It all began in 2003 with a serious fall from a ladder …
In 2003, Wilhelm Maurer, founder and owner of the Zurich consulting company M+F Engineering, climbed up a ladder to pick cherries. What started well ended in hospital when Mr. Maurer fell and suffered painful injuries.
Throughout his life as an inventive entrepreneur, Mr. Maurer had always seen opportunities in such adverse experiences. So, even while he was still in hospital, he started thinking about this accident and the causes lying behind it.
He realised what millions of other ladder users already knew: climbing ladders is neither safe nor ergonomic.
But this shrewd entrepreneur took this insight further: if climbing ladders is so dangerous, why had there not been any fundamental changes in this thousands of years old climbing principle?
He decided to take up this challenge, and on the very same day instructed a group of engineers in his company to design new climbing concepts. The seed corn for the subsequent founding of HighStep Systems AG had been sown.
Four years passed before the new company was founded, during which time a number of prototypes of a completely new climbing method were developed and tested exhaustively. The basic idea was quickly conceived: in place of a ladder, mount a continuous rail permanently on a supporting structure. However, the development of the right rail profile took a long time. It was decided right from the start that once the rail profile had been specified, it would never be subsequently changed. The Rail would be the constant feature of this new climbing method.
M+F Engineering is a company specialising in aluminium consulting, so the choice of material for the Rail was also decided from the very start: Aluminium. As this is an easily worked, lightweight metal, it is easy to make, machine and mount the Rail.
As well as the Rail, the engineers also developed an initial climbing device that could run on the Rail. This device – initially called the Steplift and introduced in 2005 – consisted of two motorised halves that automatically moved along the Rail as soon as the user lifted a leg to start climbing. The device primarily served to demonstrate the possibilities of the Rail to potential users.
It quickly become obvious that a purely automatic device was inadequate, so a mechanical climbing device for manual climbing was also developed. This climbing device, consisting of two pedals running on the Rail and fall protection, was presented for the first time in 2006.
As well as partners for developing and using the new climbing system, the German TÜV Süd (Technical Inspection Association South) was called in at an early stage in order to obtain the certificates required for marketing authorisation.
After a four-year development period, granting of the initial patents and the completion of CE certification, the new climbing system was transferred from M+F Engineering to an independent company in 2007. HighStep Systems AG was founded, and launched the eponymous, innovative system on the market in the same year.