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Hexagon industrial tiling

Volker Aufderhaar is a Key Account Manager at family-owned German tile manufacturer Argelith Bodenkeramik, a business partner of Kemtile.

Founded in 1870, the firm produced bricks for walls. In the 1960s Argelith started making 15-20mm thick industrial tiles and the first industries the company served were automotive workshops and heavy duty areas.

Back in 2001 the business built a factory for pressed porcelain tiles. Customers wanted bigger tiles and lighter colours, with more choice of colours too — a trend which led directly to the introduction of the new factory.

The product characteristic of the porcelain tile is that it is very dense and vitrified, so you could compare it to glass, very low water absorption and very hygienic. Due to that they are very easy to clean and it led Argelith to decide to focus in the future on supermarkets and food and beverage industries. Supermarkets today now make up about a third of the company’s turnover. Another third is automotive still and the rest — the growing part — is the food and beverage industry.

Argelith has around 100 people working in the factory and another 40 in sales/administration. There are offices in Chicago for the North American market, in Dubai for the Middle East market, in Moscow for the Russian-speaking countries and in Poland, which is Argelith’s longest-established market.

In the countries where Argelith doesn’t have its own employed people, it tries to grow partnerships with contractors or importing companies. Kemtile is Argelith’s English partner.

Volker said: “My first job ever was with Argelith. I started with the business right after school as an apprentice for three years, after which I took up an import/export sales clerk position. Since 2007 I have been a Key Account Manager.

“I care for key accounts like Coca-Cola, Heineken and SABMiller. I also care for accounts spread across Europe in places like Spain, Scandinavia and Turkey, in addition to other key regions like Asia, Africa and Australia.”

Volker prides himself on the strong links he has forged with the Kemtile team since meeting them eight years ago.

He continued: “Our working relationship with Kemtile began in 2007. In the past we had more or less no business with the food industry and we knew Kemtile had a very good standing there. We wanted to work with them because they had hexagon tiles from our competitors and we wanted to change that to us, and we tried to give services which go above and beyond the tile alone.

“Our competitors often just give the tile, the price … and that is it. We do exhibitions, travel the world, we try to do specifications with customers. If we do a specification in Holland, Germany or Switzerland for example, Kemtile can participate and take the job. We try to do specifications across the globe and help Kemtile to get orders. Likewise, Kemtile is working for us, with specifications here in the UK, and we participate. It is a win-win situation.

“Maybe they help us more than we help them, but the results for Kemtile in the tile business have grown since we started this relationship. It is growing every year by between 25 and 50%, albeit that we started at a very low level back in 2007. But since then we have steadily grown in a market that is more or less settled.”

Volker’s latest visit to Kemtile’s Warrington site involved some unexpectedly sunny weather, although he admits the globe-trotting nature of his role can be tiring.

He added: “Do I enjoy the travel? Yes and no. It is fantastic on one hand to see a lot of the world, but on the other hand it can also be a bit stressful for family life and your own body’s sake. At certain times of the year you lose track of where is up and where is down! But I like it and I could not sit in the office every day doing the same work from 8am to 5pm.
“As for England, everybody speaks about the bad weather but this latest visit has lasted 10 days and I have seen eight days of dry conditions and some sunshine! Plus, in North-West Germany we always seem to have bad weather so it isn’t an issue!”

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