed in record time and export business activities begun again.
In 1951 the first portable consumer sewing machine with variable free-arm were introduced on the market.
Karl Pfaff died suddenly and unexpectedly in 1952.
Hugo Lind, as Chairman of the Managing Board, and Managing Board members Wilhelm Gelbert, Karl Wilhelm Heimann and Karl Werner Kieffer were the people responsible for the Company’s fortune in the days of the German economic miracle. The very first industrial high-speed seamer with pressurised lubrication came onto the market. During the boom in the German shoe-, garment-, underwear- and foundation-wear markets, the Company intensified its acquisition and building activities considerably.
In March 1953 the first employees’ magazine called "We at Pfaff" was brought out.
In 1954 the five millionth sewing machine left the Works.
In order to cover the factory’s requirements for electrical equipment the Company bought the ELTE Works in Landstuhl in 1956.
In 1957 a further acquisition was added with the share majority of Gritzner-Kayser AG, the well-known consumer sewing machine and bicycle manufacturer of Karlsruhe. This laid the foundation stone for the future of our consumer sewing machine business and provided us with a production location for the consumer machines of G. M. Pfaff AG in Karlsruhe-Durlach.
The opening ceremony of the Pfaff training facilities for basic and advanced training of Pfaff employees took place in 1957.
In 1960, G. M. Pfaff AG was introduced on the stock exchange in Frankfurt. One year later, the Managing Board gave the employees the opportunity to buy employee-shares.
In 1962 the Company celebrated its 100th anniversary. Vocational training courses for industrial sewing machine mechanics were visited by people from all over the world. The Company secured its position in the market by comprehensive service offers at the Consultation Centre for the sewing industry, such as assistance with individual production problems in the garment-, shoe- and upholstery industry by consultants and production engineers.
To ensure it could offer very favourably priced machines, Pfaff co-operated from 1964 onwards with a Japanese manufacturer called Janome. The highlight of R&D continued in the area of optimising the handling of sewing threads by combination of highly sophisticated products with classic technology. With the take-over of the majority of Messrs. Eisele-Apparate- und Gerätebau GmbH (attachment maker) and the Pfaff Pietzsch Industrieroboter GmbH (industrial robots) the Company was able to set new standards in the design of the add-on equipment of its machines.
In 1973 the newly introduced high-speed home ironers helped to offset the weak sewing machine business due to the recession.
In 1978 Pfaff opened a factory in Curitiba, Brazil, for the production of high-speed seamers in response to the changing demands on the world market.
In the late seventies and early eighties the "Tipmatic" and "Hobbymatic" in the middle and lower price bracket were introduced.
In 1979 Pfaff developed the first freely programmable automatic sewing machine with X/Y control. All kinds of fancy seams and tack designs could be made on this machine.
The new top model, the „Pfaff Creative 1469“ for home sewing, on which the entire control and stitch formation is done by computer, was brought out in 1982.
To fulfil the demand for universally applicable machines and to a great extent de-skill the work of the operator, new industrial machine series were equipped with electronic controls, some of them programmable and sensors.
After all in 1987 it was possible to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the company in a fitting manner.
In 1988 the lawyer, Dr. Schuppli, a member of the PFAFF family, acquired 52% of the share capital of the G.M. Pfaff AG, and
in 1993 it was possible to introduce the new conception for a new concern structure through the takeover of 72% of the share capital by Semi-Tech (Global) Co. Ltd.
In 1996 Pfaff reorganised the marketing department with an area concept. Since then, following the motto, proximity breeds acceptance, regional sales organisations have been supporting the structures of the agents, who work independently to a great extent.
In 1997 the SINGER/PFAFF-concern was created through the takeover of 80.5 % of the shares by the Semitech subsidiary, Singer. A restructuring programme was started, which involved the outsourcing of high-wage and technically less demanding process sections and products to Podolsk/Russia and Zhuhai/China. Highly specialised and high-tech industrial sewing machines, as well as essential, particularly sophisticated components were still manufactured and assembled with the know-how of the staff at the location in Germany.
In 1999 the concern got into a threatening management situation which led to the separation of PFAFF and Singer.
Consequently PFAFF concentrated on its core competence again – the production and distribution of industrial sewing and welding machine technology.
In 1999 the domestic sewing machine division in Karlsruhe was sold to the Swedish group, Husqvarna Viking.
After the short involvement of the Italian sewing machine manufacturer, Rimoldi, in PFAFF/Kaiserslautern between 2001 and 2002, a new era in the history of the company was started through the takeover of the company by Bianchi Marè and the replacement of the management.
On 27th September 2002 the company Bianchi Marè, Milan/Italy took over 95 % and die Merchant Bank EFIBANCA, Milan/Italy, 5 % of the shares of the PFAFF Industrie Maschinen AG Kaiserslautern, with the result that after decades PFAFF was “family-owned” once again. Bianchi Marè is by no means unknown at PFAFF. The northern Italian company already counted among the largest and most successful sales partners of PFAFF industrial sewing machines before. A year later the company followed the international Asia trend in the textile industry and set up the joint venture company “Shanghai PFAFF-Zoje Machinery Industry LTD.“ with one of the most prestigious Chinese sewing machine manufacturers, the Zoje Sewing Machine Co. Ltd., with its headquarters in Shanghai.
In order to expand operations in China PFAFF founded its own company in Taicang and took over all the shares of the joint venture company 'Shanghai PFAFF-Zoje Machinery Industry Ltd.'.
With effect from 01.12.2005, the previous shareholders, Bianchi Marè, Milan, and Efibanca, Rome, transferred all their shares to the German investment company GCI BridgeCapital AG, Munich.
On 12.10.2007 at 16.15 h the time had come, another milestone for the PFAFF Industrie Maschinen AG was celebrated with the symbolic ground-breaking ceremony for the new works building in the industrial zone, Kaiserslautern Nord.
But the move into the new facility did not happen!
The new sole shareholder, Joachim Richter, has led the operational business of the newly founded PFAFF Industriesysteme und Maschinen AG as its CEO since 16 April 2009.
The entrepreneur embraces the location of Germany. A few weeks after takeover, the company already moved into a new plant in the industrial area to the north of Kaiserslautern. Mr Richter is also the founder and owner of the Joachim Richter Systeme und Maschinen firm, a medium-sized organization which is specialized in labelling technology and special-purpose machinery manufacture, with its headquarters in the Palatine town of Konken. A clear concept will lead this traditional company of the Palatinate into a successful future. As an innovation leader, PFAFF Industrial will produce exclusive high-end machines for the apparel, shoe, living and car upholstery industries as well as for the technical textiles sector. The most modern sewing and welding solutions with flexible procedure design are developed and manufactured as customer-oriented solutions – Made in Germany.
From April 16, 2009 Joachim Richter conducted the operative business of the newly founded PFAFF Industriesysteme und Maschinen AG as CEO and sole shareholder.
In mid-2009 the company moves to the new facility in the Industriegebiet Nord (industrial park) in Kaiserslautern. As a leading innovator one produces the latest sewing and welding solutions for the textile and leather-processing industries. The business with customized solutions is expanded. As members of a new generation of large-area sewing automats the PFAFF 3590 vario and the PFAFF 3590 portal are successfully launched and set new standards in terms of sewing precision and process reliability.
On March 28, 2013 the European holding of SGSB, Shanggong (Europe) Holding Corp. GmbH, took over 100% of the shares in PFAFF Industriesysteme und Maschinen AG in
Kaiserslautern.Pfaff's first machine was handmade, and designed to sew leather in the manufacture of shoes.