Kaldewei: Milestones of corporate history

From small business to a global partner for high-end bathroom solutions: the Kaldewei brand history is also a success story. Many years of experience, groundbreaking bathroom innovations, brave investments and uncompromising quality and longevity are inextricably linked with the Kaldewei name. The premium supplier of shower surfaces, bathtubs and enamelled washbasins manufactures solely at its corporate headquarters in Germany, and its facilities are the most advanced in the world. The unique material, Kaldewei steel enamel, is not only at the core of the brand but is also the reason for the success of every product over decades.

From 1918: the founding years

Over the course of almost 100 years, the company founded in Ahlen by Franz Kaldewei in October 1918 has developed from being a small business into one of the leading manufacturers of steel enamel bathroom solutions. The story begins with the manufacture of items such as washtubs, frying pans and metal containers with which the master tinsmith Franz Kaldewei makes a name for himself, thus laying the cornerstone for the company’s advancement. Keys to the company’s lasting success are his iron will, untiring diligence, and his confident feel for promising market niches. After only three years, production space is expanded from an initial 922 to 6,500 square metres.

From 1928: on a course of growth

Growth continues apace under Heinrich Kaldewei, the second generation of the family to take charge of the company in 1928. The prerequisite for this growth is the consistent expansion of vertically integrated manufacturing. From 1932, the company was in a position to enamel its metalware in-house and just three years later the company’s own enamel foundry is commissioned. This represents the birth of “Kaldewei steel enamel”, the company’s enduringly successful brand core.
In 1934 Kaldewei reaches a production milestone with its first freestanding steel bathtub, welded together out of several parts. At this time 50 workers produce some 60 baths per day. The acquisition of a four-column press with a pressure output of 500 tons that produces bathtubs out of a single steel plate, using only two welding seams, proves to be a worthwhile investment: just two years later the company is producing around 250 bathtubs per day with the help of 25 workers.

Thanks to this investment the company has control of the entire value chain – from steel forming to finishing with Kaldewei steel enamel. Applying its technical know-how, material knowledge and its passion for manufacturing enamelled products, Kaldewei deepens its core business and in the following years it continuously improves manufacturing processes and the material quality of its bathtubs.

From 1950: a pioneer of bathroom culture

In the 1950s Heinrich Kaldewei becomes the company’s sole shareholder. Thanks to vision and innovative strength, the family-run company starts its transition into a new era. This is the period during which Kaldewei makes its name as a pioneer in the development and manufacturing of enamelled shower trays and bathtubs – a reputation it has maintained right up to the present day. In 1956, enamelled shower trays are added to the manufacturing programme. Just one year later Kaldewei engineers create a further sensation in the industry with a masterful feat of manufacturing: for the first time, a bathtub can be formed seamlessly from a single piece of steel. This is the starting shot for commissioning the world’s first bathtub press line. This consists of two hydraulic drawing presses, each with a pressure output of 1,000 tons, that form the bathtubs. The exceptional quality of the Kaldewei bathtubs and their outstanding material thickness of 3.5 mm quickly become synonymous with the highest quality and longevity, and set a new standard in the sanitary industry. Within a decade Kaldewei almost entirely displaces cast iron baths which had previously dominated the market. This achievement goes hand in hand with the successful opening up of new markets in Europe with which Kaldewei quickly develops into one of the biggest manufacturers of enamelled shower trays and bathtubs.

Kaldewei repeatedly demonstrates its pioneering spirit in the area of enamelling technology as well. In the 1970s the Ahlen family-run company is the first industrial operation to serially mechanical robots on its production line. These ensure the uniform enamelling of shower trays and bathtubs and guarantee the consistently high quality of all Kaldewei products.

From 1973: the Kaldewei brand

Franz-Dieter Kaldewei, who takes over the company in 1973, further extends its leading market position, banking on cutting-edge manufacturing techniques achieved by means of constant innovation. He commissions illustrious design firms such as Sottsass Associati in Milan and Phoenix Design Stuttgart/Tokyo, for the first time to create shower trays and bathtubs with ergonomic shapes and in innovative colours. Displaying a huge passion for the material, Kaldewei steel enamel, and great sensitivity in the search for the perfect shape, Kaldewei develops its own consistent design language that meets its clients’ discriminating standards. Kaldewei becomes a powerful brand with an extended product portfolio, high-end design and groundbreaking brand management.

Today: worldwide partner for high-end steel enamel bathroom solutions

Since 2008 when the fourth generation of the family, Franz Kaldewei, took over the leadership of the company, Kaldewei has been making a name for itself worldwide as a premium manufacturer who offers exceptional design and quality. Kaldewei exports its bathroom solutions “Made in Germany” throughout the world from Ahlen.

With the introduction of washbasins made of Kaldewei steel enamel in early 2015, the company presented the logical development of its product portfolio and has once again caused a sensation. Project decision makers and private builders appreciate the many advantages of the unique material, Kaldewei steel enamel, that is used in numerous first-class hotels. Today bathrooms can now be fitted out using a single Kaldewei material, with a harmonious design, and coordinated colours from shower surface, to bathtub to washbasin.

As one of the leading international manufacturers of high-end shower surfaces, bathtubs and washbasins made of Kaldewei steel enamel, the company is present in over 80 countries, with twelve subsidiaries in Austria, China, Czech Republic, France, Italy, Poland, Russia, Spain, Southeast Asia, Switzerland, the UK and the USA. The consistent expansion of its international branches is an integral element of the company’s strategic alignment which is geared to tap into international growth potential.

Diversity of shape and design competence

With over 600 different models, Kaldewei currently offers a comprehensive range of bathroom solutions whose diversity of shapes, design competence and functionality set it distinctly apart from the competition. Whether floor-level enamelled shower surface or freestanding Meisterstück bath with integrated bath-audio system, Kaldewei offers diversity of design and a wealth of options across four segments – from classic to luxury products for the most discerning individuals. 2015 saw the achievement of a tour de force, with the company’s biggest product offensive ever, when Kaldewei collaborated with two high-calibre designers on the creation of new bathroom collections. The international star designer Arik Levy expanded the Meisterstücke premium collection for Kaldewei, adding a matching washbasin. Meanwhile designer Anke Salomon, who has lengthy industry experience, produced no fewer than three product lines for the company which are distinguished by their unusually soft, organic design. Masterful designs have been impressively acknowledged with over 120 national and international design awards throughout the years, making Kaldewei one of the most award-winning bathroom manufacturers in the world.

Source: Franz Kaldewei GmbH & Co. KG. Copy requested.

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1 – Kaldewei Head Office in Ahlen

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2 – Franz Kaldewei

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3 – Bathtub production 1934

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4 – Badewannen-Pressenstraße

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5 - Enamelling furnace
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6 - Perfect Match - Centro_Superplan Plus
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7 - Conoflat
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9 - Kaldewei Skin Touch
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10 - Meisterstück Emerso/Arik Levy
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11 - Miena
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12 - Kaldewei Scona
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