It has been almost 70 years since AZO assumed a pioneering role in the automation of raw materials and processes in the food, pharmaceuticals, plastics and chemicals sectors. It has initiated game-changing developments in the handling of bulk materials, in pneumatic conveying systems and automatic mixer feeding.
1949: together with his wife Marianne, Adolf Zimmermann started up a business building mills in a former sheep pen in Osterburken. In his spare time, the enthusiastic hobby inventor designed machinery for mills and bakeries.
In 1951, Adolf Zimmermann designed the "Pyramidal" grain-cleaning machine. A master baker finally gave him the idea of designing the very first centrifugal flour-sifting machine. In 1952, it was launched on the market under the name of "Triumph" and is considered the prototype for today's cyclone screener. The machines were first built of wood, later then as an all-metal version on account of special customer requirements.
In the mid-1950s, AZO was already supplying the bakery trade and the bread industry with complete flour, screening, aerating and tempering plants, with mechanical or even already with pneumatic fan-assisted conveying.
The number of employees grew to 50 in 1957.
Together with a dynamic distributor, AZO tapped into new markets in the Benelux countries, particularly in the Netherlands. The demand for the machinery and plants was so great that space in the old company building soon became inadequate. In 1962, Adolf Zimmermann laid the foundations for the new building in the Industriegebiet Ost. In 1963, the company moved premises together with its 80 highly motivated employees.
Silos built with a monocoque structure, which would fit in every building thanks to a standardised modular system, grew to become a real winner and made AZO the market leader in this field within a few years.
In 1966, AZO’s pneumatic vacuum conveying systems heralded a new production programme for feeding processing and plastics machines. The stringent demands from the food and chemicals industries made it necessary to expand stainless steel production. In 1969, 270 employees were already employed on the 60,000 m² company site.
With its development of vacuum weighing systems, consisting of the patented multiport valve and conveying scales, AZO managed to penetrate the sector for feeding kneading machines and mixers. This trailblazing development became the standard for current technology in the area of mixer feeding.
The systems constituted a major step forward in the automation of bulk quantities.
Thanks to intense sales activity, more and more orders were placed for large-scale plants from all over the world, in addition to orders for machines and small plants.
In 1978, the first subsidiary was established in Memphis TN in the United States.
In 1980, AZO gave the go-ahead for the development of special feeding software and construction of electronic weighing controls. AZO was the first manufacturer of automatic material feeding systems for bulk goods to visualise processes on a colour monitor. This has now become a standard component in modern feeding software for bulk materials in combination with custom material feeding software.
A large-scale order from the spice sector that same year led to the development and implementation of fully automatic containerised dosing systems.
For the 35th anniversary, a new production facility was planned, equipped with a laser and plasma cutting centre for sheet metal and a customer showroom, among other things.
In the mid-1980s, AZO developed the COMPONENTER®, a system with numerous options for automatic weighing with gram accuracy of minor and micro quantities, as are very often required in mixer feeding. This trailblazing development allowed AZO to incorporate all components into the automation process. In addition to this, there were special handling systems for different receptacles such as sacks, big bags and containers. It was possible to incorporate micro components in the process reliably by using operator-controlled manual weighing stations, which it would not have always been worth automating completely. Convenient process control and visualisation systems made the material flow more reliably than ever.
In the early 1990s, the DOSITAINER® technology was further refined; the BATCHTAINER® and MIXTAINER® were added to the range. In 1996, AZO was the first to use AGVs for collecting and weighing components in bulk materials handling with driverless vehicles. The addition of a container mixer in the portfolio rounded off the containment offer.
At the same time, AZO was developing dust-tight discharge and filling systems for big bags.
In 1993, AZO introduced new loss-in-weight systems for high-viscosity liquids, such as honey and oils, which made it possible to incorporate liquids into the automation process.
In 1997, development of the type DA screener, which was self-dosing and had two drives, culminated in a high point in cyclone screening for AZO as the inventor of this technology. The patented system assured the unabated and widespread success of AZO’s cyclone screening technology.
In 1998, this was followed by the development of a vibration bottom for the pharmaceuticals industry that dispensed entirely without the need for a sleeve and meant it was far easier to clean. This development has also been patented.
In 1999, AZO celebrated its 50th anniversary together with many customers, long-standing partners and staff.
By the millennium, AZO’s focus was increasingly on continuous gravimetric dosing systems, which resulted in the AZOGRAV® and AZODOS® production series. AZODOS® spawned an entire family of machinery, which essentially covered the whole range of continuous dosing processes.
In 2003, AZO invented the DosiBox® in conjunction with the DOSINENTER® and the DosiLogistic®, offering an affordable system for automating handling of minor components. Customised automation concepts can be implemented ranging from automatic batching equipment for minor components through to fully automated logistics for minor components.
Creation of the AZO subsidiary AZO CONTROLS GmbH in early 2004 catered to the ever-more important needs of process control, instrumentation and visualisation technology.
In early 2005, European sales operations were also expanded with the founding of AZO UK Ltd. in the United Kingdom.
AZO Ltd. in Bangkok, Thailand was founded to tap into the booming market in South East Asia.
Again in 2005, the development of AZO ShuttledDos® succeeded in delivering a system to process many components and a large number of formulations completely automatically with maximum output and without risk of contamination.
2006: official opening of AZO’s new customer centre with showroom and seminar facilities equipped with the very latest in audio-visual technology. The test centre for raw materials handling was reorganised with an adjoining laboratory for bulk materials.
AZO has had a representative in the most populous country on earth in the Chinese city of Tianjin since 2007.
In 2008, AZO created a 100% subsidiary, zoatec GmbH in Neuenburg, in southern Germany (now AZO LIQUIDS), whose operations involve the homogenisation and mixing of liquid and semi-solid products.
In 2008 there were 780 employees working for the AZO Group worldwide.
In 2010 the new building was completed with a 3000 m² assembly shop. The requirement when designing it was to reduce energy costs by 50% and to cut CO2 emissions by 200 tons a year.
Several international companies award AZO the status of preferred vendor. Full order books lead to an increase in staff numbers in the AZO Group to 921 employees. The AZO Academy was created in order to deliver effective training for international staff.
Half way through the year, Denise Zimmermann started working for the company, representing the third generation of the Zimmermann family.
The aim in setting up the product management department was to create the conditions for achieving greater standardisation in future and to improve allocation of work orders in peak periods.
A happy occasion was anticipated in the middle of the year: Adolf Zimmermann, the entrepreneur and founder of the company, celebrated his 90th birthday on 30 July. Numerous guests from the worlds of politics, business and society came to congratulate him on this special occasion.
AZO finished 2012 with group sales worth 160 million euros. By the end of the year, 940 staff were employed, including 34 apprentices. In January 2013, AZO started off the year with the highest number of incoming orders since the company was founded.
In 2013, a sad event was unfortunately marked in the company’s history: the senior director Adolf Zimmermann passed away on 15/03/2013 at the age of 90. Up until the last, he followed the fortunes of the company he and his wife had founded with a keen interest. Adolf Zimmermann was characterised by his foresight, strength of purpose and inventive and enterprising spirit. In the more than 40 years, during which he and his wife Marianne built AZO up from a small specialist firm for mill technology to a global company, the main focus of his actions was always on duty of care towards employees and concern for their jobs, the constant upward growth of the company and his family.
On 01/10/2013, hsh was renamed AZO CONTROLS and zoatec became AZO LIQUIDS GmbH, marking a major step in the effort to raise visibility of the AZO Group on the market.
AZO®CONT, the gravimetric, continuous dosing system developed in 2013, served to provider reliable and convenient feeding. Its modular concept was eminently suitable for the changing conditions in production.
AZO France, whose offices are in La Haye Fouassiere, marked the occasion of its 10th anniversary under the current management in July with an extended celebration. In October there were several events that gave grounds for extensive celebrations. AZO Solids was commemorating its 65th anniversary, hsh its 35th, plus it had now been part of the AZO Group for 10 years, and it celebrated its first anniversary as AZO CONTROLS in 2014.
The number of employees in the AZO Group had passed the thousand mark in the anniversary year of 2014. By 30/09/2014, the AZO Group counted 1027 employees, 49 of whom were apprentices or trainees. This meant the AZO Group had experienced an increase of over 21% compared with 2010. Furthermore, turnover at AZO SOLIDS exceeded the 100 million euro mark that year and turnover from AZO GROUP customers reached around 150 million euros.
AZO Holding GmbH has been the parent company with effect from 1 January 2014 and all former subsidiaries are affiliate companies with equal standing.
AZO’s e&s (Engineering & Services) business division was established in 2015 in order to provide AZO’s customers and the AZO Group added value as a service provider in the engineering field. Its area of activity includes design studies, support for retrofits and pre-engineering.In the long term it will handle processing of group and turnkey projects and factory planning above and beyond AZO’s scope of services.
Again in 2015, a filling and weighing station for small containers, which is suitable for calibration, was developed for reliable and flexible filling of various-shaped receptacles.
AZO France moves into new home in Vallet. This signified the cornerstone for further expansion of its market position in neighbouring France and on the European market as a whole.
Building work on a 1,280 m² warehouse at AZO N.V. in Belgium began in August.
Trade fairs continue to represent an important instrument in acquiring new customers. In Germany, AZO exhibited at the Powtech in Nuremberg and the K fair in Düsseldorf in 2016. The K is the most important trade fair for the AZO®Poly division. The AZO Group attended over 60 trade fairs and symposia all over the world.