"We have the courage to try things out!"

Interview with Jasmin Keller, Managing Director and Johannes Keller, Production Planning & Projects at Bürstenfabrik Keller GmbH

Bürstenfabrik Keller Handcraft
A lot of handcrafting: The parts are carefully assembled

Brushes of various kinds are used in many areas of daily life. There are big differences in terms of quality. And it is precisely in this respect that the products of Bürstenfabrik Keller GmbH from Todtnau in the Black Forest differ from mass products from the Far East. The fifth-generation family business uses almost exclusively high-quality natural materials and covers the entire process from development to the final product.

"We have more than 1,200 different brushes in our range," explains Jasmin Keller, Managing Director of the Keller Brush Factory. "In manufacturing, we pay very close attention to ecological concerns and almost exclusively use natural materials. Thus, 99% of our brushes are made of wood."

In general, the environment is of very high importance at the Keller Brush Factory. Thus, in 2020 a photovoltaic system was installed on the roofs, which produces 285,000 kWh, the majority of the needed 350,000 kWh. The EMAS-certified family business also participates as one of only 18 companies nationwide in the CO2Plan pilot project sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Economics. The project, accompanied by the Freiburg Energy Agency, aims to improve the CO2 balance of the participating companies.

"We are proud to be one of 18 companies in Germany to participate in this project," says the Managing Director. "It honors us and we are diligent and passionate about it." Moreover, wood drying and heating in the company are 100% powered by wood residues produced during manufacturing.

Keller Brush Factory Range of Products
Brushes for every occasion: The range includes vegetable brush, hiking boot brush, horse brush, clothes brush, body care brush Body-Ionic-Brush (from left to right)

Comprehensive Range

The approximately 1,200 brushes are spread across four product segments: Hair & Body Care, Household Care, Pet Care, and Leisure. In the hairbrushes, there is the Pro-Line for professionals, the Basic-Line for daily hair care, and the Exclusive-Line made of the finest materials. The body care includes the Thermo-Line with specially treated wood and Care & Wellness with brushes for massage and skin care. For the household, Keller produces clothing and shoe brushes, brushes for kitchen and dining, for living and bathroom, and for the garden.

In pet care, there are, among others, brushes for dogs, cats, and horses, but also brushes for small animals and birds. Last but not least, the leisure segment includes products like car cockpit brushes, record brushes, ski brushes, and brushes for cleaning bicycle spokes.

New Building

When Johann Baptist Keller founded the company in 1869, he initially only made the wooden bodies for the brushes, later also complete brushes. Up to the present 5th generation, the business has continuously developed and remained at the Todtnau location. In 1999, the business economist Jasmin Keller and her husband Andreas took over the management of the company, which at that time had 35 employees.

Keller Brush Factory Building in Todtnau in the Black Forest
Since 1869 the location of the company: Company building in Todtnau in the Black Forest

In 2006, the brush factory Faller GmbH, founded in 1827 and insolvent, was acquired. Today, Keller Brush Factory employs 144 workers. As the capacities in Todtnau are no longer sufficient, a new building is currently being constructed in a neighboring village.

Globally Active

"Today, we supply our customers worldwide," explains Johannes Keller, the son of Jasmin Keller, who is responsible for production planning and projects. "Almost half of our sales are made in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and France. Otherwise, we export to countries including New Zealand, Australia, South Korea, Japan, and the USA. We exclusively operate in the B2B sector. Our customers are wholesalers, market vendors, drugstores, and other sales outlets."

The Keller Brush Factory is represented at various international and also smaller trade fairs, for example at Ambiente in Frankfurt and Cosmoprof in Bologna. The brushes are distributed via our own field service as well as partly through distributors.

Keller Brush Factory Production
Bright and friendly: View into the production

New Working Time Model

"We produce our brushes as premium products ecologically and with a clear conscience", says Jasmin Keller, citing reasons for success. "And the 'Made in Germany' label also has a good reputation worldwide. Our complaint rate is at 0.01%, the turnover of our employees is at 0.03%. Every employee is also a quality manager."

The employees at Keller are highly valued. The hierarchies are flat, payroll is distributed personally, and a conflict management team is involved in case of problems. Johannes Keller: "We also have a pilot project for a four-day week with 4.5 hours less working time at the same salary. A rotation system ensures that 80% of the workforce is present every day."

"We have the courage to tackle and try out things", his mother adds. "And always in interaction with the employees." Responsible growth and further digitalization involving the employees are on the agenda for the coming years. "We need to digitalize because we can hardly find employees for production anymore", Jasmin Keller clarifies. "For older employees, this is also a challenge, as it makes them insecure. Therefore, this process must be communicated very well. For us, maximizing profits is never the focus, but rather good interaction with each other, where everyone feels comfortable."