Kaldewei: Family business on track for European market lead sets milestones
Tradition and pioneering spirit are the strong backbone of the Kaldewei family business enterprise. Many years of experience, groundbreaking innovations, uncompromising quality, and durability are inextricably linked with the name Kaldewei. As a premium manufacturer of baths, shower trays and enamelled shower surfaces recently named “Brand of the Century”, it operates one of the most advanced production facilities worldwide. More importantly, Kaldewei is the only bath manufacturer to produce its own special enamel.
Since 1918: The founding years Founded in October 1918 by Franz Kaldewei, the company in the Westphalian town of Ahlen transforms itself in its 90-year history from a small business enterprise to Europe’s leading manufacturer of baths, shower trays and enamelled shower surfaces. Starting with the manufacture of raw materials for the enamel industry, Franz Kaldewei – a master plumber by trade – lays the foundation for the rise of the company. It is its iron will, untiring diligence and the right instinct for promising market niches that are the driving force behind the company’s ongoing success. From washtubs and frying pans through to rim coppers – after only three years, the production space is expanded from initially 962 sqm to 6,500 sqm.
Since 1928: Set for growth
With Heinrich Kaldewei at the helm, who takes over as the second generation from 1928, the company continues its unstoppable growth. Well-versed in the use of drawing presses, initial enamelling work is carried out on the company’s own raw products. A further milestone follows in 1934 with the production of the first free- standing steel bath made of several parts. 50 workers at this point manufacture some 60 steel baths per day. Deciding to pour funds into its own enamel production line and a four-post press, which produces baths from a single sheet of steel at a force of 500 tons and so reduces the number of welding seams to two, proves to be a wise investment: A mere two years later, 25 workers now produce 250 baths a day.
Independence from its suppliers enables Kaldewei to translate its creativity into innovative action. Based on technical know-how, material expertise and a passion for enamelled products, Kaldewei intensifies its core business and optimises its production processes along with the material quality of its baths.
Since 1950: Pioneer of bathroom culture
In the 1950s Heinrich Kaldewei becomes the company’s sole shareholder. Vision and innovative capacity herald the start of a new era for the family business. A time, to date, where Kaldewei makes a name for itself as a pioneer in the development and production of enamelled baths and shower trays. In 1956 the product range is extended by adding enamelled shower trays. Only a short year later, Kaldewei’s engineers set a precedent in the sector with a veritable production feat – the first seamless bath is drawn from a single steel sheet marking the start of the world’s first bath press line. Its two hydraulic drawing presses press the baths into shape using forces of 1,000 tons each. The special quality of Kaldewei baths and their formidable material thickness of 3.5 mm soon become synonymous with excellence and durability setting a new standard in the bathroom industry. Within a decade, Kaldewei has ousted the previously dominant cast-iron bathtubs almost completely from the German market to become the number one in Europe for enamelled baths and shower trays.
Kaldewei also consistently proves its pioneering spirit in the art of enamelling. In the 1970s the Ahlen family business is the first industrial enterprise in Germany to use mechanical robots as a standard in its production. They are designed to ensure smooth enamelling of the baths and shower trays to guarantee the high standard of quality seen in all Kaldewei products.
Since 1973: The Kaldewei brand
Franz-Dieter Kaldewei, who takes over as head of the company in 1973, continues to build on the company’s lead in the market and increasingly focuses on automating the production facilities. For the first time he commissions noted designers such as Sottsass Associati in Milan or Phoenix Design Stuttgart/Tokyo with the styling of baths and shower trays in innovative colours and ergonomic shapes. Highly passionate about Kaldewei steel enamel 3.5 mm and with a keen sense of style in the search for the perfect shape, the product portfolio is extended by a wide variety of modern and sophisticated designs. Kaldewei as a result conquers a new market defined by demand for superior quality and designs that cater to individual tastes. Thanks to consistent branding and the resulting high profile, the Kaldewei business transforms into a brand.
Today: Diversity of shapes and design expertise
With a broad product offering of currently more than 380 model versions Kaldewei sets itself apart from the competition with a great variety of shapes and superior design expertise. Be it quadrangular, pentagonal, round or semicircular – Kaldewei guarantees creative versatility and a multifaceted approach across three segments – from the classic through to the luxury product for the most exacting individualists. Around 100 national and international design awards are an impressive testimony to the company’s superior standards and make Kaldewei one of the most decorated and prestigious bathroom manufacturers in the world. Its highlight currently is the latest development to come from the Kaldewei Design Center: Xetis. It is the world's first enamelled shower surface with an integrated wall outlet, its minimalist design providing new scope for design in modern shower areas.
German industrial heritage on all continents
Under the management of Franz Kaldewei, who has been leading the family business in the fourth generation since 2008, Kaldewei has gained worldwide recognition as a premium manufacturer with a high standard of quality. The company exports its products “made in Germany” from the Westphalian town of Ahlen all over the world. As Europe’s no. 1 and the leading international supplier of high- quality baths, shower trays and enamelled shower surfaces, Kaldewei is present in more than 70 countries today, including twelve subsidiaries in China, England, France, Italy, Austria, Poland, Russia, Switzerland, Spain, Southeast Asia, the Czech Republic, and the USA. Consistent international expansion forms an integral part of the company’s strategic orientation in an effort to secure and maintain strong profitability for the family business.
Tradition and innovation as success factors
The secret of success in business is the ability to honour tradition while keeping pace with the times and staying that one crucial step ahead. The Kaldewei brand has stood for perfection, quality and style for over 90 years. All products define themselves through their superior material, Kaldewei steel enamel 3.5 mm. The use of pure, natural raw materials and the outstanding stability and durability of the Kaldewei products also make them the obvious choice for green building projects: The company is the first European bathroom manufacturer to complete the thorough analysis process for the German Sustainable Building seal of quality and receive the relevant IBU (Institut Bauen und Umwelt e.V. – German Construction and Environment Institute) environmental product declaration in accordance with ISO 14025 for its products. Kaldewei is also a member of the U.S. Green Building Council LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). All products made of Kaldewei steel enamel are produced from pure, natural raw materials and can be fully recycled at the end of their lives. This puts Kaldewei in an excellent position to continue as a family business in the future and stay ahead of the global competition.