Siegwerk's Tradition of Excellence

By David Savastano, Ink World Editor | 09.06.05

From its beginnings in 1840, Siegwerk Druckfarben has grown into

The German printing ink industry has a tremendous heritage, with many companies dating back to the 19th century. Some of these companies have grown from their humble beginnings into major players on the international printing ink scene with sales in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

One such company is Siegwerk Druckfarben GmbH & Co. KG, a Siegburg, Germany based manufacturer which has nearly 1,300 employees worldwide and reported 700 DM ($360 million) in sales in 2000.

Siegwerk Druckfarben’s history dates back 161 years, and from all appearances, its future should be assured.

According to Ink World’s 2000 Top International Companies report (Nov. 2000), Siegwerk Druckfarben is the ninth-largest printing ink manufacturer worldwide. In order to meet the needs of its customers, Siegwerk Druckfarben offers a wide range of products. In particular, its strength is in publication gravure and packaging.

“Publication gravure printing inks make up 40 percent of our business,” said Herbert Forker, president and CEO of Siegwerk Druckfarben. “Another 40 percent comes from flexo and gravure inks for packaging, and a further 20 percent comes from heatset, coldset and sheetfed offset inks.” The company also has an array of products including UV/EB curable inks systems, printing lacquers and printing aids.

Mr. Forker said that he sees many trends in the printing industry, and that Siegwerk is ready to meet those needs. He expects further development of the offset market and the globalization of Siegwerk in the packaging ink market.

Developing technology is also an important initiative. Mr. Forker said that Siegwerk will continue to enhance its UV products, and in its largest segment, further develop publication gravure printing technology.

“Here, Siegwerk has developed HOTTECH ink,” Mr. Forker said. “This is a solid ink that does not contain solvents, which is melted immediately before it is applied to the printing cylinder. Siegwerk has spent six years on the development of HOTTECH and holds several patents. With the help of printing machine manufacturers, Siegwerk is striving bring this new development to success within the next five years.”

In addition to its full assortment of ink, Siegwerk Druckfarben prides itself on just-in-time delivery, fairness and outstanding technical service and problem-solving support for customers.

In particular, the company emphasizes its R&D and quality control features, including having four printing shops to test its inks. Its test printing plants process conventional and UV flexo, gravure and offset printing.

“Siegwerk’s philosophy is ‘Achievement through seriousness, continuity, dependability and flexibility in all areas of business,’” Mr. Forker said. “This requires continuous research and development while staying in step with the latest scientific developments. More than 250 employees constantly work in Siegwerk’s extensive research and development laboratories to improve products, answer customer questions and optimize production.

“In our four experimental printing shops, Siegwerk tests the performance of inks with a number of different printing methods,” Mr. Forker added. “In a time where inks are no longer a unique product, the quality of the inks, application engineering and outstanding technical service make Siegwerk stand apart from the competition.”

The growth of Siegwerk Druckfarben to the ninth-largest printing ink manufacturer began in 1840, with Christian Gottlieb Rolffs founding a small calico plant that made ink to print on its textiles.

“Siegwerk’s roots go back to the opening of the family-owned calico factory in 1840, which printed on cotton cloth and also produced the required inks,” Mr. Forker said. “The calico factory, Kattunfabrik Rolffs & Cie., was the first industrial company in Siegburg. At the end of the 19th century, 850 people worked for the calico factory, which had by then gained international recognition – especially after the successful participation in the world exhibition in 1873 in Vienna.

“The calico factory produced beautiful patterns on cloth – not only for Germany but also for many countries in Europe and as well for the British colonies and Turkey,” Mr. Forker said. “Such export activities were quite unusual for the time.”

The outbreak of World War I in 1914 brought the success of the calico factory to a halt. Nevertheless, the family never lost their entrepreneurial spirit.

“Before the war, the family had already founded two other companies,” said Mr. Forker. “In 1906 they founded the Deutsche Photogravur AG, which was based on an invention of family member Ernst Rolffs Jr., who patented rotation gravure printing. This made it possible to print photos on paper.”

The next major development occurred five years later. Alfred Keller Sr. and Alfred Keller Jr., along with Dr. Fritz Rung, founded the Siegwerk Chemisches Laboratorium (Siegwerk Chemical Laboratory) in 1911.

“In order to develop the right printing ink for this technique, the family used the production facilities of the calico factory, which had been previously expanded before its final shutdown, to produce gravure inks,” said Mr. Forker. The invention of rotation gravure printing remains the most important development for Siegwerk Druckfarben GmbH & Co. KG.

“Over the following decades and especially after the Second World War, the company specialized in the full range of printing ink production, always on course with the latest technological developments and custom fit for customer demands,” Mr. Forker noted.

International Expansion
Siegwerk made a very important step in 1970, when Dr. Klaus Stammen, who strongly influenced and contributed to the company’s success for 38 years after his entry in 1961, brought European publication gravure printing ink know-how to the U.S. Siegwerk followed a major German publishing house and founded a subsidiary in the U.S. The company maintains two locations, producing gravure printing inks for the American market.

“Today, Siegwerk Inc. produces approximately 25,000 tons of gravure printing inks with an annual turnover in 2000 of 100 million DM ($50 million) with 50 employees,” Mr. Forker said.

Siegwerk has been branching out worldwide. Aside from its European headquarters in Germany, Siegwerk has distributorships in many countries of Western and Eastern Europe, the Near and far East, in North and South America, as well as on the African continent.

The Asia Pacific region is of growing importance as a market, and Siegwerk Druckfarben is also reaching into that region.

“In 2000, Siegwerk Germany launched a joint venture in Bangkok, Thailand,” Mr. Forker said. “Siegwerk Ink Thailand Co. Ltd. produces packaging inks with a capacity of 2,000 tons and an annual turnover of more than 5 million DM.

“In the growing Asian packaging market, Siegwerk Ink Thailand’s estimated annual growth rate is expected to reach 30 percent,” added Mr. Forker. “It will also act as Siegwerk’s technical competence center for the Asian region.”

Eastern Europe is also an increasingly important area for Siegwerk. “Because of the growing importance of the Eastern European markets, in 2000, Siegwerk founded Siegwerk Polska, which takes over existing activities from a Siegwerk sales agent,” Mr. Forker said. “We have plans to begin business operations in July 2001. This distribution center will take care of logistics and technical service. In order to better serve the local market, the second phase will be the installation of a Masterbatch dosing station for packaging printing inks.”

Mr. Forker said that the company is continuing to expand its manufacturing capabilities, in order to provide better products for its customers.

“In order to fulfill the various demands of the offset market, Siegwerk is constantly expanding and adding new facilities in Siegburg,” Mr. Forker said. “Siegwerk invests more than $30 million annually – not only in offset but also in the packaging sector.”

Mr. Forker also noted that Siegwerk is installing SAP/R3 to facilitate systems and procedures for the company’s future growth.

One area of importance for Siegwerk is its Masterbatch system, which Mr. Forker said provides numerous benefits for its customers, including higher flexibility and reductions in ink handling and storage, manpower, time and costs.

The Masterbatch system also provides improved ability to respond quickly to customer demands, simplicity in changing ink series (systems), the ability to produce as needed, the reduction of non-returnable cans and drums, the optimal use of press-return inks, and cost savings through rationalization. With the Masterbatch system, customers can mix their own inks from concentrates supplied by Siegwerk.

In order for its customers to utilize the Masterbatch system, Siegwerk Druckfarben provides the necessary training for printing plant employees.

Siegwerk also places an emphasis on European ink and printing associations membership, as well as ISO certification. “For its high level of quality management, Siegwerk obtained DIN EN ISO 9001 certification and for its environmental policy the DIN EN ISO 14001 certificate,” Mr. Forker said.

Siegwerk’s Future
What does the future hold for Siegwerk Druckfarben? Mr. Forker envisions the company continuing to branch out worldwide in a variety of major markets.

“Siegwerk will strengthen its leading position in publication gravure inks worldwide,” Mr. Forker said. “We will build an international network to better service global packaging customers in Central and Eastern Europe, North and South America and Asia, continue to invest in R&D as well as manufacturing capacities in packaging and offset inks, and intensify customer relationships through the use of e-business.”

Accomplishing these goals Siegwerk Druckfarben will be well placed to continue its growth into its third century of operations.