The Decline of the Market Leader

In June 2013 I stood once again in front of the entrance Glanzstoff-Straße.  I had had a meeting with a consulting firm in Aachen offering  computer software using splines , which I needed to calculate progressive lens designs and I took this opportunity to make a 60 km trip to Oberbruch. But the gate to the Glanzstoff premises was closed, no people between the red brick factory buildings, no smoking chimneys, no typical sulphuric smell ,…….  Glanzstoff did not exist anymore. It had been transformed to the Industrypark  Oberbruch with about 20 smaller companies from various industry sectors. The only fiber company I found was the Japanese  carbon fiber producer  Toho Tenax.

In the second half of the 1970s  a crisis shook the fiber producing industry. It was the consequence of several structural changes. More and more Asian fiber producers learned to control the technology. Possibly  Glanzstoff who owned  the spinning machine manufacturer Barmag should have been a little more  cautious in selling their technology. First consequences were increasing low price imports in Europe and later a rapid growth of the Far East textile companies. Today a high percentage of textile fabrics come from China, India, Korea and Taiwan. In addition the low wages in Asia made it much more attractive for the European apparel industry to outsource their production. The consequences for Glanzstoff as for other European fiber manufacturers were at the beginning part-time work, then downsizing, investment cut-back and restructuring. There were intermediate efforts to increase the efficiency of polyester spinning and investing in the manufacturing of modern high performance carbon fibers signing a license agreement with Toho Rayon in Tokyo. But the decline continued. In 1991 the parent company Akzo stopped their steelcord production for tyres. In 1993 rayon fiber Cordenka manufacturing was discontinued. Workforce fell to below 2000 people. Former technical equipment and installation division, central workshops and the different business units became autonomous enterprises. They were merging with new partners, initiating a change from a homogenous firm to an open industrial park. The former Group parent Akzo Nobel parted completely with the man-made fiber division which was moved to the Far East and integrated in a new company named Acordis, which was sold to an British American investment group which broke them down into several single enterprises.

So Glanzstoff Oberbruch which used to supply the whole world with synthetic fibers still in the 1970s, had disappeared from the market at the beginning of the third millennium.

A detailed description of the Glanzstoff  history can be found in the chapter “Oberbruch Industry Park” at Wikipedia.