High-quality Plastics from Mühlheim
Sattler Colours Intermediates
By Marc Kuhn
Almost every German has unwittingly touched or held plastic made in Mühlheim. Anyone who flicks a light switch or writes with a high-quality pen is likely to come into contact with them. "We colour plastics. That’s the simplest way of putting it," notes Michael Trapp, speaking to our newspaper at Mühlheim. They serve to produce "durable consumer goods," explains the Managing Director of Sattler KunststoffWerk GmbH, which include lamps and small household devices. Trapp goes on to point out that ranges of light switches are the company’s biggest sellers by far. They account for about two-thirds of revenue, which came to 4.8 million euros last year. Ground plastics are delivered to the halls at Carl-Zeiss-Straße. The composition is formulated once the requirements have been specified with the customer. Colorants and additives are mixed to the intermediates, which are then melted down, cooled off and again formed into granulates, explains Plant Manager Andreas Stetter. Usually the company produces several tons, but it can also deliver smaller quantities. Five production lines can do the manufacturing. "We manufacture in three shifts around the clock," says Trapp. Customers then melt down the plastic provided by the Mühlheim plant. For example, the writing implement manufacturer Lamy uses it to injection-mould pens. "We manufacture on demand only in response to incoming orders, and not on stock," notes Trapp. This enables the company to fine-tune the details precisely for every application. "We put forth a great deal of effort to assure quality,” adds Stetter. According to Trapp, growth is not his company’s primary objective; it is merely a means to an end. The goal is sustainability. "I have an eye on profitability. The company’s autonomy must not be jeopardised," notes the Managing Director who employs 20 people. He says he strove for independence as soon as he had earned his MBA. He took over the company in 1989. It had been founded by Mr. and Mrs. Sattler in the ‘50s and his father had held a stake in for a while, but at the time it was in dire need of restructuring. As Trapp recalls it, the takeover was "risky." He paid plenty of dues to start, but eventually made the decisive move of integrating the company’s separate colouring and recycling units to create a cohesive whole. Today Sattler uses mainly secondary raw materials, says Trapp. This makes production more economical. "We supply premium plastics at the quality level of new products." Sattler first achieved a "healthy result" at the turn of the year 1994/95, notes the Managing Director. The recession also affects this midsized company. Sattler expects its revenue to drop by another five to ten percent this year. "An economic upswing that had lasted for years ended in fall of 2007, " says Trapp. Orders declined slightly but constantly. After the Lehmann Brothers’ bankruptcy in September, his enterprise was “hit hard, with incoming orders dropping by half from one day to the next." Forced to lay off three employees, he was on the verge of applying for a temporary short-time working scheme. However, Trapp says business has been picking up since mid-December. "The company is economically healthy and that’s how it shall stay."