Colossuses of steel – machines with character

Text: Sabine TjørnelundPhoto: Patrick Altrogge, Inmotto

While many industrial companies now prefer to use inexpensive materials and produce mass products, a young company from East Westphalia is doing exactly the opposite. Allstein, a mechanical engineering company, now focuses on individual items, quality and good workmanship using the best materials – and is really successful!

Completely assembled, the “Allstein-Hydro” stands in the production hall like a proud colossus of steel: Weighing 60 tons, 25 meters long and five metres high it is the Porsche among the flexographic printing machines of the packaging industry. Twelve kilometres of cable and over a hundred servomotors are installed in it. Dismantled, it fills up to ten containers that are transported to customers on lorries and with a special transporter. Using only the best materials, components and machine parts for production Allstein designs and builds flexographic printing and bag making machines for the packaging industry worldwide. In a multi-colour letterpress process, strip materials such as paper, corrugated cardboard and foil are printed and pack sacks are produced. Each printing machine is unique and tailored exactly to the customer’s requirements and wishes. “We develop and build the best printing and bag making machines in the tradition of German mechanical engineering,” says Gordon Whitelaw, founder and managing director of Allstein GmbH confidently.

Young and wild meet 300 years of experience
Born in England, Whitelaw knows the market like no other. He has been operating successfully in the industry for over 20 years and in 2012 he founded his own company, Allstein, in Steinhagen, where he quickly assembled a team of like-minded people, some of the best developers, engineers and salesmen with more than 300 years of experience in the design and manufacture of printing machines at the highest level. Added to this there are the young and wild ones: talented fitters, software developers, electricians or engineers, all with the common goal of building the best possible machine for the customer. “We inspire each other. It is simply fun working with young people,” says Hartmut Rössler – a veteran of the industry. He has already sold printing machines to the grandfathers of today’s customers.

Employees are the key to success
The company is developing rapidly. In 2017 Allstein moved into a new company building in Herford, where the company produces its machine colossuses on 12,000 square metres. It is expanding not only in terms of floor space. Allstein has grown to one hundred employees within a short period of time. It is not a problem finding qualified staff according to Sales Director Bernhard Stradner. The region has a long tradition in mechanical engineering with well-trained specialists. Above-average pay is a basic requirement, because Allstein demands a lot from its employees, who are often on the road for weeks assembling a new machine for the customer. Top performance is also permanently required on site in order to build the best machines on the market. A climate of trust, respect and appreciation is important for this. “We give our employees the freedom and security to use their skills in the right place,” says Stradner. What counts at Allstein is what you do and what you can do. Thinking along is expressly desired. The distances between the workshop and the design offices are short, the structures flat. There is as little hierarchy as possible. In addition, anyone who builds an “Allstein” works with the best materials. Word gets around.

You can see the high quality of an Allstein
It usually takes a year from the customer’s order to the acceptance of a machine. Every little detail is important. After all, the machines have to work without problems for years, three shifts a day. The best moment for all involved is the handover. When an investment of up to tens of millions of euros is made, the owner or CEO of an international company usually comes personally to Herford with a team of experts to receive his “baby”. Everyone in the large hall stands in front of the steel colossus in anticipation and awe of the made-to-measure work before the start button is pressed. “You can see how happy the customer is when his machine runs and prints for the first time,” says Stradner. Every employee is proud of this.

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