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Coroplast packaging boxes

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 established the company “Fritz Müller Elektroisoliermaterial” in Wuppertal, where he began 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 began paving the way for what has become today’s Coroplast Group.

As the name of the company reveals, in those days the range of products comprised materials used for electrical insulation purposes. Müller was responsible for organising materials purchasing and had the textile insulation hoses made to order, which was standard procedure in the Wuppertal textile industry at the time. Fritz Müller also sold insulating materials such as laminated papers, oil flax and oiled silk. That same year he began producing independently, treating oil hoses with impregnating varnishes in specially designed furnaces. He had been inspired by earlier attempts, as Fritz and his brother had 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 began towards the end of 1928.

Fritz Mueller letterhead
Letterhead of Fritz Müller Elektroisoliermaterial, approx. 1943

1929 - 1934 World economic crisis overcome

In 1929, the small business with five employees produced varnish-impregnated textile hoses and varnished cables for cars (braided copper wires). The company even bought itself its own car. Its clients included 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 had a serious impact – and Fritz Müller was no exception. The young company was faced with ruin. However, its creditors had faith in Fritz Müller and thus ensured its survival.

Coroplast product range
The product range of the Fritz Müller Company, Electrical Insulation Material, in 1948

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, came onto the market. Fritz Müller recognised the potential of this newly developed material and began processing it. Thanks to PVC, it became 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 bought the first extruder – a machine specially designed for processing thermoplastics. His courage paid off – and as one of the first processors of PVC, Coroplast acquired valuable know-how in this field, which laid the foundations for future success in the processing of plastics. The number of machines increased, as did the sales figures and the size of the company’s workforce. During the war years, production continued in Saxony to a limited degree. In 1943, the Wuppertal factory was hit by bombs, destroying large amounts of raw materials.

Woman working on a production machine
The first cable insulation extruder in 1955

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

Fritz Mueller 1920
The company founder Fritz Müller around the year 1920

1946 - 1948 The Coroplast brand name is invented

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

Coroplast packaging boxes
The unmistakable Coroplast lettering still stands for our company today.

The 1950s The miracle material

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

Coroplast Technical Laboratory
The Coroplast technical laboratory develops plastic compounds for various adhesive tape products.

1960 - 1975 Freed from solvents, caught in recession

The love of experimenting and entrepreneurial courage paid off and in the early 1960s Coroplast introduced 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 was accompanied by expansion – a new building and additional, more efficient machinery enhanced the Wuppertal plant. 

Oil crisis, car-free Sundays and recession: perhaps older readers remember the driving bans that existed in the early 1970s. Growth in the industrialised countries appeared to have reached its limits, and even Coroplast felt the pinch. Despite record sales in 1974, the following year proved 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.

Building on the Coroplast premises
The Coroplast factory site in Wuppertal in 1968

1976 The era of Dr Kurt Müller shaped the next 30 years

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

Dr. Kurt Mueller Mann at his desk
Dr. Kurt Müller’s formative influence continues to have its effects to this day.

1985 From wiring harnesses to high-tech cable assemblies

In the mid-1980s, Coroplast started manufacturing and marketing cable assemblies. Using cables and adhesive tape manufactured in-house, the company produced 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 was a real turning point in the company’s history, as at the beginning of the 1990s, cable production and business with the automotive industry developed to become an important source of income for Coroplast.

Coroplast cable assembly
Coroplast began producing wire harnesses for the automobile industry in 1985.

1994 Out into the big wide world – internationalisation begins in Poland

The crisis that hit the automotive industry in the early 1990s also had a telling impact on Coroplast. However, the company turned the crisis to its advantage and positioned itself more and more as a developer of vehicle electrical systems for increasingly complex automotive cabling technologies. In 1994, Coroplast first ventured abroad and founded the subsidiary Coroplast sp. zo.o. Dylaki Poland. Coroplast began 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 crossed the Atlantic, and due to the proximity to the North American automotive market and the VW plant in Mexico, Coroplast opened a production plant in Central Mexico.

Building in Dylaki, Poland
The plant in Dylaki, Poland, in the founding year of 1994

1999 Natalie Mekelburger joins the management team

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

Natalie Mekelburger
Natalie Mekelburger heads the company as a 3rd generation member of the family.

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 opened 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 took 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 marked the beginning of an impressive story of growth on the Asian market, which still continues today.

Brochure for China
Coroplast product catalog for the Chinese market, 2008

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 was 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 were particularly pleasing aspects. In 2017, the highly coveted title of “Top Employer” was awarded to Coroplast for the ninth time.

2010 - 2013 On the right track towards an international production network

Wherever vehicles are built, Coroplast is not far away. In 2010, Coroplast entered a new continent and has produced cable harnesses in Tunisia ever since. One year later, Coroplast began 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 inaugurated no fewer than three new sites. Two of them are located in China, in Kunshan and Mianyang, and one is in Hammamet, Tunisia.

Opening Ceremony in Kunshan, China
Formal opening of our plant in Kunshan, China, 2013

2014 Centre of expertise for technical adhesive tapes

In 2014, Wuppertal celebrated 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 extended its spatial capacity by 50 per cent. The company also opened 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 were the main points that convinced the jury.

Building of the Competence Center for Adhesive Tapes
The new Coroplast Competence Center for Technical Adhesive Tapes at its “Grand Opening” in 2014

2015 Dr Kurt Müller is mourned

Dr Kurt Müller, managing director of many years’ standing, died 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.

Dr. Kurt Mueller Mann at his desk
Dr. Kurt Müller managed the company for almost 40 years.

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 was presented with the “Nadel der Medici” business award for its exceptional commitment to art.
Furthermore, Coroplast has sponsored 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 was the exhibition of the works of Britain’s most eminent sculptor Tony Cragg at the Von der Heydt Museum.

Nadel der Medici Award
Natalie Mekelburger, President & CEO, and Constanze Krieger, Marketing & Communications Manager, receive the award “Nadel der Medici” for Coroplast.

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.

Building in Rock Hill, USA
The production area at the US plant in Rock Hill was almost doubled in 2017.

The year 2020 Coroplast prepares for the future

The automotive industry is undergoing profound change worldwide. As part of the automotive supply chain, the Coroplast Group is actively shaping these developments to maintain its position as a powerful and flexible technology leader. Above all, the company is concerned with giving its three business units a clearer identity and positioning themselves more clearly. This targeted focus on their core competencies will enable companies to become more focused and powerful in the future. Each business unit will have a globally independent brand image. Coroplast headquarters uses the additional designation of Group to the established brand name Coroplast. The Business Unit Technical Adhesive Tapes is using the additional designation of Tape. The Business Unit Wires & Cables is now called Coroflex. The Business Unit Wire Harnesses will use the name WeWire.

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