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The Koehler Group can look back on a company history of over 210 years, characterized by success and innovation. The company has been in family hands since 1807.
Jacob Pfeil of Ettlingen purchased the paper mill in 1802, but by 1807 he had become insolvent and the mill passed over to Otto Koehler. Although he only worked there for a short time, Pfeil seems to have had to undertake structural improvements on the building. A keystone bearing his initials, the date 1803 and a paper-maker symbol, which was originally set above the door of the mill, testifies to his work.
No plans or Pictures of the machine exist anymore. However, in the archives of Mannheim’s District Museum of Engineering and Work there is a Berlin newspaper dated 1884, and it contains an illustration of one of Hemmer’s machines from that time, giving us a rough idea of what a paper-making machine looked like in the second half of the 19th century. The machine had a working width of 135 centimeters.
Water turbines replaced the water-wheels and the paper machine was given a steam engine.
From the time when machine production began in 1865 up until the turn of the 20th century, the workforce had grown from eight to more than 100, and production had risen from around 60 tons to 800 tons per year, to which were added approximately 800 tons of wood pulp in Hubacker. The need for space grew accordingly, and the company expanded in every direction.
Up until 1901, the paper manufacturer’s apartments had been in his factory, in the western part of the building which was constructed in 1865. But this accommodation was becoming more and more constricted by the business’s growing need for space.
August Koehler managed to purchase a piece of land at the turn of the century. On that piece of land he built a distinguished house – a villa, an external sign of his success.
Tub paper machine PM 2 was delivered together with a hollander system made by J.W. Erkens of Niederau by Düren.
1912 saw the construction of Lautenbach hydroelectric power plant, with two turbines and an output of approximately 450 horsepower. This plant still supplies environmentally friendly electricity up to the present day.
The interrupted expansion of the plant continued straight after the end of the War. The old mill canal was diverted to the south and a new power plant, a turbine building with two apartments, was built and two new water turbines entered operation in 1922.
Another key decision was taken in 1922. The company was converted into a joint stock company. August Koehler, his two sisters, the Brüggemann brothers and Willie Euler of Bensheim held shares in its capital.
In return for the investment made by the new shareholder Willie Euler of Bensheim, who was the manager and shareholder of W. Euler Maschinenfabrik AG in the same town, August Koehler invested in his Bensheim company.
To expand the capacity of his plant, a new hall was constructed in which paper machine 3 was built in 1924 with a 210 centimeter working width. This machine is still in operation today, having been converted and modernized several times.
A very important investment was made in 1934 with the construction of the first coating machine. This provided access to a finishing technology which was to unlock the success of the subsequent decades, all the way up to today. It coated playing card board, which means that the production of playing card board began 80 years ago. This product remains an important one for the Koehler fine paper division up to this day.
In 1942, a new power plant with a 91.20 meter high chimney was built.
The new paper machine 4 began operation on 12 October 1962. The 330 centimeter wide machine doubled annual production capacity to 20,000 tons.
Paper machine 4 has been modernized several times since then and now produces almost all of Koehler’s fine paper range.
Over 50 years ago, ‘furniture embellishing paper’ was produced in collaboration with Robert Linnemann in Sassenberg on paper machine 1, later on paper machine 3. A niche product with potential for growth, its development led to what we now call Koehler Decor Paper.
Reacto-Contract between Pelikan and Koehler; Founding of Reacto Papier GmbH
The biggest investment ever made in the company’s history is undertaken and presented to the public in October 1978: paper machine 5 with a working width of 360 centimeters, which was assembled in a newly erected building in 1980.
The company moved into new offices in its new administrative building on the other side of Bundesstraße 28 in July 1986.
The combined heat and power plant in Oberkirch burns coal and uses an environmentally friendly circulating fluidized bed incineration system, a very modern technology which greatly reduces flue gas emissions. It was the first power plant of this kind to be used in the paper industry.
A new plant was built on a 80,000 m² plot between 1986 and 1988 at the Rhine River port in Kehl: At the heart of this plant in paper machine 1 with its 420 centimeter working width and a production capacity of around 50,000 tons per year, which produces carbonless paper.
Two hundred new jobs were created in Kehl.
A new coating machine was built in Kehl in 1995, coating machine 1 with a working width of 420 centimeters and a speed of 1,200 meters per minute.
Acquisition of vpg Verpackungspapiere Greiz GmbH in Greiz, Thüringen and Founding of today´s Koehler Greiz Gmbh & Co. KG
Paper machine 6, with a working width of 230 centimeters, which manufactures decor papers, began operation in Kehl in 2000.
Koehler celebrates its 200th anniversary on 22 August 2007. Gretel Furler and Federal Minister of the Interior Dr. Wolfgang Schäuble were honorary guests at the celebrations in Oberkirch.
The KATZ Group, world market leader in the production of beer coasters, is taken over by Koehler in October 2009.
Koehler Renewable Energy GmbH was founded in 2012 as a subsidiary of Koehler Holding GmbH & Co. KG. It aims to rise to the challenge of the energy change in Germany and contribute significantly towards its completion.
Koehler Innovative Solutions is the latest member of Koehler Paper and it develops and manufactures microcapsules for different applications and industries.
Koehler will invest around half a billion euros in growth by the year 2020:
More than €300 million is also being directed to the Kehl production facility, where Koehler will be creating more than 100 new jobs over the next two years.
The goal of the record investment of 300 million euros at the Kehl mill is to apply the coating technology know-how acquired over decades in the field of flexible packaging paper. Koehler will produce paper that can replace plastic in flexible packaging.
After a record construction time of less than two years, production line 8 starts operation. It consists of paper machine 8 and coating machine 8, both of which redefine industry standards and primarily produce paper for flexible packaging.
Since the beginning of 2020, the US based company Beaver Paper & Graphic Media, Inc., a leading manufacturer of sublimation media to the dye-sublimation and digital printing industry, has been part of Koehler.
As part of the Koehler Group’s restructuring, “Papierfabrik August Koehler SE” has been converted into “Koehler Oberkirch GmbH.” The change is effective immediately.