With the purchase of the “deer mill” in Merkenbach in 1889, the Westphalian Carl Berkenhoff founded Berkenhoff GmbH. Together with his sons and three employees, Berkenhoff settles down in the “deer mill.”
The “Wilhelm roller” (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
Carl Berkenhoff and his sons are experts in wire production. The production of wires with diameters of 0.1 millimeters is demanding work that requires painstaking individual drawing processes in many stages. In such painstaking work and on the basis of empirical tests, the young company develops 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 “deer mill.” 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 old 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.
Sale to Thyssen Group
The era of the company's founding family comes to an end. The family business sells all its plants to Westfälische Union in the town of Hamm – and thus to the large Thyssen group. The new owner, Thyssen Draht AG, develops a plan for the future for all the wire-producing plants and the Oranien wire-tool factory. Wire products from the Asslar works and the Oranien wire-drawing tool factory are marketed under the name Berkenhoff & Drebes.
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 bedra 360 recyclable material returns are expressions of these efforts.