The Record story
Pre – 1953
Record’s roots in Switzerland and Austria
For one of the formative events in the history of Record, we can look back to the beginning of the Second World War. When the annexation of Austria forced many Jews into exile, Dr Felix Bunzl and his two sons Helmut Heinz (b. 1924) and Otto (b. 1925) left for Switzerland.
Helmut Heinz Bunzl would go on to study at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. His father had given him the idea that doors which moved automatically could be a successful enterprise – the elder Bunzl had always felt that door handles were somewhat unhygienic. Together, they devised a prototype of a swing-door drive (the N1), and Elektrische Apparate was founded on 18 March 1953 with HH Bunzl as sole proprietor.
Both father and son felt that Switzerland was a great place to develop their products but that it wasn’t large enough to meet their ambitions.
Therefore, they looked back towards the country of their birth. The company’s first subsidiary was set up later that same year, in Vienna, Austria.
A year of discovery and change
Helmut Heinz Bunzl invented his N1 prototype at a time when major breakthroughs were taking place all over the world.
1953 was the year that James Watson and Francis Crick published their discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA – an advance that remains fundamental to our understanding of genetics.
It was also a year that brought huge political developments. Joseph Stalin died in March, and was soon succeeded by Nikita Khrushchev as the de facto leader of the Soviet Union. Dwight D. Eisenhower was inaugurated as the 34th President of the United States and, in London, Elizabeth II was crowned as Queen of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.
An epic breakthrough occurred in May 1953, when Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary became the first people to reach the summit of the world’s highest mountain, Mount Everest.
1953 was also a big year for television debuts. It was the first year that the Academy Awards ceremony was broadcast on TV (The Greatest Show on Earth took home the Best Picture prize). Closer to home, television was broadcast in Switzerland for the first time on 16 March – two days before HH Bunzl founded his company!
1953 – 1967
Record on the move
The company was very much a one-man operation when HH Bunzl set up its first home in Zurich – Sumatrasstrasse 20, to be precise. After personally manufacturing 25 units, he moved the company to larger premises later in the year. Still in Zurich, he was also able to take on two employees.
With a third employee, the company moved into a larger space in 1957, and again in 1961 (they had 12 employees by this time). It demonstrates the steady, incremental growth that took place in the early years, as consumers began to appreciate the advantages of automatic doors and the company expanded and improved its range.
The biggest step, though, came in 1967 when they finally moved in to a company-owned factory. By this time a public limited company with 21 employees, AG Für Türautomation (as it was then known) moved about 10 km out of Zurich to Dübendorf. This plant would be the company’s
headquarters until 1988.
1971 – 1978
Technological leaps forward
The Dübendorf base became a hive of innovation and development throughout the 1970s, in keeping with HH Bunzl’s passion for engineering and invention. A huge leap forward came in 1971 with the MESL, the company’s first radar unit. It looks rather bulky compared to the sleek technology that Record manufacture today, but it was a gamechanger that ultimately eclipsed underfoot contact mats as the industry standard.
Radar technology was followed by the increasing use of electronics, culminating in the STA 9. This was the company’s first sliding door fitted with an electronic control unit (it was released in 1976). Shortly after this, Record kept the electronic revolution moving by setting up a second plant
in Zurich, dedicated to electronics. ‘Plant 2’ operated from 1978 to 1988.
The computer age reaches Record
In the early-1980s, computer technology was becoming more and more widespread so it was natural that Record would look to incorporate it in their products. This happened with the STA 12, the
world’s first automatic door system controlled by a microprocessor. It was launched in 1984 – the same year as the release of the Apple Macintosh, and one year before Windows 1.0 hit computer terminals. It would be one of the company’s most successful models all the way through to 1992.
The Fehraltorf era begins
183 employees were based at the Dübendorf plant by 1988. It was bursting at the seams, and the time had come to find more suitable premises. A custombuilt headquarters was therefore built in Fehraltorf, a few kilometers east of Dübendorf – and only 15 km from Helmut Heinz Bunzl’s first workshop.
As the company continued to grow, expansion became necessary. An extension was completed in 2005, providing an extra 4,000m2 of space. It was designed by architects Michèle Rota-Bunzl and Bruno Rota, the founder’s daughter and son-in-law.
Record still operates from Fehraltorf – though, of course, as part of the ASSA ABLOY group – and is likely to retain a presence there for many years to come.
The modular generation
The STA 16 was undoubtedly a landmark product in Record’s history. It represented a major shift. Previously, the company had offered a fairly wide range of product groups, but with the STA 16 they started to implement a platform concept. The STA 16 was essentially a standard base for Record’s sliding doors. It could be adapted to suit a wide range of applications and customer demands, but for the most part it relied on a small selection of components. It was Record’s first product line based on modular design principles, and it set the template that generations of automatic doors would follow.
This approach provided many benefits. Reducing the diversity of parts simplified manufacturing and reduced costs, as well as enabling production in more locations. It helped with maintenance and upgrades too, since individual components could be easily replaced.
Installation was also simplified. It could take two days for two engineers to install the older models, but the STA 16 could generally be fitted by a single engineer in a day.
A serious gain for both the company and its customers.
As the company continued to grow, the time finally arrived for it to be floated on the stock market. The company was restructured, with a holding company (agta record) and two spin-offs (agtatec and Record Door Automation) established in Zurich. A partial initial public offering was made in May 1998, and the company was listed on the Paris Stock Exchange.
1998 – 2003
During the years either side of 2000, the company embarked on a significant spell of European expansion. Both vertical and horizontal acquisitions were made at this time. The goal was not just to increase market share in sales of automatic doors. Companies we acquired in Denmark (1998), France (2000 and 2002), Sweden (2000), Poland (2001), Netherlands (2003) and Spain (2003). In 2000, subsidiaries were also set up in Spain and Hungary.
In 2000, subsidiaries were also set up in Spain and Hungary.
Into the 21st century, the environment became a bigger concern for everyone. Record was no exception in this regard.
Central to the company’s sustainability efforts has been reducing raw material use in their products, especially aluminum and glass. The introduction of the CutITFmart cutting system was step forward in this area – it optimizes the use of aluminum profiles. Almost all the material in Record’s doors is recyclable, and Record recycles material themselves: around 140 tons of material are recycled at their Swiss headquarters every year.
Recycling isn’t the only sustainability measure to have been implemented in Fehraltorf over the years. Other examples include the installation of photovoltaic panels, and the development of a custom software package for optimizing technicians’ vehicle use and driving routes.
Now, as part of the ASSA ABLOY group, Record contributes to group-wide science-based sustainability targets. These include ambitious emissions targets in scopes 1, 2 and 3.
Stepping up security
In the aftermath of the appalling events of 9/11, security became a bigger concern in the minds of many. Record had been ahead of the trend in many ways. The burglar-resistant, multi-point locking CREMONA system had been introduced in 1994, while fire and smoke protection sliding doors had been available since 1996. The first automatic security doors (Flip Flow Exit Lanes) were released in 2000, for use in airports, subways and railway stations.
2003 was a big step forward for Record in this area. The SAFECORD line offered toughened glass, structural reinforcements and other security options, all integrated into a standard automatic door. The Record 16 RS added smoke protection to one of the most popular models, while the Flip Flow Twin was Record’s first tunnel pedestrian gate for
controlling flow in security-sensitive areas.
A momentous year for Record
Two significant events in 2007 shaped the future of the company – the launch of the STA 20 and the acquisition of BLASI.
The STA 20 was the culmination of the modular concept introduced a decade earlier with the STA 16. The crucial development was the use of a CAN bus for communications between the control unit and sensor, allowing for simpler wiring and improved sensor performance. This was only
possible because Record manufactures both control units and sensors, so in a sense, the success of the STA 20 justified the continuous R&D work done at Fehraltorf over the years. Remarkably, it continues to be in high demand, 16 years after its launch.
In the same year, Record acquired BLASI. The German manufacturer specialized in revolving doors and custom solutions. True craftsmanship and in a class of its own.
COVID-19 and hygiene
The global pandemic that announced itself in early 2020 impacted on every industry imaginable. For Record, it represented both a challenge and an opportunity to make a positive contribution.
When the pandemic struck, the company’s first instinct was to protect its employees by setting up work-from-home opportunities and ensuring social distancing. As industries shut down across the world, there was inevitably an economic impact for Record, but the organization adapted remarkably quickly, then realized that their products could have a positive role to play.
Automatic doors are inherently hygienic in that they remove the need for contact with door handles, and as a solution provider Record was able to quickly add additional services. For example, the FlowControl system was quickly developed and installed to count the number of people entering a shop or other building. Once the maximum safe capacity had been reached, the automatic doors would prevent more people from entering, thus ensuring that appropriate distancing could be maintained.
Record’s automatic doors offer a wide range of benefits – access for disabled people, enhanced security, design options and convenience. However, the company was formed in 1923 after Dr. Felix Bunzl convinced his son of their potential hygiene benefits. In a sense, Record had came full circle, and fulfilled the originators’ objective throughout the pandemic years.
A new chapter
As part of the 2020 merger with ASSA ABLOY, Helmut Heinz Bunzl’s three daughters sold their stakes in the company. For the first time in its 67-year history, the organization would no longer be connected to the Bunzl family. It was a poignant moment for all involved, but it heralded both a
new chapter and a continuation of the Record story.
The sisters were unequivocal that the Record brand would continue post-merger, and made sure that the organization’s headquarters – so close to where their father built his first unit – would stay in operation. There may no longer be a Bunzl in the boardroom, but the Record family continues to thrive!