When Ernst Menzi invented the walking excavator

In 1966, the swiss inventor Ernst Menzi designed the world’s first ever walking excavator. He was also a talented businessman and systematically applied for patent protection for his inventions. Nearly 60 years later, his company is just as innovative. However, it now follows a different strategy to protect its innovations.

The walking excavator designed by Ernst Menzi was a world first in 1966. Copyright: Menzi Muck AG

The walking excavator designed by Ernst Menzi (1897–1984) was a sensation at the time. It can move with ease over steep and rough terrain, whereas the traditional diggers used until then could not cope with difficult work on slopes. In 1966, the first walking excavator was delivered. Its name – Menzi Muck – was based on the German fairy tale character Muck, who has magical powers.


Ernst Menzi invented a lounger too

Success wasn’t long in coming. The product was in particular demand internationally. Ernst Menzi kept on inventing and filed numerous improvements to his walking excavators with the Federal Industrial Property Agency (as the IPI was then known) in the following years. He occasionally delved into other areas, developing a lounger, among other things. During his career, he applied for patents for numerous inventions. The patents protected him and his company from free riders for up to 20 years.


The Menzi family has long since withdrawn from the business, which has been a public limited company since 1996. Its name – also Menzi Muck – is now the only connection with its past. The technology has moved on. “A great deal has happened since the first invention. There’s a world of difference between the first walking excavator and today’s models,” says Managing Director Thomas Henke. The keystone is still the same, however – constant innovation as the recipe for success.

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