Focus on Progress since 1908: The Steuler Group
In 1908, Georg Steuler develops the world's first acid-resistant cement (potassium water glass cement) and, in so doing, lays the foundation for Steuler Industriewerke. The "Steuler towers", which are built using this cement, enable nitric acid and sulphuric acid to be produced on a large scale for the first time. With this development, Steuler revolutionizes the acid-resistant engineering industry, paving the way for the construction of high-volume vessels and equipment for use in the chemical industry.
As early as 1910, Georg Steuler commissions the construction of the first factory building with a furnace in Höhr-Grenzhausen. In-house production of acid resistant bricks begins, with the manufacture of refractory grade bricks following in the next stage of development.
Overseas business expands rapidly: in 1912, Steuler receives an order for the export of four reaction towers and three acid vessels to the United States (South Carolina). The purchase order requests acid-resistant bricks and cements, accompanied by an engineer and eight of the company's own fitters.
By 1914, there are already 16 kilns in operation in Grenzhausen; two years later, Steuler acquires clay pits and the Siershahn fireclay factory. His concern for the welfare of his employees is apparent from an early stage. A workers' refectory is built in Höhr-Grenzhausen in the same year; the building is still being used as a canteen today. Construction of the first company housing for employees on the same grounds follows a few years later – a rarity at the time. To this day, the Georg-Steuler-Support Association helps employees and their families in need, the association was founded in 1948.
The second mainstay of the company is established in 1917 with the purchase of a wall tile factory, today known as Steuler Fliesen GmbH. Steuler has been producing wall tiles in Mühlacker, but temporarily switches over to manufacturing household crockery, acid resistant bricks, split clinker, and refractory ladle bricks due to both world wars.
A pottery works in Grenzhausen is taken over in 1918 and becomes known as Steuler Keramikwerk. It initially manufactures acid-resistant packing rings for absorption towers and later the famous blue-grey stoneware as well as crockery.
With the development of the first shrink-free polyester cement in 1960, Steuler detects the advantages of engineering plastics for corrosion protection and makes it an important mainstay of the family-run business.
1965 sees further expansion: Steuler Anlagenbau is established as a separate division. It is still based in Höhr-Grenzhausen today and undertakes major plant engineering/environmental protection projects around the world.
A few years later, investment is made in the Mühlacker site to ensure the continued production of tiles there. In 1970, the first enamelling/rapid firing furnaces go into operation in order to increase throughput.
One of the most important materials innovations in subsequent years entails the marriage of the building materials concrete and plastic: in 1970, Steuler's BEKAPLAST thermoplastic lining takes the market by storm. The polyurethane liquid film Oxydur UP 82 goes into production in the same year.
But that's not the end of the story when it comes to new developments and innovative materials. Over the following years, among other innovations, Steuler patents self-supporting ceramic dome grids for reaction towers (1975), constructs SCR catalysts (1981) and develops honeycomb bundles for electrostatic precipitators (1982) as well as refractory chrome corundum bricks for hazardous waste incineration plants (1985). In 1987, Steuler Anlagenbau engineers develop pioneering membrane technology for wastewater-free pickling plants, followed in 1990 by BIMSchV-compliant wastewater-free flue gas scrubbers (BIMSchV = German Emission Control Ordinance). Since 1999, the business unit Steuler Anlagenbau operates as independent company.
Meanwhile, a lot has also happened at the tile production factory in Mühlacker: the use of innovative laser technology allows holes to be cut in tiles in order to incorporate decorative elements of all kinds - a worldwide first!
In 1992, BEKAPLAST DWS, the world's first thermoplastic double-wall system, goes into production, followed three years later by the first electrostatic precipitator bundles fabricated out of thermoplastic materials.
In 1995, Steuler further expands its tiling group; the Kerateam GmbH & Co. KG factory is built in Leisnig. The tiling division continues on its path of steady growth with the acquisition of a majority holding in Norddeutsche Steingut AG in 1999. In 2003, Norddeutsche Steingut AG constructs a brand new factory - the first within the group - for manufacturing porcelain stoneware and in so doing lays the foundation for NordCeram.
The corrosion protection story continues with the development and practical application of acid-resistant spray coatings in the year 2000. In 2001, Steuler thermoplastic linings for flue gas scrubbers conquer the market, followed in 2004 by wet electrostatic precipitator tube bundles with conductive walls.
Entrepreneurial vision, company acquisitions and formations are what make the family-run business so successful over the span of four generations. Steuler Maroc S.A.R.L. in Morocco joins the family in 2000. 2001 sees the launch of Steuler Tecnica S. L. in Spain, whilst the purchase of Steuler do Brasil Ltda. follows in 2002. The founding of Steuler Nordic AB in Sweden in 2003 represents a further expansion into the international corrosion protection market. Steuler Industrieller Korrosionsschutz GmbH is founded in 2005 and positions itself as a full-service provider of refractories, surface protection systems and plastics technology all from a single source. 2005 is also the year that Australian subsidiary Steuler Industrial Corrosion Protection Pty. is founded.
In 2006, Steuler launches the STEULER-Q7-System, a swimming pool lining system that has proven its worth the world over.
A year before the big celebration, a fourth modern bogie hearth furnace is installed at the refractories plant in Höhr-Grenzhausen. Steuler-Industriewerke GmbH marks its 100th anniversary in 2008 to the jubilation of staff and a host of invited guests, all of whom are there to celebrate the success and the solid growth enjoyed by the company over the years. Steuler Fliesen GmbH moves into its new office and showroom building in Mühlacker; Steuler Anlagenbau GmbH & Co. KG receives additional offices and conference rooms in an extension on the Höhr-Grenzhausen site.
In 2010, the remaining acid-resistant construction activities of the former Keramchemie are integrated and Steuler's portfolio of services in the corrosion protection sector bundled under the new company name STEULER-KCH GmbH. Subsidiaries specialising in acid-resistant construction in Poland, Spain, Italy and China are incorporated making the Steuler Group a global provider of linings, plant engineering/environmental technology, tiles and swimming pool construction services.
Steuler-Fliesen in Mühlacker invests in new tile presses, while Nordceram in Bremerhaven introduces digital direct decoration printing for ceramic tiles with the installation of the first inkjet printer in Germany. In 2011, Kerateam's fourth tile production line starts operation in Leisnig. At the same time, a new decor application system for large format tiles is developed at the Mühlacker site. Just two years later, the Kerateam tile factory in Leisnig invests in new sorting and glazing equipment and introduces the 20 x 50 tile format. A success story that continues to this day. In 2014, Steuler-Fliesen launches the new porcelain stoneware brand gres|steuler. This is followed by the commissioning of a revolutionary new press and an additional digital printer at NordCeram.
In 2011, new filling plants and additional buildings are constructed for the manufacture of corrosion protection materials at the Höhr-Grenzhausen site.
2012 sees the construction of a new assembly and magazine hall for STEULER-KCH project management in Siershahn, and an additional high-temperature furnace goes into operation in the refractories production hall in Höhr-Grenzhausen. Steuler acquires the Spanish installation company Tecresa in Bilbao and integrates it into its international network of subsidiaries.
The new BEKAPLAST AQUA-LINING 400 product line is successfully introduced to the market in 2013. At virtually the same time, Shanghai Steuler-KCH Anticorrosion Engineering Co. Ltd. puts China's largest autoclave into production.
In 2014, STEULER-KCH invests in a new hydraulic press in Höhr-Grenzhausen and presses ahead with the automatisation of ceramic materials production.
A new production facility in Mogendorf for the manufacture of vessels, equipment and piping systems made of plastic is inaugurated in 2015, representing a significant investment in the region where the family-run company has its head office. Further investment at the company headquarters in Höhr-Grenzhausen makes possible the firing of nitride-bonded refractory bricks in a nitrogen atmosphere. The new "Vocational Training Workshop" allows practical training courses and examinations to be held under realistic conditions. With 15 different trades that require formal training and degree courses as well as numerous vocational training courses on offer, Steuler is one of the most sought-after employers in the region. Moreover, in 2015 STEULER-KCH has been awarded the largest order in the company's history so far: the lining of a phosphoric acid plant in Saudi Arabia.
The first wastewater-free pickling plants (ZLD - Zero Liquid Discharge) from Steuler Anlagenbau go into operation in 2016 in India and China. In 2016, STEULER-KCH Pool Construction launches BEKAPOOL, a composite material system composed of concrete and plastic for lining swimming pools, for which the company wins several awards.
The KERATEAM and Steuler-Fliesen sales teams join forces to jointly develop the tile market as Team Steuler. The company invests in digital printing equipment in Mühlacker and Leisnig, a dry rectifying system for wall tiles in Leisning and a new glaze mill in Bremerhaven. The Polish corrosion protection unit moves into a new building and the Steuler Group expands its portfolio with the acquisition of CTI Europe in Belgium, a specialist manufacturer of electrolysis cells made from concrete polymer composite.
2017 begins with further innovations: 6-mm porcelain stoneware lines are introduced at Steuler-Fliesen, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. The company is launching "Recover - Recycle - Renew", a new concept for sustainable refractory management, with the sale of MagCarbon bricks for the steel industry. With the acquisition of an additional production facility in Breitscheid, which is subsequently renamed Steuler WTI GmbH, and investment being made in new manufacturing technology, capacity is broadened to include the manufacture of specialist refractory products.
In 2019, Steuler Anlagenbau develops a modular system for wastewater and waste-free flue gas cleaning on seagoing ships.
Also in the Steuler Linings division, environmental and health aspects are the focus of new developments in 2020: OXYDUR iVE is a patented styrene and solvent-free EP Novolac vinyl ester resin system - without dangerous vapors and thus safe for the environment and people. With EBOLOCK, a solvent-free, self-adhesive hard rubber lining based on natural rubber is also launched onto the market.
In 2020, a highly modern 96-meter tunnel kiln with extensive infrastructure succeeds the kiln from 1951 at the Höhr-Grenzhausen site and takes over the energy-efficient production of refractory and acid-proof special bricks based on the latest state of technology.