Always Visionary

The first ammonia plant to use the Mont-Cenis-Uhde process has a production capacity of 100 metric tons/day and goes into operation in 1928 (Mont Cenis Colliery, Herne).

Our founder and the beginnings

Friedrich Uhde (1880-1966)

Friedrich Uhde (1880-1966), founder of what was to become Uhde, a global player in chemical plant engineering and construction

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Born in Einbeck in 1880, Friedrich Uhde completed several internships and courses at Einbeck Technical College before being admitted to study mechanical engineering at Hannover Institute of Technology. After several jobs, among others at Dr. C. Otto & Co. in Bochum, he laid the foundation stone for his engineering firm in 1921, with just seven employees.

Uhde is fascinated by seemingly impossible tasks: He never gives up, never lets anyone discourage him and continues to search for solutions until he finds them. At the same time, his actions are always characterized by impatience. Once, when the blueprints of the design drawings are not moving along fast enough for him, he promptly has someone switch on car headlights to expose the drawings more quickly. Conviction, courage and his unbroken will to succeed turn his projects into the first milestones of the company’s future.

From a "garage startup" to a global player in chemical plants

The barn where Uhde started his business

Uhde experiments with coal extract for the production of newspaper ink: “The business is set up for the production of inks for the graphic arts industry”, is the object of the company officially registered at the local court. Uhde’s first laboratory is established in an old farm building at the Hubbertshof belonging to his parents-in-law in Dortmund-Bövinghausen. This is where the journey to a global player in the chemical plant business begins. Today, thyssenkrupp Uhde employs around 4,500 people around the world. Headquarters: still in Dortmund.

The new laboratory for coal liquefaction

1929: While a new test laboratory for producing fuel by coal liquefaction is being set up in Bövinghausen, the engineering firm moves into a new administration and engineering building in Dortmund.

1930: What is destined to be the state-of-the-art tomorrow has to be developed today: research and development work in the field of coal hydrogenation begins with the establishment of the first high-pressure laboratory in Bövinghausen. At the same time, Friedrich Uhde achieves greater independence by founding the company Hochdruck-Apparatebau GmbH (later known as Uhde High Pressure Technologies GmbH) in Dortmund. At this company, he is able to apply his early experience in ammonia synthesis plants. In 1933, this business is relocated to Hagen.

We have to keep pace with the future.

And that entails investment. This is why Friedrich Uhde uses the company profits to implement new, promising ideas.

1927: Visionary with a feel for trends: While still constructing his first ammonia plant, Uhde develops and designs nitric acid and nitrogen fertilizer plants. Shortly after completing the work, the demand for nitrate-based fertilizer increases.

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1927/28 Award of the second ammonia contract: Hibernia AG at Shamrock Colliery (Wanne-Eickel)

The new office building Uhde moved into in 1929. It was severely damaged during a bomb raid in 1944. In order to make repairs to the office after the war had ended, Uhde, who is 65 at the time, has windows repaired in exchange for potatoes.

Once an Uhdean, always an Uhdean

Friedrich Uhde. Engineer, visionary, developer. 100 years ago he founded his own company in Dortmund-Bövinghausen. Today, as part of the thyssenkrupp Group, this company is still known around the globe in the field of chemical plant construction. A typical, successful entrepreneurial story, one might think. But Friedrich Uhde, who died in 1966, achieved something very special: Even 100 years after his courageous step into self-employment, traces of his personality can still be felt in today’s corporate culture. This is not least one of the reasons why some employees still proudly refer to themselves as “Uhdeans”.

But what was it that distinguished Friedrich Uhde from the rest? What made him so unique? It is above all his courage, his drive and his unconditional belief in himself. While still a student he registers his first inventions, such as a patent on a loom. When his subsequent employer does not want to go along with his ideas on ammonia synthesis and their implementation, Uhde chooses the path of self-employment, setting up his own engineering firm. Driven by his vision of the future, he takes on unprecedented risks to build his first plants, whose processes make him famous all over the world.

Uhde generates profits with these plants. His passion and these initial successes only spur him on to want more. One thing is clear to him early on: We have to press ahead relentlessly. We have to conduct research and development – to make the impossible possible. He invests every penny in the future of his ideas. Nothing can stop him: in 1944 the company building in Dortmund is badly damaged as a result of a bombing raid. Uhde is left with only debris and a handful of documents. Piece by piece, the company is rebuilt. In everyday life, the entrepreneur always remains down-to-earth – he even cycles to work – but his goals and drive are inexhaustible. Uhde GmbH succeeds in becoming part of the Hoechst Group in 1952: a prudential step that enables Friedrich Uhde to realize his great dream of becoming a globally active plant engineer with state-of-the-art processes. Subsidiaries and locations around the globe follow.

It is Uhde’s attitude: his inner drive to excel, his smart way of overcoming obstacles and his demand for quality and reliability that still characterize the spirit of the plant engineering and construction company today.

In summary:

Engineering with ideas

"Team Uhde" right before moving into the new office building, ca. 1929.