With the purchase of the old “Rehmühle” in Merkenbach in 1889, the Westphalian Carl Berkenhoff founded Berkenhoff GmbH. Together with his sons and three employees, Berkenhoff settles down in the “Rehmühle”.
Carl Berkenhoff and his sons were very skilled and proficient in the manufacture of wire. The “Wilhelmswalze” (plate roll) supplies sheets of brass, which are cut in Merkenbach, shaped with draw plates, and processed into fine wires. The power source is an old mill wheel. So-called line shafts drive the tensioning drums.
An invention becomes a success
The production of wires with diameters of 0.1 millimeters is demanding work that requires painstaking individual drawing processes in many stages. This gave the sons Karl and Gustav the idea to arrange the drawing operations in such a way so as to perform several reduction steps in succession. Based on empirical tests, the young company developed a multi-wire drawing machine with four consecutive drawing processes.
In 1893 this innovation is patented. Around 20 of these self-built machines are now standing at the “Rehmühle". AEG orders 54 machines of this type for a new cable plant in Berlin.
The company flourishes. In 1895 the company grows and businessman Paul Drebes joins in. Berkenhoff GmbH now operates under the name Berkenhoff & Drebes GmbH.
The family focuses on business expansion
In 1897 the company buys the Asslar foundry to produce iron and steel wires. Barely two decades later, in 1908, Berkenhoff establishes a wire drawing tool factory in Herborn – so the existing draw plate has finally become obsolete. The old mill wheel remains in operation until 1910. Then a pond is built with a water turbine to supply electric current to drive the modern multi-wire drawing machines.
The foundation for worldwide technical progress
The paper industry's great demand for metal wires heralds the company's further expansion: Carl Berkenhoff founds his own metal works with two southern German companies in a former brickyard in Kinzenbach. Here, copper alloys are melted, cast, rolled, cut, and processed into redraw wire. In the fine-wire plant in Merkenbach these are drawn to the thinnest diameters.
In 1923 the Herborn engineering works is founded for the manufacture of wire drawing machines, starting in the repair workshop of the Berkenhoff wire plant. A metal foundry is built on the site of an old brickyard very close to the engineering works, also in Herborn. The machine casting for the engineering works is produced there.
Berkenhoff & Drebes GmbH has grown into a dynamic company that develops wire production and so decisively lays the foundation for worldwide technical progress. Many patents protect the company’s proprietary innovations. A change of name from Berkenhoff & Drebes GmbH to Berkenhoff & Drebes Aktiengesellschaft takes this development into account.
Inflation and war set the company back
On its 50th anniversary in 1939, Berkenhoff and its sister companies and subsidiaries employ 1,350 people. Inflation and the war years set back the Merkenbach plant’s development. Fortunately, there are always talented and courageous men who show ingenuity to preserve the company during the period of decline.
Everything from a single source
At the end of the 1940s an enormous construction phase begins. From 1952, modern production facilities are built in Merkenbach in several construction phases. A time of increasing specialization begins in all parts of the company.
In the 1960s, Berkenhoff & Drebes AG is prospering. From machine casting and molten metal to the production of wire-drawing tools, wire-drawing machines, and from fine wires to ropes and cables, Berkenhoff & Drebes AG manufactures everything in-house – from a single source. The company is largely independent from suppliers, and monitors all quality-assurance factors itself. This principle continues to apply to the present day.
Berkenhoff GmbH is founded
The new owner, Thyssen Draht AG, develops a plan for the future for all the wire-producing plants and the Oranien wire-drawing tool factory. Wire products from the Asslar plant and the Oranien wire-drawing tool factory are marketed under the name Berkenhoff & Drebes. The metal plant in Kinzenbach and the fine-wire plant in Merkenbach operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Thyssenkrupp-Stahl under the name Berkenhoff GmbH. In the same year the bedra trademark is registered.
Sale to an investor group
Despite great success, the Thyssen group decided for strategic reasons to sell all affiliated companies of the non-ferrous metals division, including the Merkenbach and Kinzenbach wire plants. The two sites were sold to the Granville Baird Capital Partners investor group in 2004.
Powerway Group takes over Berkenhoff GmbH
In 2009, the Hamburg-based “nexpert AG” takes over the company after it has been weakened by the global financial crisis. Five years later, nexpert AG sells the company to the Powerway Group. This Chinese investor is one of the world's leading suppliers of non-ferrous alloys. Its strategic commitment strengthens Berkenhoff GmbH’s international market position of and ensures that the company is optimally prepared for the future.
Commitment to sustainability
Upon its 130th anniversary, Berkenhoff looks back on an eventful history. Only two percent of all industrial companies in Germany are more than 100 years old. In preparing for the future, Berkenhoff devotes itself not only to the development of new, innovative products but also to the topic of sustainability. bedraGREEN and bedra360 recyclable material returns are expressions of these efforts.
Product portfolio alignment EDM & innovative anchor wires
After many years of specialization, Berkenhoff GmbH is now pursuing the goal of creating products that cover the widest possible range of applications while maintaining our well-known superior craftsmanship and performance. The EDM product portfolio will therefore be divided into the Highlight and Classic divisions in the future. Furthermore, the Highlight portfolio has been extended by the brass wire betterbrass.
For the product area of anchor wire, Berkenhoff GmbH has succeeded in designing new structures for anchor wires through the further development of technologies. Both of our new anchor wires bercobrush® arrow und bercobrush® octopus offer increased tuft retention and have already been patented.
Berkenhoff adds aluminum welding wire to portfolio and opens production site in Vietnam
Since July 2021, Berkenhoff GmbH has expanded its product range under the bedra umbrella brand with the addition of aluminum welding wire, which will be sold under the product name berAlweld®. The finished aluminum welding wire is suitable for the standard welding processes known as TIG welding (tungsten inert gas) and MIG welding (metal inert gas).
In addition, a new production site was opened in Vietnam in 2021.
Introduction of an EDM wire for contamination-free wire erosion
To increase efficiency in the EDM production of contamination-free components, Berkenhoff GmbH has developed an innovative EDM wire and presented it under the name confreecut ONE in autumn 2022. confreecut ONE stands for contamination-free and fast machining with low wire guide wear and lower wire costs.