Boiler company from Saxony-Anhalt is a real global player

VKK Standardkessel Köthen GmbH scores points with its "Made in Germany" certificate

Steam and hot water boilers from Köthen are robust, long-lasting and of the highest quality. With its "Made in Germany" certificate, VKK Standardkessel Köthen GmbH is a successful global player. Now, the boiler and system manufacturer from Saxony-Anhalt wants to tap into the Iranian market.

"To give you an impression...", Lars Velde, Managing Director of VKK Standardkessel Köthen GmbH, puts on his blue helmet. He is leading a tour through the production site. Also there is Enrico Marschall: "Right now, we need every free space in our halls", says the production manager, stating that there are currently orders from Austria, the Netherlands and Slovakia being processed. VKK stands for Vorwärme- und Kesselbau (pre-heater and boiler construction) Köthen.

Velde and Marschall gladly show off their modern machines. Two million euros have been invested in the production facility in the past two years. The pride and joy of the company is the corrugated pipe machine, a custom piece of machinery with precise measurement technology. "The corrugated pipe is the most highly stressed component in a boiler", explains Marschall. The steam boilers by Köthen are used in industry for the generation of process steam and the hot water boilers are used to provide heat.

The mundane term "boiler" is understated. "Now, we are constructing whole systems, and they are becoming bigger and bigger. Our manufacturing halls aren't...", says Lars Velde, then adding: "But we always think of something".

This is what boiler manufacturing in Köthen has been like for over 150 years. In 1865, a coppersmith and boilermaker workshop was founded here. "Our plant is demonstrably the oldest in Germany", says today's managing director. He later places an anniversary brochure on the table. A considerable amount of historical documents narrate the highs and lows the boiler making plant has experienced through the ages - the people on this site have always managed to cope. Clever and resourceful minds, the best craftspeople and talent for improvisation built the boiler manufactory up again after the war, guided it through the GDR years and even rescued it in an economy of shortages.

Ever since early childhood, Lars Velde has been familiar with the day-to-day operations here. His father, Lothar Velde, managed VEB Vorwärmer- und Kesselbau Köthen from 1981 onwards. The great challenge at that time was the "energy conversion". As the prices of crude oil rose, boiler types needed to be built with which a heat supply based on domestic brown coal was possible. Lars Velde remembers that this problem also determined day-to-day family life.

An energy change is once again confronting the boiler manufacturing plant in Köthen with challenges. "Until now, boilers fired with oil or gas have been our core business. Now we concentrate our developments on steam and hot water boilers for the generation of biomass energy", says Velde, adding that his plant is always close to the needs of the German and international markets. The export ratio has now risen to up to 65 per cent. "Since the merger with Standardkessel Lentjes Fasel GmbH in Duisburg, a new upswing has arisen in foreign trade," says Lars Velde. The 48 year-old explains the history of the company after the reunification. It was changed to VKK Köthen GmbH in 1990, with Lothar Velde as the chairman. "My father," says Lars Velde, "did not want to be told by a trusteeship whether, how and with whom the company would proceed. He had already found the partner he wanted with a good-sounding name in mid-1990: Standardkessel-Duisburg.“ Then came the great headline in 2001: "Eastern Daughter buys Western Parent". Thus, "Standardkessel" found its way into the company name. And it is still there to this day. "Without this fusion," says the company director, "both sites probably wouldn't be around anymore."

Köthen is the location of the head office and the only manufacturing site of the company. In 2011, Lars Velde was handed the baton of the managing director. The site currently has 136 employees. Engineering is also being further developed here, where professional expertise traditionally belongs and where there is good collaboration with the university of applied sciences in Köthen and the Otto-von-Guericke University in Magdeburg.

"Our constructors are, of course, delighted to see for themselves here when a finished product departs into the world as it makes its way through the factory gates", says Velde, naming the motorway intersection and the nearby harbour in Aken as a locational advantage for the Köthen-based company. The boilers are taken to customers all over Germany via heavy goods transport. Exports go to the company's European neighbours, the Arab countries, Southeast Asia and Russia. Especially abroad, people know to value the long-lasting, robust and high-quality boilers and systems from Köthen, says Managing Director Velde, stating that "made in Germany" is a selling point. "We are the only boiler manufacturing company with this certified proof of origin." This unique selling point, according to Velde, safeguards the workforce at the Köthen site and leads to success during order acquisition.

Managing Director Velde will be taking part in a business delegation trip from the state of Saxony-Anhalt to Iran. He envisages a good market entrance, as the Duisburg company had good contact with Iran before the sanctions. This is intended to be reanimated.

Velde says that in the future, the company wants to present itself more actively and self-confidently on the market and make people aware of its know-how - and the fact that VKK Standardkessel Köthen is in a position to find a solution for every specific problem a customer may have. True to the motto: "We always think of something".

Caption: Production Manager Enrico Marschall (left) and Lars Velde, Managing Director of VKK Standardkessel Köthen GmbH, standing in front of a double-flue boiler.

Text and photo: Kathrain Graubaum