In its history, the company changed hands three times and went through seven political regimes. It functioned under two emperors, eleven presidents and one reich chancellor. It was originally founded as an Austro-Hungarian company with German capital to later transform into an elite Czechoslovak machine tool factory. It became part of the German economy for a few years, but fortunately escaped the fate of war booty after liberation. After nationalisation, it gradually became one of the top manufacturers of machine tools in socialist Czechoslovakia.
It is now a private company again, privatised with purely Czech capital, which is almost a rarity in the field of machine tools in the Czech Republic today. 120 years of development can be divided into several phases, each of which differs from the others economically or technically.
In this period we are not yet talking about Arno Plauert's factory, but about its predecessors. A small machine shop has been operating in Varnsdorf since 1895, which has not yet profiled itself. The majority of its production comprised small knitting and sewing machines. The key year is 1901, when the company got an official name ("Nordböhmische Werzeugmaschinen Fabrik Otto Petschke u. Co. i. B.") and a new employee, Arno Plauert, joined it.
The machine shop is on the brink of collapse and the company is declared bankrupt in 1903. At that time, production manager Arno Plauert is already a co-owner.
In 1903, Arno Plauert bought the entire company sharehold, which continued to bear the original name for the next three years. The new owner had gradually built a strong company that began to focus on the production of machine tools (from 1906 for four decades, it bears the founder's name in its name, initially as "Arno Plauert, Maschinenfabrik"). Several unsuccessful attempts to implement the production of pumps and cars form a short episode; the main production included metalworking machines.
At the beginning, it was drills, lathes, shaping machines, milling machines, and from 1915 horizontal boring machines were also produced. At the end of this period, production expanded so much that the need to build a new factory arose. A total of 111 types of machine tools were developed during the first period. As part of wartime orders during World War I, the factory developed an armament programme (production of grenades and mines).
In December 1917, the company moved to new premises, which it still uses today. Since 1993, a subsidiary company dealing with general repairs of horizontal boring machines has been located here.
The end of war meant a temporary end to prosperity. The company began to have their first serious financial problems. Just after the war, unsold machines accumulated as a result of losing the large Austro-Hungarian market.
In 1921, 400 employees worked in the factory, of which four were mechanical engineers. The first big crisis culminates in 1921 with a wage strike. After 1922, the situation improves and the production increases. These are primarily lathes and milling machines (45 types of high-speed lathes were developed in 1926 alone).
The company penetrates into the mature European markets. Horizontal boring machines appear in the production programme to a greater extent, and the company gradually recovers from the worst. From 1927 the regular serial production of horizontal boring machines begins. Under the designation HB – Horizontal Bohrwerk.
Boring machine production is expanding and the production programme is also expanding. For example, with the production of lathe chucks. In this field, Arno Plauert, Maschinenfabrik becomes a monopoly manufacturer in the entire former Czechoslovakia.
In 1931, a large order was received for the USSR. An unprecedented number of 21 machines in one order, at that time for the amazing sum of 3.5 million. Lathes and milling machines prevailed in this order. A loan of 100,000 was enough to start the production of these 21 machines.
In 1932, a second crisis came, when for a time even the execution of property was allowed by the court to cover tax debt. The crisis is quickly overcome and a large order to the USSR signals the "first golden age" of horizontal machines. As early as 1933, 5 types of modern boring machines were developed, which were immediately released for mass-production. In 1934, 8 types of boring machines were developed. Compared to the previous year, turnover doubled to 6.5 million.
In 1935, another 6 types of boring machines were developed, the annual turnover increased to 8 million. In 1936, 430 employees worked in the company and the annual turnover increased to 13.8 million. It was the most fruitful year of the entire pre-war period, 13 types of boring machines were developed. 12 types of horizontal boring machines, 6 types of milling machines, 15 types of lathes, 2 types of shaping machines and several types of drills were produced. There is a fast boom in production.
The period ends with the death of Arno Plauert in 1937.
The sons of Arno Plauert become owners and the company turns into a general partnership. Already in 1937, 9 types of horizontal machines were developed, in 1938 there were 7 types (including the largest machine up to that time with a spindle diameter of 150 mm). Until 1938 a short period of continuation of the successful campaign on the world markets ensued, although with a new internal organisation. For the first time in the history of the company, someone other than the owner becomes the director.
At the beginning of October 1938, Varnsdorf was occupied by the German army and the entire border region was immediately annexed by Germany. The company became part of the imperial industry with everything that this membership brought in terms of norms and technology, but also ideology. Already in 1938, the construction of a new assembly hall was started as a further increase in production was expected. From 1939 a new range of spindle diameters (63, 80, 100, 125 and 160 mm) was directively implemented. 610 employees worked in the company, and large investments in the production base continued undiminished for two more years.
In 1942 the first big merger took place, when the company bought another Varnsdorf machine shop, the premises of which became part of the company for 24 years. In 1944 a transition to wartime production occurred; at the same time, production from German factories threatened by Allied bombing moved to the company premises. Total commitment among employees prevails. This period ends in May 1945 with the liberation of the Republic.
Even a company that was supposed to become war booty of the Red Army did not avoid political changes. It did not happen, on the contrary, a national administration was established, the owners were removed, the company was confiscated and nationalised. Production was not interrupted even in the most critical times, 6 new machines were shipped in April 1945, and production continued in May and June despite the fact that the first Germans had already been expelled; already in September 1945, the first post-war machines were shipped (38 machine tools from May to December 1945).
As early as 1945, the production of all other types of machine tools ended and the exclusive focus on horizontal boring machines began.
After the first problems caused by the lack of skilled staff, the company becomes part of a larger group of nationalised factories in 1946 (Spojené továrny na obráběcí stroje, národní podnik – United Machine Tool Factories, national enterprise). In the same year, serial production of the first horizontal boring machine developed after the Second World War begins. In 1948, 580 employees worked in the company, a total of 152 machines were produced. For a few months in 1949, the company administratively became part of TOS Čelákovice n.p. but from 1950 gained independence under the name TOS Varnsdorf n.p., the foundry in Rumburk was incorporated into the company, and later also the machine works in Česká Kamenice.
At the beginning of the 1950s, the company acquires another production premises, to which individual workshops began to move. The production of machines fluctuates between 120 and 200 pieces per year. The first signs of a crisis in the development of horizontal machines are appearing. The crisis is soon overcome and in the mid-1950s a new concept came, a prevision of numerically controlled machines. In 1954, a wage strike lasting several hours takes place in the company, which is quickly suppressed. In the following years, the new WH series machines (WH 63 and WH 80) are developed, in 1959 the WH 100 machine is developed, the first numerically controlled horizontal boring machine in Czechoslovakia.
Towards the end of the period, the preparation of the merger of the three largest engineering companies in Varnsdorf into one, the so-called "big TOS", begins.
TOS Varnsdorf n.p. acquires Severočeská armaturka n.p. and Uničovské strojírny n.p. in 1960. It becomes independent and PZO Strojimport becomes the sole sales representative for foreign trade in the same year. After several years of hesitation, there was a fast boom in production and export. 2,176 employees worked in the company after the merger; a turnover of 141.7 million is achieved in 1960.
In 1963, the development of the first numerically controlled boring machines begins (the WHN 9 A machine, followed by the WHN 11 and WHN 13). From the beginning of the 1960s large investments were made in the new premises in Dolní Podluží, where individual operations soon began to move. In 1966, 495 machines were produced, and in 1967 it was already 543 machines. In the same year, the WHN 9 A machine wins a gold medal at the International Engineering Fair Brno.
For the next few years, annual production ranges between 400 and 500 machines. Here we are talking about the "second golden age" of horizontal boring machines. The period ends with the events of August 1968.
Despite big problems with in-house control systems, the company manages to maintain a good export balance. Machines appeared, which the company still produces in variations today (the development of the first version of the standard W 100 A horizontal boring machine was completed in 1970). The WHN 11 machine wins a gold medal at the International Engineering Fair Brno in 1970.
Of the total number of 503 machine pieces produced in 1970, 25 of them were numerically controlled based on the latest concept. In 1971, serial production of the WHN 13 NC machine began, the immediate predecessor of the best-selling numerically controlled horizontal boring machine of the past decades, the WHN 13.
The harvest of gold medals from IEF Brno continues and, in 1972, another of these was won by the WHQ 9 NC machine. In the early 1970s, a total of three machines were awarded the CID (Certificate of the Council of Creative Culture of Production). In the mid-70s, the company began to invest in computer technology. First it was mainframe computers.
Despite fluctuating success, investments were still going to the production base, now also in subsidiary operations, such as the foundry in Rumburk and the machine shop in Česká Kamenice. In 1978 serial production of the W 100 A machine began, which has been produced in various modifications to this day. This means as much as 25 years. At the end of the period, serial production of the WHN 13 A/B machines began and the first version of the WFQ 80 NC machining centre was developed.
At the beginning of 1980, the Association of Machine Tool Manufacturers was transformed into the TST concern (Továrny strojírenské techniky – Mechanical Engineering Factories) and TOS Varnsdorf became a concern company. The success of the company fluctuates and although the development of horizontal machines continues and new machines appear, the second golden era of horizontal machines is slowly coming to an end. Investments continued (in 1983 the production system of light machine shops was put into operation). The company acquired new technologies, including control computers. In 1984 the WHO 11 NC machine won a gold medal at the IEF Brno. In 1985 serial production of WHQ 80 NCA machining centres begins. At the end of the period, the number of machines produced decreases, and so does the number of employees. The company stagnates.
From the middle of 1989 TOS Varnsdorf became a state enterprise. Privatisation problems are accompanied by a crisis in production. The number of manufactured machines drops sharply and the company performance decreases. In 1994 the result was a loss of 106 million after many decades. Operations are separated from the company, becoming independent companies with a full or partial share of the parent company.
In connection with this, the number of employees of TOS itself is decreasing. At the end of this period, 824 people worked in the company. Only machines are developed in this period. New versions of the WHN 13 machine are released and the WHN 110 and WHN 130 machining centres appear.
In 1995 the floor-type milling and boring machine WPD 130 (Q) won a gold medal at the IEF Brno, whose modernised version WRD 130 is still produced today. At the end of 1994 the company extensively innovates its information system. This process continues in the following years.
After many years the company is again in private hands. In August 1995 TOS VARNSDORF s.p. is privatised by direct sale. Purely Czech capital enters the company, which changes its name to TOS VARNSDORF s.r.o., and a dynamic period of growth and success begins. In 1996 the company becomes a joint-stock company (it changes its name to TOS VARNSDORF a.s.), and in June 1996 obtains ISO 9001 certification. There are large investments in the production base (ZEISS measuring machines, Waldrich MC 3000 AP-M machining centre), in information technology (the new FACTORY ES information system, technology from i2 technologies) and in development.
In addition to new technologies, new products were again appearing. In 2000 the development and, in 2001, also the production of new generation machines began (TOStec series – the first TOStec OPTIMA machining centre was developed already in 2001, then the TOStec VARIA in 2002). The job order heading east again becomes a big impulse. In 1999 the company supplies a total of 14 machines to the Belarusian BELAZ automobile company. Production grows, and in 1996 the annual company turnover exceeds CZK 1 billion for the first time. In 2001 the annual company turnover exceeds CZK 1.5 billion for the first time. Cooperation with large companies begins (e.g. with the Deckel-Maho-Gildemeister Group).
In 2003 the company successfully coped with the global economic crisis, which even had an impact on the machine tool manufacturing industry. In the same year the first piece of the TOStec PRIMA machining centre was produced. In the following year the company produced and sold a total of 102 machines.
In 2005 TOS KUNMING Machine Tool Co., Ltd, a subsidiary was established in China, which also focuses on the production and assembly of horizontal milling and boring machines. Machine sales increased to 120 units. In 2006 trading subsidiaries TOS TRADE Canada Inc. and TOS TRADE North America, LLC (for the USA) were founded. As machine production and sales grew, the company heavily invested in its production base and upgraded their machine park.
Already in 2007 a new heavy-duty assembly hall was put into operation, where large floor-type milling and boring machines (type series WRD 130/150 and WRD 170) are now being assembled, and the administrative building was completely renovated. In 2008 the first SPEEDtec machining centre was manufactured, for which the company received a Gold Medal at the IMT 2008 Brno fair in the same year. 2008 was the most successful year in the entire history of the company, when the annual turnover exceeded CZK 3 billion for the first time. In 2009 the first WRD 150 DUO technological workplace was put into operation.
In the same year the company began to feel the effects of the global financial crisis, which manifested itself in the entire engineering industry, including within machine tool manufacturing. In 2010 the WRD 170 (Q) floor-type milling and boring machine was publicly introduced, the largest machine produced up to that time.
In the following years, the expansion of the company base and a great boom in the development of new machines continued. In 2011 the sales and service organisation TOS INDIA Machine Tools Pvt. Ltd. and TOS Machine Tools (Shanghai) Ltd., and the service organization OOO TOS Varnsdorf-RUS CO., Ltd. were also founded. In 2012 another company, GRS Ural LLC, was founded in Russia. The expansion of the company is also followed by innovation in machines. In 2013 the first WHtec 130 machine was produced, in the next year, i.e. 2014, it is followed with the production of the WRD 13 and our first machine with hydrostatic guidance, the WRD 180 H. And in 2015 the first WRD 13 machine was produced.
2016 to the present day
In 2016 the company installed the first YASDA 7T – 63RP turning-milling centre in the production base. In the same year the company opened the TOS VARNSDORF Technical High School, the first private technical high school in northern Bohemia. The company continued to support its overseas activities and founded TOS LITZ Machinery Corporation in Taiwan in 2017.
Also in that year we started the production of the first machine series of new machining centres with the designation WHT 110. In the following year its bigger "brother", the WHT 130, was produced (that is, by the way, based on the WHtec 130 concept), which has been produced since 2013. The company continued to work intensively on the development of new products and, in 2019, presented a machine with the designation WVM2600 T, the first portal machine. The company thus significantly expands its product portfolio, which until now consisted of horizontal machining centres and horizontal boring machines. For the first time in the history of TOS VARNSDOR, a completely new type of vertical portal machine was introduced.