Ebbinghaus history

In the beginning, there were a pair of scissors

For four generations, the Ebbinghaus name has been a synonym for the finishing of special parts. Parts, which are manufactured by our clients and for which they stand with their good name. We protect and finish these parts and become thus a part of these products.

Ebbinghaus-History01: With our surfaces, your parts become more than just the sum of all work steps: They become EBBINGHAUS parts. Our parts can be found everywhere: in the automotive sector as well as railway, shipping and in the home; hospitals, bicycles and basically wherever surface protects, shapes and finishes.

Read the eventful history of our family business in four chapters from 1862 until today:

Ernst Ebbinghaus 1862 - 1951

In 1862, the year Bismarck became Prime Minister in Berlin on the Havel to rise to the actual driver of Prussian and later German politics, was also the year when on the 28th of November Ernst Ebbinghaus was born in Hückeswagen an der Wupper as the fifth child and fourth son of his parents, far away from the Prussian capital. After his school days and completing an apprenticeship as a painter at the Bismarck-works in Radevormwald, he remained employed in the factory for several years and was mainly tasked with applying a colour coating on bicycle frames and bicycle wheel rims. At the age of 29, he married in Hückeswagen and then moved some years later to Cologne-Lindenthal with his family, where he was gainfully employed as a painter in an industrial enterprise. In 1906, Ernst Ebbinghaus settled in Solingen-Ohligs where he assumed a position as Master Craftsman for colour painting with Mercedes Benz in Düsseldorf. Once another son was born in 1907 (he had five sons and a daughter), he bought a plot in Schwanenstrasse in Solingen-Ohligs on which he built a house for his family. He installed a small workshop at the rear to secure a livelihood for his sons; he equipped it as a scissors hardening shop, which was a sensible move considering the Solingen based cutlery sector. Three of his sons were employed in this set-up until the beginning of World War I in 1914. In 1923, despite the already unmistakably increasing risk of inflation, he made the rather daring decision for his time to quit his position as Master Craftsman in an external enterprise for a short time and to become self-employed in the workshop he had set up.  Thus, the 21st March 1923 became the founding day of ERNST EBBINGHAUS KG.

The scissors hardening shop was initially completely aligned to the needs of Solingen based cutlery sector and this remained the dominating aspect for the following years. Instead of working on the hardness of scissors, the work was now to provide surface protection for the products manufactured in Solingen. Such treatment was initially mainly given to box knives and scissors. Back then the box knives were still dipped into black asphalt paint by hand or painted with a brush and then finally dried in a furnace heated with coal. The handle eyes were also dipped and the paint was then fired. The first step which became ground-breaking for the future was made at the beginning of the 1920ies when the spraying process was introduced. If you put aside the surface protection for the handle eyes, then the pocket knife handles were no longer dipped or painted, but the paint was applied with a spray gun – still by hand at this time – on all parts that required processing. Spray painting was henceforth the most widely used method to achieve a coloured surface protection for almost all industrial sectors. For this method, compressed air is fed to a nozzle in the gun’s head, there it is mixed with the paint that was sucked into the gun and then finally when the mixture leaves the gun it is sprayed on the workpiece to be painted in the finest particles.

Thanks to this process, it was now possible to paint industrial goods in a wide shade of colours. At the Schwanenstrasse workshop, the production program was initially expanded by jobs which required surface protection for bicycle and motorcycle frames as well as for their wheel rims. As equivalent to the enamelling process, ash pans and waste baskets were now also spray painted in large quantities and then baked. The varnishing was already done in small spray booths. This process helped to achieve a better result than painting with a brush, however, higher demands were already placed into the spray painter for him to not only work faster but also more cleanly. The 24th October 1929, which was to become “Black Friday” in the history of the US stock market and triggering a global economic crisis for subsequent years with ever increasing unemployment numbers, did also leave its mark on the Ebbinghaus paint shop. Less output and redundancies of employees were the inevitable consequences. Only in 1933, when the crisis was close to an end, a slow but continuous upward trend began.

Erich Ebbinghaus 1907 - 1971

Erich Ebbinghaus, born in 1907 and the youngest son, joined his father’s paint shop already in the founding year on completion of his apprenticeship as a steel hardener. In 1933, he briefly joined the Herbig Haarhaus Paint Factory in Cologne as a paint technician and paint demonstrator thanks to his experience in paint technology he accumulated over the years. On request of his by then 72-year-old father, he came back to Solingen-Ohligs in 1934 to take over the running of the company. Now, the actual expansion and rise of the company began. Especially since Erich Ebbinghaus had a management personality that made him work tirelessly and with great skill to bring about the development of new production methods, improve the quality of surface protection and expand the capacity of the company. In addition to single colour painting of the pocket knife handle covers made from sheet metal, he soon supplied multi-coloured paint jobs on the knife handle covers to a part of the Solingen based industry. One design was almost undistinguishable from mahogany or other natural woods and could in parts be even printed with advertisement slogans or landscapes using special machines. In the mid-1930ies, the point was finally reached where paint jobs came from neighbouring cities such as Cologne, Dusseldorf and Wuppertal, whilst these were mainly for household appliances, which got the surface protection mostly for aesthetic reasons. During this time, Ebbinghaus also received the first orders for the automotive sector: substantial amounts of tin ashtrays for cars were painted and baked in natural wood colours. Always looking for something new, on the 30th May 1935, Erich Ebbinghaus was granted the German Reich Patent under the number 659176 with the name: “Process to manufacture paint coating with iridescent and mother of pearl effect on metal objects.” As the patent shows, this was mainly intended for paint coatings for metal objects such as pocket knives and straight razor covers, cutlery, lighters, powder compacts, children’s toys etc. Another year later, the all coal heated furnaces were converted to gas and another manufacturing branch was started with drum coating of mass-produced articles.

This process should provide temporary rust prevention to a treated workpiece if continuously oiled or give better adhesion to a subsequently painted item and at the same time limit corrosion underneath the paint application at a mechanically damaged location as well as prevent lifting of the adjoining paint layer. In addition to painting items for the toy industry, sheet metal fittings for suitcase manufacturers in a wide range of colours as well as hair clips for ladies, a large quantity of Bakelite signs were covered in varnish and the lettering on them subsequently highlighted in a white or black colour. Large quantities of wooden wedge heels for ladies’ shoes were manufactured which had cork or leather imitation on the visible exterior applied with a special painting process. As a sample for plastic products, an entry was made in the German Design Registry at Solingen’s Local Court in 1948. In the truest sense, 1950 became the fateful year for the company which was still suffering the effects of the war. The company was faced for the first time with a major task by accepting the paint job in the middle of 1950 for a most sensibly constructed collapsible transport container which was to be used by Deutsche Bundesbahn to transport goods by rail. The current facilities were not sufficient to carry out this large job and thus it became necessary to rent branch premises which were then found in Solingen-Weyer. From that moment on, an upward trend slowly became apparent which still manifests itself today.

In 1951 – the year the founder Ernst Ebbinghaus passed away – it was finally possible to acquire a large vacant lot in Solingen-Ohligs on the Dunkelnberger Straße. The construction of the first part of today’s operation was commenced already in the year after. In the same year, Ernst Ebbinghaus, son of Erich Ebbinghaus, joined the company. In 1953, after completion of the newly built workshop that had a cellar for offices and hygiene purposes, the painting of shell plates was begun for the first fully automatic washing machines released in Germany that year. This production had a considerable influence on the further operational design right up to the end of the 1960ies and remained during later operational expansions always a dominant factor due to the scale. In the years after the war and the period of full order books, an expansion to the first operational unit was finished in 1954 which allowed the centralisation of production facilities previously working at three different locations. In the same year, the company was registered as a limited partnership in the commercial register at Solingen’s local court. On the back lot, a new building was constructed and alongside the premises a covered ramp was built. The in-house fleet was expanded which allowed to keep warehousing as small as possible. The office building was built in 1957. The last phase of construction was finished in 1961.

The state-of-the-art painting line was constructed here based on electrostatic spray painting. At the same time, plants for pre-treatment were created for the degreasing and phosphating of workpieces prior to the painting process and thus an independent department was set up within the overall operation. The actual painting line initially led past a water spray booth which allowed the workpieces to be electrostatically pre-sprayed before further treatment. Then the parts ran through two further water spray booths, which were equipped with hydraulic electrostatic spray guns and which had a downstream evaporation line of 27 metres length. This finally led into the drying oven. The transport belt that lead the painted goods through the plant had an overall length of 137 meters and could convey parts with dimensions of 1700 x 1600 mm and an object depth of approx. 900 mm. The throughput speed was infinitely variable and could be adjusted from 0.50 to 4.80 m/min. In the first years after commissioning, mainly lawn mower parts, chair bases, luggage racks and military equipment were surface-protected in addition to washing machine parts. The surface protection for scissors and box knife handles were ceased in 1965.

Ernst Paul Ebbinghaus 1935 - 2002

The commissioning of the modern phosphating plant was an important step towards the future for Ebbinghaus. Erich Ebbinghaus died shortly before turning 64 on the 12th February 1971. Ernst Paul Ebbinghaus, already a personally liable partner in the company since 1st May 1968, took over responsibility as sole heir. In 1970, the construction of the electrophoretic painting plant 1 was completed to cover the strong demand for bulk goods coating in the colour black. In 1980, the electrophoretic painting plant 2 was built and the adjacent working groups were expanded. The sewage system was modernized. The company employed 75 employees in that year. During this decade, the wet painting plant coated large batches for the washing machine sector whilst simultaneously expanding the piece goods coating area.

The electrophoretic painting plant 1 was closed in 1992. The strongly expansive market of CDP coating lead to the opening of the Ransbach-Baumbach factory in 1980. A painting plant was rented and operated autonomously on the grounds of the Schütz factory. The employees to operate the plant were partly provided by Schütz and invoiced to Ebbinghaus. Coating of belt pulleys became a speciality. In Solingen, a wide range of parts were produced on the paint line: for FIBRON the BMW motorcycle facing, for AIRBUS floor supports and fuel boosters for ARIANE. In 1988, after the sustained boom in CDP coating at the Ransbach-Baumbach plant, Ernst Ebbinghaus decided to build a new plant in Solingen district Aufderhöhe.

In the open countryside, a contract coating plant was built with large-scale facilities for electrophoretic painting and spray paint coating. Ebbinghaus employed 120 staff. In 1990, the paint jobs were transferred and the Ransbach-Baumbach factory was closed. For the next three years, Ebbinghaus struggled with the effects of the price decline caused by VW. The workforce decreased from previously 130 employees to 55 salaried workers. The utilization fell from 2.5 shifts to 1 shift.

Marco Eric Ebbinghaus 1962 - today

A hundred years after the birth of the company founder Ernst Ebbinghaus, his great-grandson Marco Ebbinghaus was born and joined the management as the oldest son of Ernst Paul Ebbinghaus in 1992. He took over day-to-day operations from his sick father and in 1996, he was finally able to sustainably compensate the loss in turnover caused by the separation from VW. DAIMLER CHRYSLER, the largest manufacturer of commercial vehicles in Europe, changed its corrosion protection for heavy-duty trucks in 1997 and was looking for a contract coating company who would set up a factory close to its Wörth site.

Whilst checking the realisation of the factory in Hagenbach, the inruns for the ACTROS truck were coated in Solingen and lead to full capacity.

Marco Ebbinghaus was commissioned to carry out the coating of all frame components for the Wörth factory on site and founded for this purpose OFTEC Oberflächentechnik GmbH & Co. KG and FEO GmbH in Hagenbach near Karlsruhe in 1997. After two years of planning and construction, the first goods carriers were coated in Hagenbach on the 18th May 1998. Only 11 months later, OFTEC in Hagenbach worked two shifts. The factory produced more than 200 tons of cast and forged parts and had more than 80 employees. In this factory, manufacturing technology was applied at the level of automotive series production for the first time. Thus, to this day, automated transport vehicles carry the paint frames through the factory and they are then stored in a high-bay warehouse.

Planning and implementation of contract coating plants and factories was requested more and more over the coming years. In 2002, Ernst Paul Ebbinghaus passed away. In the same year, Ebbinghaus Verbund GmbH was founded by Marco Ebbinghaus, who took over from his father the management of all companies. Ebbinghaus Group carries out all tasks regarding factory planning and implementation, central administration services for the factories and the marketing of contract coating as well as creating factory concepts. The first project for the Group was the location in Werndorf (A), which sent contract coating jobs to Germany. Already two years later, it was possible to purchase a factory/operator model from EISENMANN which coats all fixtures for the MERCEDES G.

This vehicle is manufactured in contract work at MAGNA in Graz just two kilometres down the road. Today, Ebbinghaus Styria Coating GmbH in Graz coats also parts for the entire Austrian supplier sector as a contract coater in addition to the MAGNA parts and is a member of the Automotive Cluster Styria.

Further projects with DAIMLER in Turkey and Kassel, with Georg Fischer in Singen as well as Rauch in Sinsheim lead to running coating plants which produce in the client’s responsibility. In 2002, Lars Ebbinghaus, the younger brother, was appointed to the management at Ernst Ebbinghaus GmbH & Co. KG.

In 2007, the brothers decided to close the original factory in Solingen Ohligs – which by now was in the middle of a residential area – and to move operations to the Aufderhöhe factory. They expanded the location by about 3000 m² by building a hall. The logistics areas were converted and the CDP plant was expanded and updated with a new dryer and internal conveyor line. In March 2009, the last production areas were moved to Aufderhöhe.

The financial crisis of 2008/2009 hit right after the completion of the project and caused a near as complete loss of turnover. All rescue attempts failed and so, Ernst Ebbinghaus GmbH & Co. KG had to declare bankruptcy in June 2009. Thankfully, the companies were separated into independent units and thus the other companies were not affected by this step. After completion of the bankruptcy of Ernst Ebbinghaus GmbH & Co. KG, Lars Ebbinghaus left the operative business of Ebbinghaus Group and its associated companies at his own request.

In 2010, OFTEC opened in Solingen a temporary production site at Spedition Schnug at which CDP coating was carried out temporarily. This location was expanded with a blasting plant at the end of 2010. The operative companies were supplemented in that year by the founding of Ebbinghaus Grundstücksverwaltungs GmbH & Co. KG, which has managed and maintained the properties since. As one of the first acquisitions, it was possible to acquire the founding company in Solingen Ohligs from insolvency to centralize in future the management of the Ebbinghaus factories there.

In 2012, the plan for this location was extended by a technical centre and this was realised as the first construction stage (BA1). For this purpose, 1,000 m2 of the total hall space of 3,600 m2 was utilised. The temporary location was vacated and transferred to the new technical centre.



In 2014, Ebbinghaus Verbund GmbH moved to Dunkelnbergerstraβe and in so doing the main service areas were centralised at the original company headquarters. 60 years after the initial land development, a big part of the space was converted for education and further training as well as administrative and presentation areas. Other spaces are used by the newly established ebbtron for co-working. A unique auditorium which can accommodate 60 people expands the portfolio with regards to training and seminars.