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Giving impetus to the German economy






Giving impetus to the German economy


‘Top 100’ honours Germany’s most innovative companies. / Ewald Dörken AG included this year for already the second time.

Resourceful employees, courage to experiment and creative marketing of new products have taken the Dörken Group to great heights – and into the list of Germany’s top 100 innovators. On 1st July in Rostock Warnemünde, Lothar Späth presented company representatives with the ‘Top 100’ seal of approval. Looking further forward, the aim of the Herdecke-based group is that by 2017 20% of its turnover will be generated by products that are currently not even on the drawing board. That may sound like an ambitious target for the company that develops and makes composite construction laminates, building paints, pigment paste systems and micro-layer corrosion protection systems, but with its 700 employees it is taking great strides in that direction, as the ‘Top 100’ analysis has shown.

The first milestone on the way to achieving this ambitious target was laid back in 2009, since when a specially appointed Innovation Manager has been coordinating and pulling together all new product activities. He also supports the diverse innovation processes and groups that secured fourth place for the company in the ‘Top 100’ survey in the ‘Innovative Processes and Organisation’ category. The company’s numerous innovation units are spearheaded by the ‘Inno-Club’, made up of individuals from across all departments. Members of the Inno-Club include the development managers of the operational units, the innovation manager and the director of engineering. Every four weeks, the club reviews ideas from employees, collected in advance in an ideas database. As well as concrete suggestions, the company also specifically welcomes abstract ideas that may have little to do with Dörken’s current product portfolio, but that may contain the nucleus for a new area of business. This good climate for innovation is paying off: last year almost every employee showed his or her creativity with at least one suggestion. 60% of these were able to be implemented.

Efficient solution

Dörken MKS System’s Delta-Protekt® KL 105 zinc flake system for building elements such as screws and nuts and other applications is, for instance, a hit with customers due not least to its great efficiency and economy. This was achieved by a product enhancement that enabled a zinc flake basecoat to be given the additional property of keeping to the coefficient of friction set as per automotive industry specifications. This had previously been possible only with high-cost, multi-coat systems. Doing away with the additional topcoat saves on the costly and time-consuming switchover of materials. At the same time the trimmed down sequence of coating and annealing process leads to a significant energy saving and also to elimination of additional handling and process costs.

Put under the microscope

Over several months, the Vienna University of Economics and Business examined the approach to innovation at a total of 248 SME businesses in Germany. The 100 best, including Ewald Dörken AG, carry the seal of approval for a year. “Good ideas that go on to achieve market success don’t just happen. We work hard on them every day. We are now naturally delighted that our efforts are being rewarded. It shows us that we’re on the right track. It also gives us the reassuring feeling that we won’t run out of good ideas in the future, either,” says company director Karl E. Dörken. In total 32,500 employees work at the ‘Top Innovators’ across Germany. They tinker away with no fear of things new - for through consistment innovation management their employers create optimum conditions for creativity and thus get the best out of their staff. That also makes them a major engine of the German economy. In 2009, these firms generated total turnover of 11.1bn euros. 42 of the 100 SME companies carrying the seal of approval in 2010 are the number one in their sector in Germany, while 10 of them are market leaders globally. Neither are a sense of tradition and a will to change mutually exclusive, as shown by the 40 family firms in this year’s ‘Top 100’. 86 of the 100 companies have also grown more quickly over the last three years than their sector average.