The beginnings: 1924-1949

HistorieThe history of the Franz Henke GmbH & Co. KG dates back to the 1920s. In 1924 Franz Henke decided to enter the cork industry and established his business on 1st April on the parental farm in Südlohne. After only 3 months, Henke delivered the first products, which were manufactured from raw materials from Portugal. While in the beginning the cork wood was imported via middlemen in Bremen, Henke later purchased his materials right at their origin.

The first year’s turnover of 3125 RM was still rather moderate but the young businessman managed to quintuple the amount within only 4 years. At that time, the product range covered basically all kinds of corks, including wine works or corks for medical purposes.

HistorieDue to the steady expansion of the production volume, Henke was forced to relocate his business to a bigger site, which was constructed near the train station in Lohne and inaugurated in 1928. It was only 8 years later that the new production plant had to be extended again: a front building was added.
In the following, the expansionist endeavours could hardly be realised: The Second World War entailed the shortage of raw materials, spare parts for the machines and of labour. Although Henke still produced about 1.5 million corks in 1941,   he had to inform his customers in the same year that deliveries were no longer possible.

After the war, from about 1945 onwards, the interrupted expansion could be revived and so, the number of employees increased from three immediately after the war to eight in 1949.

The next generation: 1949-1960

HistorieTwo years later, Walter Henke entered the company, which marked the transition to the second generation. According to his own statement, he had no choice but to follow in his father’s footsteps since he had been integrated into the parental cork production from early childhood on.

In the following, Henke tried to break new grounds and made first attempts in the emerging plastics industry but due to a lack of skilled workers and necessary competencies the plan had to be put off again. About 5 years later, in 1960, a second attempt was made and that one turned out to be successful. With the two injection moulding machines that were bought in that year Henke was able to start the production of their own plastic products. The required raw materials polystyrene and polyethylene were purchased from BASF.

The final step towards plastics processing: 1960 – 2012

Another six years later, one more step towards the plastics industry was taken by establishing an own mould shop. Like this, the company was able to repair the moulds themselves and to respond more effectively to customer requests. Furthermore, the machine pool was extended, which allowed for higher productions volumes. During that time, the product range comprised mainly packaging, such as lids for coffee tins, screw caps, dishes and champagne cork, but also technical parts.

HistorieIn 1976, the cork production was finally given up and the focus was completely shifted to plastics processing. The success proved the company right and so the production plant had to be extended in 1970, 1973 and 1977. This physical expansion was complemented by the introduction of a new product line, namely the “topfit” section for gardening products.

In the 1990s, Jürgen Henke took his place in the family business as the third generation. At the same time, improvements of the products and processes were implemented: the Franz Henke GmbH & Co. KG introduced a quality management system that is certified to DIN EN ISO 9001 in 1996 and the innovative IML (In-Mould Labelling) decoration procedure in 1998.

These efforts were continued with the so-called “Agenda 2012”, which aimed at a reorganisation of the existing structures. This was realised through the diversification of the packaging sector, the certification to BRC/IoP, investments into the machine pool and the certification of the energy management system to DIN EN ISO 50001.  This package of measures clearly had a positive impact on the effectiveness of the company.

Competence – experience – innovation

HistorieToday approximately 130 employees produce about 1.2 billion plastic products per year. Henke’s three business units Packaging, Lonacap and Topfit serve a broad market ranging from packaging for food and non-food purposes to plastic protective elements and technical parts and all the way to products for the gardening sector.

After more than 90 years of business, Henke can look back on a history that was shaped by innovations and has developed the experience and competencies to support all customers most appropriately. Following this path, Henke will continue to be a competent partner for your business.

© 2020 Franz Henke GmbH & Co. KG