The "anniversary plant" – one of five large, globally located adhesive tape production sites – has been at home in the south of Hamburg for 50 years now. If one wanted to assign "leading roles" in the story of the tesa plant in Hamburg, tesafix® 4965 und ACX® 75120 would certainly be "on center stage". The first, a double-sided tape, has been rolling off the assembly lines for 25 years; the latter, a foamed tape for a major customer in the electronics sector, is the latest product innovation and a "talented youngster". The role of the "premiere star" – that enjoys great popularity – clearly goes to tesafilm®. Although the 85-year-old classic product is no longer manufactured in Hamburg, it was tesafilm that started operations in 1971 in the first section of the plant.
tesa Plant Hamburg – 50 years of adhesive tapes for the world
With a wide range of highly specialized adhesive tapes, plenty of innovative power and great team spirit, the production facility makes a significant contribution to the company's success. Digitization and sustainability figure on top of the agenda.
What back then started on 4,400 m2, today – after several construction phases for production and logistics – covers a building area of 70,000 m2. Thus, the output has grown considerably over the years, by a third since 2017 alone. 2,100 different product variants, 1,600 intermediate products, and 900 processed raw materials are currently delivered from the tesa plant in Hamburg (tWHH) to customers in Asia, Europe, and North, Central and South America. "In total, there are 20 diverse product families that are used in manufacturing processes in the automotive, electrical, paper, printing, construction, health and pharmaceutical industries," explains plant manager Marco Bornhöft. And there's more: tesa scores with an enormous innovation rate: "Of 514 products delivered in 2020, about 200 had not even been invented yet in 2015," says Bornhöft.
"In total, there are 20 diverse product families that are used in manufacturing processes in the automotive, electrical, paper, printing, construction, health and pharmaceutical industries."
Plant Manager tesa Plant Hamburg
Thanks to the large number of adhesive solutions for high-tech applications, the tWHH makes a significant contribution to the profitable growth of the Group. Particular focus is on the Electronics market: The plant supplies special adhesive tapes for well-known manufacturers of smartphones, tablets, cameras, and other devices. Production manager Dr. Kai Filbrandt explains: "The development and manufacture of adhesive tapes for this industry is by far the most challenging part of our everyday life." His colleague Jens Sulzbacher – responsible for safety, quality and material management – adds: "The project business is becoming ever more complex and, due to short product cycles, ever more fast-paced. That requires constant adjustments to the specifications and wishes of our customers." Adhesive tapes in the electronics segment are used, among other things, for the assembly of camera lenses, touch screens, batteries, acoustic membranes as well as other components. With almost every new device model, the requirements for the tapes also change.
This requires flexibility, speed as well as teamwork. In other words: The 50-year success story of the plant is primarily based on the human factor. The workforce currently counts 567 employees – 316 in commercial operations, 203 workers, 31 trainees and 17 student workers.
The tWHH provides training for the following professions: chemical technician, mechatronics technician, electronics technician for industrial engineering, industrial mechanic as well as machine and system operator.
Heike Maier, Head of Finance, IT and Technical Purchasing, knows why people management works so well at the plant: "We are very team-oriented, have flat hierarchies, hand over responsibilities and involve colleagues wherever we can." Volker Richter, Head of Human Resources at the tWHH, adds: "Diversity is essential – It allows us to further develop our innovation culture at the plant locations." In times of a shortage of skilled workers, the topic of recruiting undoubtedly is a key issue on the agenda: "Thanks to the good takeover rates among our trainees in five job profiles, we are significantly shaping the generational change."
The plant has also launched its own trainee model for Production, Process Development and Technology. It is important for the future to place more women in management positions: "With three female team leaders and six male managers in production, we already have a good quota, but we strive to further improve it," explains Richter. Plant Manager Marco Bornhöft goes one step further and declares: "If you wish to get to know and understand tesa, then this is the right place. Thanks to interlinked technologies and networking with the Headquarter, young people enjoy excellent development opportunities here. For many, a career at tesa began at the Hamburg plant."
"Diversity is essential – It allows us to further develop our innovation culture at the plant locations."
Head of Human Resources at the tWHH
One person who embodies these values and the long-term loyalty of many employees to the location is Thomas Wulff. He started out at the plant as a machine operator 34 years ago. Today, he is Chairman of the Works Council and knows: "As an interest group, we maintain a very constructive culture with a pronounced willingness to compromise and transparent communication." Despite more automation and digitization, however, no jobs have been cut, assures Wulff. "Driven by significantly increased delivery volumes, the workforce has even grown by a quarter since 2001." If further evidence of a good cooperation were required, Covid-19 would deliver it: So far, the tWHH has tackled the pandemic well and has been able to deliver reliably, even when faced with challenges like increased order volumes, raw material shortages and health management.
"As an interest group, we maintain a very constructive culture with a pronounced willingness to compromise and transparent communication."
Chairman of the Works Council
For the future, the executives are planning to advance digitization even more consistently and to initiate various projects in production, administration and logistics. "We want to become a reference plant and we receive a great deal of impulses from the customers' perspectives," explains IT Manager Heike Maier. Furthermore, another major area of development moves into the limelight: Sustainability. The focus is on optimizing the technical infrastructure and solvent-free production. Thanks to the capacity expansions in Suzhou (China) and Vietnam, the tWHH will create some leeway to further develop the plant fleet with more sustainable technologies. "This could create an important foundation for the next 50 years," predicts Marco Bornhöft.
Figures and Facts
The tesa plant in Hamburg (tWHH) exists since 1971 and is one of five large adhesive tape production sites (alongside Offenburg/Germany, Concagno/Italy, Sparta/USA and Suzhou/China – another plant is currently being built in Vietnam). The land area in Hamburg measures 530,000 m2, the building area 70,000 m2. The plant mainly produces double-sided adhesive tapes from various product families, and for different industries, such as electronics, automotive, construction as well as paper and printing. The tWHH features a diverse range of machinery and today, with its clean room system and solvent-free production lines, is one of the most modern plants in the world. In 2015, a new polymerization plant for the production of modern adhesives was put into operation. Moreover, a new production hall and a new warehouse for hazardous goods were built, as well as a modern CHP system (combined heat and power) that in addition to electricity also generates heat.
However, today it is time to celebrate the past 50 years. The anniversary event, which was cancelled due to the pandemic, will probably be rescheduled in 2022. And then, maybe a second "round" figure could be celebrated: The tWHH is heading for an all-time record: By the end of 2021, 50 million m2 of adhesive tape will probably have left the plant.
Historical pictures of the tWHH
The production of double-sided adhesive tapes for all industrial sectors on the ACX system accounts for the largest production and sales volume. The 13.8 million m2 of produced ACX adhesive tapes correspond to a share of approx. 28%.