1836 - 1870
Founding of Etablissement du Creusot
In 1836, two brothers name Adolphe and Eugène Schneider acquired the Creusot mines, forges and foundries, gaining an opportunity to participate in the great adventure of the Industrial Revolution.
Their main markets were steel, heavy industry, railroads and shipbuilding. 1840-1870 — Thirty shining years The Schneider brothers benefited from the spectacular rise of industry in the 19th century and grew their business by making smart technical choices and building a strong network of relations. In keeping with his mission as an “enlightened” executive, Eugène Schneider set up employee programs to create a community for the plant workers’ families.
1870 - 1918
Moving into the world market
At the turn of the century, Eugene II made investments in many countries, in mining, electricity and steel. Most of the company’s exports stemmed from its success in weapons manufacturing. On the eve of World War I, Schneider had risen to the challenge set in 1870 to build cannons as effective as Krupp’s.
Technical breakthroughs and buoyant businesses Eugene’s son Henri Schneider learned from the events of 1870 and recognized the obvious superiority of steel for military use. New processes introduced in the 1860s and 70s yielded a stronger steel at a lower cost. Schneider invocated in iron and steel production and quickly became one of Europe’s leading manufacturers of weapons and infrastructure.
1918 - 1944
The heady post-war years
After playing a major role in France’s victory in 1918, Schneider had to reconvert to a peacetime economy. It was during this period that the company took advantage of the expansion of electricity, steel and cement in everyday life. Three firms that are now Schneider master brands were also founded during these years: Merlin Gerin, Telemecanique and Square D.
Breakthrough in Germany and eastern Europe after World War I, Schneider began setting up operations in Germany and eastern Europe. Its partnership with Skoda was one of the highlights of this strategy.
The dark days:
The recession of the 1930s and arrival of France’s Front Populaire government took a heavy toll on the company. From 1940 to 1944, the German occupation put Schneider in a very difficult position, and its watchword was “endure but resist”.
1944 - 1960
Reconstruction and rebirth
Once France was liberated, Schneider had to again deal with reconversion, but this time, the country needed to be rebuilt. The company’s new chief executive, Charles Schneider, gradually abandoned weapons manufacturing to focus on civilian needs.
In-depth restructuring was conducted in 1949 to prepare Schneider for the modern world. “Leading the national economy” Charles Schneider wanted the company to “expand, modernize and rationalize”. He applied this slogan to all the business segments, from construction and steel to electricity and nuclear power, as well as to Schneider’s strategy of acquisitions and exports. Charles’ policy met with great success, and in 1959, General de Gaulle declared that Schneider was “leading the national economy”.
1960 - 1981
Charles Schneider’s sudden death in August 1960 raised the thorny problem of succession. During this period the company was paralyzed by the decline of key business sectors such as steel manufacturing and shipbuilding. The Empain family gained control of the group in 1969, raising hopes of a turnaround.
The Empain years
But Baron Eduard-Jean Empain, leader of the new Empain-Schneider group, managed the business as if it were an investment portfolio, with a heavy focus on short-term profitability. The traditional segments moved deeper into recession and the Baron’s diversification did not produce expected results.
1981 - 2000
Rising to new heights
When Didier Pineau-Valencienne took charge in 1981, he began rationalizing the company by divesting non-strategic or unprofitable businesses. Negotiations were undertaken with the French government to find solutions for the segments in decline, such as steelmaking and shipbuilding, which led to serious crises, notably at Creusot-Loire.
A new start
After consolidating its financial base by bringing in new shareholders and simplifying its organizational structure, Schneider began to redeploy in the late 1980s. Didier Pineau-Valencienne brought Merlin Gerin firmly into the group in 1986 and then launched an ambitious acquisitions strategy, capped by the integration of Telemecanique (1988) and Square D (1991). The strategic refocusing on electricity was completed in 1996, with the divestment of Spie Batignolles. In just ten years, a company that looked headed for bankruptcy transformed itself into a world class manufacturer of equipment for electrical distribution, automation and control.
Acquisition of Power Measurement, Inc.
Leading designer, manufacturer and provider of energy management systems and software based in Victoria, BC.
Acquisition of APC corp.
Leader in the critical power and cooling services market.
Acquisiton of Xantrex Technology Inc.
Leader in renewable energy solutions
Acquisition of Areva D, formation of Energy Business unit
Acquisition of Telvent
Leading software firm to reinforce Schneider Electric’s solution capability for the smart grid and mission-critical infrastructure.