Investing in the future11 September 2002
Over the past three years, Boehme have been investing considerable amounts of money in expanding their production and storage facilities. One of these investments is their new storage farm containing 12 tanks which are divided into chambers, each with the capacity to hold 100 tons of finished leather and textile products, thus increasing short-term product availability for their customers. When Leather International visited Boehme at the beginning of July, the farm had only been completed six weeks previously. However, new pipe work needs to be connected before the tanks can be used, and this is expected to be completed by the end of the third quarter of 2002. Business unit manager leather/fur chemicals, Dr Hans Tacheci, emphasised that the farm cost €5 million and is an investment mainly in the company's leather activities, thus proving Boehme's continuing commitment to the leather industry. This can also be seen from the increase in revenue generated from the company's leather sector over the past five years. In 2001, 40% of Boehme's annual turnover of around €150 million was generated from the leather division. Boehme are 123 years old and specialise in the production of chemicals for the leather, fur and textile industries. Specifically within the leather industry, the company have, over the years, earned a reputation as the 'kings of soft leather'. 'Our development work focuses on high-performance fatliquoring agents to guarantee exceptionally soft leather', says the company's brochure, and Cutapol and Eskatan have a strong reputation worldwide. Fatliquors will remain the focal point of Boehme. In the future, the company plan to expand beyond their well-known surfactants with an even wider range of specialty products for the retannage. These products are based on polycondensation chemistry (eg Tannit) and acrylic polymers (eg Garoval). By 2003, Boehme anticipate that a large amount of their annual worldwide sales will be generated by new wet-end products. The automotive industry is one of the keys for Boehme. 'We were lucky', explains Tacheci. 'Just as the German market was restructuring and moving away from the shoe upper sector towards upholstery and automotive leather, Boehme managed to catch the trend just at the right time and moved with the transition rather than being left behind.' Today, Boehme's products for the automotive tanner match the highest technical standards. Over the past few years, the company have undergone a radical reorganisation. Boehme remain a family-owned company but, in 1999, the five fourth-generation family members all recognised the need for fresh blood and decided to take more of a back-seat role in the actual running of the company. In October 1999, Ulf Stadler was appointed ceo of Boehme, a dynamic business manager with a strong financial and commercial background. Tacheci, who joined as business unit manager leather/fur chemicals in January 2001 and has over 30 years of worldwide experience in the industry, explains that the company are fit for the future. And customer satisfaction is key to this success. 'Boehme are highly focused on customer orientation', said Tacheci. To continue the success story, Boehme will become more global. The company have 12 production facilities worldwide and an extensive sales organisation. 900 people are employed by Boehme, of which 480 work at the main site in Germany. 'We are lucky', explains Tacheci. 'We are working in the most beautiful region in Germany and, furthermore, we are located a very short distance from Italy's leather centre at Arzignano.' Boehme see potential growth not only in Germany's neighbouring countries but also in the Iberian peninsula, the former USSR countries, middle and south America, the Middle East and China in 0ther Far East. To consolidate their strong position in China, Boehme are also establishing a subsidiary this year. 'From a global point of view, leather production is very stable. However, it is subject to strong fluctuations that can differ considerably from country to country. Therefore, it is imperative to be present in those markets where the demand exists', explains Tacheci. With Boehme's continued commitment to R&D, the company hope to record a 10% annual increase in sales in the forthcoming years.