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History

How it all began The name says it all

Towards the end of the 19th century, as the industrial era began in Germany, the region around what is now Wuppertal was considered by contemporaries as a model example, as the “German Manchester”. From the Bergisches Land region, a dynamically growing textile industry and its products initially took the world by storm. The growing use of machinery and the accompanying electrification prompted the founding of an innovative cable and wire manufacturing industry. At the heart of this industry was the long-established family of Carl Müller.

One man, one room, one company

On 3 February 1928, the family’s 25-year-old son Fritz Müller establishes the company “Fritz Müller Elektroisoliermaterial” in Wuppertal, where he begins by renting one room in the town centre as the initial premises of the start-up company. With a bank loan of 6,000 Reichsmarks, courage and conviction, he begins paving the way for what has become today’s Coroplast Group. As the name of the company reveals, in these days the range of products comprises materials used for electrical insulation purposes. Müller is responsible for organising materials purchasing and has the textile insulation hoses made to order, which is standard procedure in the Wuppertal textile industry at the time. Fritz Müller also sells insulating materials such as laminated papers, oil flax and oiled silk. That same year he begins producing independently, treating oil hoses with impregnating varnishes in specially designed furnaces. He has been inspired by earlier attempts, as Fritz and his brother have already gained experience in processing varnishes in their father Carl’s business. The two brothers just loved experimenting. As the story goes, they attempted to impregnate oil hoses and put them in their mother’s oven to dry. One thing is sure, however, the systematic development of their own production company begins towards the end of 1928.

1929 - 1934

World economic crisis overcome

In 1929, the small business with five employees produces varnish-impregnated textile hoses and varnished cables for cars (braided copper wires). The company even buys itself its own car. Its clients include well-known engineering works such as AEG as well as automotive manufacturers. The stock market crash in New York and the ensuing world economic crisis have a serious impact – and Fritz Müller is no exception. The young company is faced with ruin. However, its creditors have faith in Fritz Müller and thus ensure its survival.

1935 - 1943

Upward with PVC, downward with the war

In the mid-1930s, a promising synthetic plastic polymer known as polyvinyl chloride, or PVC for short, comes onto the market. Fritz Müller recognises the potential of this newly developed material and begins processing it. Thanks to PVC, it becomes technically possible to produce insulated copper wires, such as those used in lighting and telephone systems.

Despite the danger of failure when processing the new material due to lack of experience, Fritz Müller buys the first extruder – a machine specially designed for processing thermoplastics. His courage pays off – and as one of the first processors of PVC, Coroplast acquires valuable know-how in this field, which lays the foundations for future success in the processing of plastics. The number of machines increases, as do the sales figures and the size of the company’s workforce. During the war years, production continues in Saxony to a limited degree. In 1943, the Wuppertal factory is hit by bombs, destroying large amounts of raw materials.

„Owner Fritz Müller is considered a trustworthy, industrious businessman. In recent years, the company has experienced strong growth and forged itself a considerable reputation.“
Commerzbank 1939 (Report to the Chamber of Industry and Commerce)

1945

Founder Fritz Müller dies during robbery

Fritz Müller risks a new start at the Wuppertal plant, even before the war has ended. With a workforce of almost 30, he re-establishes the production of insulated wires, insulated hoses and synthetic leather straps. However, the new start is overshadowed by the death of the founder, as on 5 June 1945 he dies in a robbery at the emergency accommodation that has been set up on the company premises, where he has lived with his family since their apartment has been destroyed by bombs. His wife Anna Müller dies only a year later.

1946 - 1948

The Coroplast brand name is invented

The chemist and graduate in business management Dr Richard Röhm joins the company as managing director. He enlarges the business, introduces new products and the company begins assembling cables and selling them in the form of complete harnesses and large-dimension cables. In 1948, the standard, catchy brand name Coroplast comes into being and soon becomes a synonym for the company name “Fritz Müller”.

The 1950s

The miracle material

They start with “poly” and have a massive impact on the economic upswing: polyvinyl chloride, or PVC for short, and materials such as polyethylene and polypropylene. Coroplast invests a great deal of development work in its own laboratories and technical testing department. The company has the ambition to manufacture as much as possible in-house, including developing its own plastic compounds and making its own machinery. The employees combine adhesive with PVC and create numerous types of insulating tape, anti-corrosion bindings and multi-purpose adhesive tapes. The persistent research, experimentation and continual improvements soon make the company a success. Coroplast continues to grow, its products are on sale in 50 countries worldwide, the workforce increases to almost 500 people, and new buildings provide space for further production equipment.

1960 - 1975

Freed from solvents, caught in recession

The love of experimenting and entrepreneurial courage pays off and in the early 1960s Coroplast introduces a new type of acrylate adhesive to the market. This solvent-free and therefore environmentally friendly adhesive is still in use by Coroplast today. Innovation is accompanied by expansion – a new building and additional, more efficient machinery enhance the Wuppertal plant. 

Oil crisis, car-free Sundays and recession: perhaps older readers remember the driving bans in the early 1970s. Growth in the industrialised countries appear to have reached its limits, and even Coroplast feels the pinch. Despite record sales in 1974, the following year proves to be the most difficult in the company’s more recent history, with redundancies, the loss of customers and a fire on the company premises.

1976

The era of Dr Kurt Müller shapes the next 30 years

During the 1950s, Dr Kurt Müller, nephew of the founder Fritz Müller, has worked from time to time in his uncle’s company. In 1961, the economist and engineer Dr Kurt Müller becomes an authorised signatory for the company and is responsible for the technical division. In 1976 he becomes head of the company as solely responsible managing director. He then goes on to manage the company for the next 30 years, leaving his own special hallmark on it.

1985

From wiring harnesses to high-tech cable assemblies

In the mid-1980s, Coroplast starts manufacturing and marketing cable assemblies. Using cables and adhesive tape manufactured in-house, the company produces entire cable harnesses for customers from the automobile, electrical and household appliances industries. The cable harnesses – also known as vehicle electrical systems in cars – supply engines, electromagnetic valves and lighting systems with electricity. Moreover, they transfer information from and between the various control units. The decision to expand the cable harness production is a real turning point in the company’s history, as at the beginning of the 1990s, cable production and business with the automotive industry develop to become an important source of income for Coroplast.

1994

Out into the big wide world – internationalisation begins in Poland

The crisis that hits the automotive industry in the early 1990s also has a telling impact on Coroplast. However, the company turns the crisis to its advantage and positions itself more and more as a developer of vehicle electrical systems for increasingly complex automotive cabling technologies. In 1994, Coroplast first ventures abroad and founds the subsidiary Coroplast sp. zo.o. Dylaki Poland. Coroplast begins by manufacturing cable assemblies on the former premises of a textiles factory close to the Upper Silesian town of Opole, later followed by two further sites in Poland. In 1999, the company crosses the Atlantic, and due to the proximity to the North American automotive market and the VW plant in Mexico, Coroplast opens a production plant in Central Mexico.

1999

Natalie Mekelburger joins the management team

The company and therefore its headquarters in Wuppertal continue to grow steadily. Like her father Dr Kurt Müller before her, Natalie Mekelburger has not originally intended to work at Coroplast. However, after completing her studies and gathering her first professional experience, in 1994 she joins the family company as Sales and Marketing Manager. In 1999 she becomes one of three members of the board of management.

2000 - 2008

Service offensive in Germany – unknown territory in China

To offer customers a continuous presence, to research in collaboration with their experts, to closely coordinate new developments – these endeavours are best achieved in close proximity to customers. For this reason, at the turn of the millennium Coroplast opens two new subsidiaries in Germany. Since 2000, the Service Centre in Wolfsburg has been dedicated to designing and developing cable assemblies for the VW Group and since 2005, Coroplast has worked together with the VW Group company Audi in Ingolstadt.

In 2004, Coroplast takes its first step into the Asian market, establishing Coroplast Harness Technology Co., Ltd. in Taicang, China, a city located some 40 kilometres from Shanghai. The move marks the beginning of an impressive story of growth on the Asian market, which still continues today.

2008

Top Employer for the first time

The claim “Coroplast - keeping you connected.” also applies to the company’s employees. Employees at Coroplast enjoy great job security, flexible working time models with a good work-life balance and fast promotion opportunities. Furthermore, employees profit from numerous benefits, including free access to a health studio. The CoroAcademy offers a wide range of further training opportunities. In 2008, Coroplast is first awarded the title of one of Germany’s top employers. The positive corporate culture, the good working atmosphere, further training opportunities and the promotion of health are particularly pleasing aspects. In 2018, the highly coveted title of “Top Employer” is awarded to Coroplast for the tenth time.

2010 - 2013

On the right track towards an international production network

Wherever vehicles are built, Coroplast is not far away. In 2010, Coroplast enters a new continent and is producing cable harnesses in Tunisia ever since. One year later, Coroplast begins manufacturing cable assemblies in Acámbaro, Mexico. Around 250 kilometres from Mexico City, the location with its direct access to the North, Central and South American automotive markets has enormous potential. Its customers already include Audi, VW and Daimler. In 2013, Coroplast inaugurates no fewer than three new sites. Two of them are located in China, in Kunshan and Mianyang, and one is in Hammamet, Tunisia.

2014

Centre of expertise for technical adhesive tapes

In 2014, Wuppertal celebrates the “Grand Opening” of its centre of expertise for technical adhesive tapes. The centrepiece of the new building is an internally developed adhesive tape coating system. With the construction of the new production building, Coroplast extends its spatial capacity by 50 per cent. The company also opens its first production site in North America. Coroplast manufactures technical adhesive tapes at its location in Rock Hill, South Carolina. The highlight of the year: Coroplast wins the Wuppertal Business Award. The company’s investment in Wuppertal as an industrial location and its commitment to social issues and culture are the main points that convince the jury.

2015

Dr Kurt Müller is mourned

Dr Kurt Müller, managing director of many years’ standing, dies on 31 May 2015 at the age of 85. He headed the company for almost 40 years and was crucial to its success, particularly when times were tough. With his sure instinct for the market and the right products, he provided the decisive impulses that transformed a regional manufacturer with a relatively limited export volume into the globally operating technology leader we know today.

2016

Business award for commitment to art

Art in the buildings, sculptures in the staff park, a company art award known as CoroArt – Coroplast has a history of supporting art and culture in Wuppertal and the surrounding region. In November 2016, the company is presented with the “Nadel der Medici” business award for its exceptional commitment to art.
Furthermore, Coroplast has been sponsoring Wuppertal’s Von der Heydt Museum and the Von der Heydt Art Gallery for many years. With free guided tours for its employees and a “Cultural Evening” for guests from the worlds of culture, politics and industry, Coroplast regularly invites guests to be inspired by art at the museum. The art highlight of 2016 is the exhibition of the works of Britain’s most eminent sculptor Tony Cragg at the Von der Heydt Museum. 

2017

Expansion – worldwide and in Wuppertal

The course of internationalisation continues. Numerous of the international production sites are expanded. For example, the plant in Strzelce Opolskie, Poland is extended by a new production hall, the size of the production space at Rock Hill, USA (see picture) is nearly doubled, and floor space at the plant in Acámbaro, Mexico is extended to almost three times the size – without interrupting production. At the Chinese business site Kunshan, Coroplast Tape Technology is founded as a new subsidiary and in Moldova, a completely new Coroplast business site is established. Besides international expansion, headquarters in Wuppertal grow, as well.

Highlight at the end of the year: Natalie Mekelburger, Chairwoman of the Board of Management, receives the “EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2017” Award.

„We are committed to culture, as this field truly reflects the soul of the company. A creative environment also helps promote creative thinking.“
Constanze Krieger (Head of Marketing & Communication)