Responsibility for the family enterprise has been passed from one generation to the next for more than a century, but the guiding principle of sustainable and continuous development has always remained unchanged. The following synopsis illustrates how DÖRKENGROUP has emerged, from all highs and lows, as a global enterprise after humble beginnings as a small paint factory.
The brothers Carl and Ewald Dörken form a general partnership to produce lacquers, paints and anti-corrosion coatings.
At the end of the 19th century, the production of consumer and industrial products was escalating rapidly. Against this backdrop, the demand for coatings to protect a vast array of surfaces was increasing as well. As it grew likewise, the construction industry also needed building paints capable of satisfying a wide variety of requirements.
As a chemical scholar and qualified businessman respectively, the brothers Carl and Ewald Dörken decided to initiate a production enterprise with the support of their father, Carl senior, and the future father-in-law of Carl junior, Heinrich StÖcker.
Its new brand EBURIT gives the paint factory a competitive edge in the marketplace.
Dr Carl Dörken developed a new procedure for concentrating wood oil. For the first time in the history of paints, his work gave rise to coatings with wood-like properties, which proved to be a resounding success. The Dörken product EBURIT became the leading decorator’s material for the following seven decades.
Its success was underpinned by the increasing influence of effective advertising. Marketing campaigns were still the exception rather than the rule at the start of the 20th century, but Carl’s brother Ewald believed in their effectiveness and succeeded in raising the profile of the Dörken products among a large audience.
The limited partnership Dörken GmbH & Co. KG is established. It later forms the basis of the composite construction membrane division.
The First Word War heralded a period of great hardship for Dörken, and business picked up only slowly after the end of hostilities. In order to generate fresh impetus, in the 1920s the company invested in machinery, land, laboratories and employees. It entered a niche market when the limited partnership was formed in 1925 by manufacturing and distributing roofing membranes for the growing fleet of cargo wagons belonging to the national railway operator.
A younger generation took charge of the company during this period as well. Karl Dörken and Heinrich Herminghaus, the son and son-in-law of Carl Dörken junior, respectively, joined the business and assumed executive positions in the new joint stock corporation, Ewald Dörken AG from 1929, alongside Fritz Kemner.
Dörken takes its first steps in the field of synthetic resin waxes and continues to develop its insulation business.
The economic crisis compelled Ewald Dörken AG to prioritise the use of indigenous raw materials when developing new products. Necessity proved to be the mother of invention as the new synthetic resin waxes quickly asserted themselves in the market. Dörken soon emerged as a leading supplier of synthetic resin paints.
With the aid of innovation, including a new form of cork insulation, the segment serving the wagon roof and membrane business expanded as well. The company as a whole was growing and responded by enlarging its factory premises.
The Second World War puts the company to the test ; it survives, but not entirely unscathed.
The company premises in Herdecke suffered severe damage in Second World War bombing raids. Some operations were relocated to safer areas, and raw materials could no longer be stored on site.
From 1940 Dörken employed French and eastern European prisoners of war. Even now, Dörken AG remains committed to solemnly reflecting upon this chapter of German history. In 2000, for example, the executive board invited former White Russian forced labourers to Herdecke and contributed to the EVZ (Remembrance, Responsibility and Future) Foundation.
After the war the company’s facility in Herdecke was threatened with closure. A huge effort to rescue the site was initiated, and ultimately succeeded, thanks to good customer relations and extensive modernisation that facilitated the expansion of paint production.
Dörken reaps the rewards of Germany’s economic miracle. The third generation of the family is now at the helm of the flourishing business.
The currency reform of 1948 marked the start of the economic miracle. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Dörken developed a string of new products, one after the other. It was quick to recognise the trend when coloured paints started to become more and more popular in the mid-1950s. Driven by its quality and reinforced marketing activities, the Bunt-Deltal paint series was a massive success.
In 1951 the third generation of the family took charge as Dr Hellmut Herminghaus and Ewald Dörken followed in the footsteps of their grandfather. Their roles continued the tradition established by the company’s co-founders – the chemist Herminghaus primarily took care of the technical side of the business, while his cousin Ewald devoted his attention to purchasing and sales.
Dörken initiates production of mesh-reinforced composite construction membranes. The roofing underlay DELTA-FOL SPF begins its steep rise in the European market.
The rapidly changing plastic industry was enabling newcomers to establish themselves with new products. Taking advantage of its experience accumulated while developing and producing railway wagon membranes and NBC tarpaulins, Dörken entered an entirely new market – the application of thin polyethylene films to wovens.
One of the products arising from this process was the first mesh-reinforced plastic roofing underlay, DELTA SPF for pitched roofs. Also offering the benefit of flame-retardant properties, it was soon being used throughout Europe to protect roofs against dust, soot and moisture. The product’s roll-out coincided with the formation of the composite construction membrane division, which quickly became established in the market.
Determined development work gave rise to a steady expansion of Dörken’s range of tarpaulins and membranes. Scaffold tarpaulins and sheeting had already been added to the plastic product portfolio by the mid-1960s.
A crisis takes hold in the composite construction membrane division. Karl-Friedrich Dick takes charge of the segment and steers it back to success.
The 1973 oil crisis had a severe impact on companies worldwide, and numerous small and medium-sized chemical enterprises that depended on oil as a raw material were forced out of business or acquired by conglomerates. In this respect, Ewald Dörken AG was different.
Although its plastic operations in particular came under threat during this period, the business recovered fairly quickly when Karl Friedrich Dick took charge in 1973 and, together with Werner Schmidtmann, originated new sales strategies. The oil crisis nonetheless gave rise to redundancies, and a strict cost management regime was imposed.
Dörken initiates the production and marketing of the microlayer corrosion protection system DELTA-MKS. In the composite construction membrane segment, the dimpled sheet material DELTA-MS is launched.
In 1981, Dörken purchased the licence to produce and sell a microlayer corrosion protection system. Branded DELTA-MKS, this high-performance and heavy metals-free base coat rapidly secures a significant position in the marketplace.
In the early 1980s the composite construction membrane division introduced dimpled membrane for protecting against moisture in basements. Within a short time, the range of chocolate-brown foundation wall protection and drainage systems was recognised as a Dörken hallmark and generated strong demand in the international arena.
When it takes over the production of the environment-friendly façades paint systems Lucite and Imlar CPC, Dörken begins to shift its focus in favour of solvent-free building paints.
Dörken was adopting more and more ambitious environmental targets and, when it acquired the solvent-free façades paints Lucite and Imlar CPC from DuPont de Nemours, initiated a comprehensive transformation of its image and expertise.
In the context of this sustainability strategy, Dörken disposed of its conventional industrial coating business and started to produce new, water-based building paints. Within two years, the plant in Herdecke had reduced its solvent consumption by 70%.
At the start of the 1990s, the fourth generation of the family took over the reins when Karl E. Dörken and Ute Herminghaus joined the senior management team. Ewald Dörken AG celebrated its centenary in May 1992.
The exterior coatings business unit is incorporated in the new company CD-Color. Five years later, it gives rise to the limited liability company Protec-Systempasten GmbH.
From the mid-1990s, medium-sized businesses in the exterior coating sector had been finding it more and more difficult to overcome the market influence of the major conglomerates. Rather than continuing their rivalry, Dörken and the paint manufacturer CWS-Lackfabrik Conrad W. Schmidt GmbH & Co. KG of Düren pooled their individual strengths in a new limited partnership, CD-Color GmbH & Co. KG, with headquarters in Herdecke.
In 2002, Ewald Dörken AG thoroughly restructured its operations. The joint stock corporation became a holding company with service functions for four autonomous divisions.
In 2004, CD-Color became a wholly owned Dörken subsidiary. It was followed one year later by Protec Systempasten GmbH. Since this consolidation, Protec has continued to supply industrial customers in the building paint sector with tailor-made paste, base and tinting systems.
Following the award of the German Material Efficiency Prize to Dörken MKS-Systeme five years earlier, Dörken is recognised as a TOP-100 innovator for the second time.
Dörken companies have ranked among the winners of the TOP-100 innovator award every year since 2008. The competition for small and medium-sized enterprises takes place every two years, and the prize is recognised as the premier innovation management accolade in Germany.
Back in 2005, MKS-Systeme received the prestigious German Material Efficiency Prize for its microlayer corrosion protection system DELTA-PROTEKT® KL 120.
From the turn of the millennium, Dörken continuously stepped up its innovation management activities. Its own development teams are now constantly engaged in exploring new solutions and refining existing products.
Ewald Dörken AG celebrates its 125th anniversary with a review of its successes over the many intervening years and decades, and more than an entire century.
The second decade of the 21st century has been shaped by innovation and investment. By way of novel products such as the ‘blue wonder’ Delta Liquixx and the insulation panels in the Delta-Maxx Polar range, Dörken has positioned itself as a premium supplier. The functional coating Delta Liquixx was launched in 2011 as an innovative viscous paste that changes colour, from light to dark blue, as it dries. Delta-Maxx Polar was introduced in 2013 as an end-to-end renovation solution for pitched roofs.
In 2015, Dörken opened a state-of-the-art production facility for spunbond non-wovens in the Vorhalle neighbourhood of Hagen. It was in this context that the most recent division, which develops and produces spunbonds for industrial customers, was established.
For the first time, a non-family member was appointed chief executive in 2016. Thorsten Koch is committed to maintaining the family traditions while leading the company to new heights. As members of the supervisory board, Ute Herminghaus and Karl E. Dörken retain oversight over all processes.
In 2017, Ewald Dörken AG celebrated its 125th anniversary with a huge party for its employees, customers and business associates. In the same year, Dörken MKS-Systeme GmbH & Co. KG was awarded the coveted Top Job prize, which is presented to companies that systematically advocate and provide a healthy and efficient working climate.