The fascination of wood is the constant theme that runs through the history of Pfleiderer. Accompany us on a journey through time that began more than one hundred years ago with a small timber-rafting business.
- 1894 - 1945
From a timber-rafting business in Heilbronn to the war-related relocation in Neumarkt
Gustav Adolf Pfleiderer founds the company in 1894.
The first fifty years for the G.A. Pfleiderer (GAP) log-trading business are successful but difficult times. Two world wars, inflation and the early death of the company founder and head of the family Gustav Adolf Pfleiderer make their mark on the family and the company. Gustav Adolf Pfleiderer founds GAP in Heilbronn am Neckar, with its own timber-rafting operations on the Neckar and the Rhine in 1894, but dies just two years later at the age of 51.
Just two years after the company is founded, Adolf Pfleiderer takes over the management.
His 18-year-old son Adolf now has to take over the management, and demonstrates good entrepreneurial talent: Together with his younger brother, Paul-Otto, he manages GAP for fifty years with great skill through inflation and two world wars. In 1949, the brothers hand over the management of the company to Herbert Pfleiderer, the son of Paul-Otto and father of Ernst-Herbert Pfleiderer.
From trading to manufacturing
Paul-Otto Pfleiderer, here with his wife, Gladys, manages the company with his brother, Adolf.
The business with timber imports is increasingly difficult during the First World War. And timber rafting is hardly profitable during the war either. Therefore, Adolf and Paul-Otto Pfleiderer decide to go new ways and invest in the industrial production of processed wood. They buy sawmills in Heilbronn and Wernberg (in the region of Oberpfalz).
Construction of an impregnating plant with a sawmill
GAP acquires this unique parade ground in Neumarkt and turns it into the new company premises.
GAP wants to expand in Neumarkt in the Oberpfalz region: It acquires a sawmill, gains a permit for its own railway sidings from the railway company, and then at first produces and impregnates railway sleepers. Later it also produces wooden poles for the post office and electricity suppliers.
Night of bombs in Heilbronn
GAP relocates its company headquarters to Neumarkt. This picture shows the timber yard.
On December 4, 1944, the allied forces attack Heilbronn; the bombs destroy the Pfleiderer family’s possessions. The central warehouse is completely burnt down and Paul-Otto Pfleiderer’s private house is badly damaged. The Pfleiderer family then moves its home and company headquarters to Neumarkt.
- 1945 - 1970
Wood stays, concrete comes
After the war, Pfleiderer starts production in Neumarkt. The company assists with the reconstruction of the town by supplying building timber.
Sleepers, wooden poles and construction timber: These three Pfleiderer classics form the foundation for the resumption of production in the nearly completely destroyed Neumarkt after the end of the Second World War.
As of 1954, Pfleiderer employees in Neumarkt produce the first sleepers made of concrete.
Also for poles, wood is declining in favor of concrete. This picture shows the 200,000th concrete pole that was produced in Neumarkt.
After years of raw materials being in short supply, demand for wooden products falls for the first time in the nineteen-fifties. German Railways, Pfleiderer’s most important customer, increasingly replaces wooden sleepers with concrete ones, and more and more customers for poles also prefer concrete to wood. GAP acts and enters new fields of business: In 1954, the company begins to produce concrete railway sleepers, Production of concrete poles starts in 1956 and Pfleiderer begins with the production of particleboard in 1962.
Herbert Pfleiderer takes over the management
Herbert Pfleiderer takes over the management of the company in 1949.
In 1935, Herbert Pfleiderer enters the company as director at the age of 23; four years later he has to join the army. He survives the Second World War badly injured: he is wounded four times and loses his right arm.
GAP’s headquarters in Neumarkt around 1950.
In the postwar years, Herbert Pfleiderer at first manages the company of his brother in law in Heilbronn. In 1949, he returns to Neumarkt to support his father. In the same year, he takes over the complete management of the company, which has now grown to 300 employees and has annual sales revenues of DM 15 million.
Employee welfare and motivation
Information for the employees: a copy of “Holzwurm” (“Woodworm”) from 1958.
Herbert Pfleiderer already introduces a company pension for the employees in 1949; as of 1950 there is performance-related pay, and a year later the company launches “Holzwurm” (“Woodworm”) – its own company newspaper. Soon there is a company band, a company library, and even a company sauna. In 1955, the management introduces the five-day week. As of 1968, employees are involved in the organization of apprenticeships and an employee-share scheme starts in 1969. As of 1976, the employees have access to their own company doctor.
- 1970 - 1996
A family company becomes an international group
In 1970, Pfleiderer has approximately 1,000 employees, and the next change of generation is not far away. Ernst-Herbert Pfleiderer enters the company and takes over the management three years later. The size of the company leads to the first division into three areas of responsibility: Commercial, Technical and Central Management; a Supervisory Board is also formed.
The transformation from a family company into an international group leads to the establishment of the company G.A. Pfleiderer Unternehmensverwaltungsgesellschaft in 1982. Ernst-Herbert Pfleiderer and Dr. Hans-Peter Mall share the management of the areas of responsibility, which are meanwhile organized along operational lines.
In addition to wooden and concrete products, insulation materials and plastic products are now added to the portfolio. The expansion of market presence in Germany is triggered by the takeover of the Moralt plants in Bad Tölz in 1979. Further acquisitions are Duropal in Arnsberg in 1986, Wirus in Gütersloh in 1988, and an equity holding in Thermopal in Leutkirch in 1983. Already in 1981, Pfleiderer has acquired shares in EFP Engineered Fibreglass Products Inc. in Estill, South Carolina (USA) and has thus begun its international expansion. By the end of the nineteen-nineties, the Group employs more than 10,000 persons worldwide.
Transport technology and particleboard production: just two of the four operational units that were formed in 1986.
Market development and corporate growth lead to a new group structure with four operational units as of 1986:
- Pfleiderer Transport Technology and Pfleiderer Construction Systems
- Pfleiderer Industry
- Pfleiderer Kunststoff AG
- Pfleiderer Consulting und JURA Freight Forwarding
- 1997 - 2006
Initial public offering and focus on wood
Pfleiderer makes an initial public offering of its shares in 1997.
During the nineteen-nineties, revenues increase from DM 1,5 billion to more than DM 3 billion. Approximately 11,200 persons are now employed at 40 locations. The family decides to establish a stock corporation, thus separating the company’s capital from the family’s interests. On July 15, 1997, shares in Pfleiderer AG are traded at the Frankfurt Stock Exchange for the first time. Dr. Hans-Peter Mall becomes Chairman of the Executive Board (CEO) of Pfleiderer AG. Ernst-Herbert Pfleiderer, who has already been Chairman of Pfleiderer’s Supervisory Board since 1991, remains in this position.
Concentration on the corporate areas of Engineered Wood and Infrastructure.
In the year 2000, Dr. Ralf H. Bufe becomes Chairman of the Executive Board. He decides on a new corporate structure and to focus on the two areas of Engineered Wood and Infrastructure. The Group discontinues its activities in the construction-related areas of Windows, Doors and Insulation Technology in 2002.
Dr. Ralf H. Bufe leaves the company in August 2003. Hans H. Overdiek, previously Executive Board member responsible for Engineered Wood, becomes the new Speaker of the Executive Board. Under his leadership, the Group effectively positions itself as one of the world’s leading and most financially successful manufacturers of engineered wood.
The corporate policy aims to focus on the engineered-wood business while enhancing the Group’s market and competitive situation. In this way, Pfleiderer will create new business opportunities in the international markets for engineered wood and furniture supplies as well as laminated flooring.
Pfleiderer focuses on engineered wood. This picture shows the production of particleboard.
A decisive step towards further growth is taken in 2005 with the acquisition and integration of the competitor, Kunz. In addition to economies of scale, Pfleiderer also improves its situation with new products, new sales markets with attractive revenue potential, and new customer groups. With this acquisition, Pfleiderer becomes one of the world’s leading system suppliers of engineered wood for the furniture industry and interior fittings.
The strategic transformation of the Pfleiderer Group is well advanced in 2005: The course has been set for new growth, improved profitability, and future entrepreneurial scope.
Pfleiderer AG starts production at its new particleboard plant in Novgorod, Russia, in 2006.
With the sale of the Track Systems business unit in the spring of 2006, Pfleiderer completes its strategic transformation of the Group and in the future will focus solely on the international expansion of the Engineered Wood business. This year, there is also a capital increase – together with the completed transaction this is an ideal basis to enhance the profitability of the Pfleiderer Group through targeted investments. In this way, the Group will be effectively strengthened over the long term in Western Europe and the growth regions of North America and Eastern Europe.
At the beginning of 2006, Pfleiderer AG acquires the Polish glue producer, Silekól, and in autumn of the same year starts production in the newly built particleboard factory in Novgorod, Russia. At this time, the particleboard production is the most modern in the Russian market.
The Group’s profitable growth strategy is based on organic growth and acquisitions. In 2007 Pfleiderer AG is focused on strengthening its market and competitive position with products and expanding its presence in markets with growth rates. In the record time of ten months, the Group completes a thin-MDF plant in Grajewo, Poland.
Following the successful integration of the Kunz Group, the next step in the expansion of global market presence is the acquisition of Pergo, the renowned Swedish manufacturer of laminated flooring, in March 2007. This takeover makes Pfleiderer North America’s leading fully integrated manufacturer of laminated flooring and opens up this market segment also in Europe.
Effective November 1, 2007, the Supervisory Board appoints Hans H. Overdiek as Chief Executive Officer of Pfleiderer AG; previously Mr. Overdiek was Speaker of the Executive Board.
- 2010 - 2012
The worldwide economic crisis also affects Pfleiderer and has resulted in comprehensive restructuring of the group. Apart from the financial restructuring, since the end of 2010 the company has also pushed ahead with the comprehensive reorganisation of its business activities. This included selling the loss-making business in the USA and Canada and the business units in Europe and activities in Russia.
On 27th November 2012, Pfleiderer stopped the trading of its shares. Atlantik S.A. Luxembourg became the sole shareholder. In 2012, Pfleiderer spent their time instigatingacorporate strategy, which aligns the company under the Pfleiderer umbrella brand.
- From 2013
A new start
With the sale of the Russian site in Novgorod in January 2013, the restructuring of the Pfleiderer Group is complete. It now consists of the profitable West Europe business centre, especially the production and sales companies operating in Germany, and continues to hold the majority shareholding in Pfleiderer Grajewo S.A., which has a strong position in the Polish wood-based panels market.