The Pallet Professionals

Interview with Josef Winkelheide, Managing Director of Josef Winkelheide GmbH

Josef Winkelheide GmbH Pallet Storage
Pallets – still the core products of Winkelheide

Our forest is suffering. Bark beetles, storms, droughts, and heatwaves have taken their toll in recent years. Thinning the forests is therefore more important than ever. The traditional family business, Josef Winkelheide GmbH from Senden, makes a significant contribution to this. The company manufactures pallets from local woods.

Pallets are multifunctional and indispensable from most industrial sectors. They allow goods to be transported and stored easily. Josef Winkelheide GmbH is an acknowledged expert around high-quality pallets.

Recognized the Signs of the Times

Since the company's establishment in 1864, the name Winkelheide has stood for professional wood processing. Post-war, the work was dominated by wooden handles for tools that were delivered to mines and smelters. With the gradual decline of the mines, the company adjusted its direction.

Josef Winkelheide GmbH Josef and Markus Winkelheide
Josef and Markus Winkelheide, Managing Directors

"As the demand for handles decreased and forklifts were increasingly used, we saw the market potential of pallets," explains Josef Winkelheide, who has been managing director since 1985 and represents the 5th generation of the family. "My father and I therefore decided on a new product."

Josef Winkelheide GmbH Digitization in the Sawmill
Digitization and thus modern technologies are standard in the sawmill

From Broomstick to Pallet

Father and son made a far-sighted decision. By switching production to pallets and integrating the 6th family generation with Markus Winkelheide as managing director, the company has grown steadily. Today, 110 employees work at four locations for Winkelheide. "The origin lies at the Senden Bredenbeck site with its grown structure," says Josef Winkelheide. "In 1999, a first external warehouse was added, and in 2010 a new production facility in Senden on Industriestraße, where mainly mass products are manufactured."

Since 2019, there has been a fourth location in Dülmen-Rödder, where a new sawmill is currently being built. In the long term, this is intended to replace the old mill and cover 30% of the wood demand. Thanks to this setup, Winkelheide now produces around 15,000 pallets daily, approximately 3.5 million per year – mainly EUR/Epal flat pallets and CP pallets. Besides manufacturing, heat treatment essential for global export according to IPPC standard plays a central role.

The Forest Cleaners

Since 1985, production has been gradually automated; in-house cutting is of great importance. "We have always had a direct connection to the forestry and place importance on the processing of regional woods," emphasizes Josef Winkelheide.

Josef Winkelheide GmbH Pallet Stack

“Thanks to a special technique in our new sawmill, we can also process woods that would otherwise go into the chipper; crooked woods, for example, are just right for us. We can optimally process this lower quality wood, provided it is structurally healthy, and thus conserve valuable resources.”

To ensure this, Winkelheide relies on the competence of its own skilled workers. The company stands for comprehensive training and sets itself apart from the market with this quality standard. Woodworking mechanics learn about the unique raw material of wood from scratch.

“Thanks to our skilled workers, we can carry out static calculations and control calculations,” says Josef Winkelheide. “Meanwhile, we are also training industrial clerks.”

Josef Winkelheide GmbH Cutting Wood
Winkelheide places great value on the use of local woods - to conserve resources and relieve roads
Josef Winkelheide GmbH Round Timber Storage
Round timber storage; since only short woods are needed for pallets, crooked wood can also be processed

Focusing on the Human Element

The family business has long been playing in the top league of the industry, successfully. Customers, including large manufacturing conglomerates primarily from the chemical industry, but also logistics companies and pallet dealers, value the reliable collaboration with Winkelheide. Many have been working with the company for decades. Regular customers are visited in person on a regular basis – good relationships are important.

"We are a family business with a history of almost 150 years," says Josef Winkelheide. "For us, the focus is always on the human element, whether it be an employee or a customer. We always have their well-being in mind." Even though demand has decreased recently due to a weak economic situation, Winkelheide looks positively towards the future and remains true to its principles.

"Wooden load carriers are unbeatable in terms of price-performance ratio," emphasizes Josef Winkelheide, "however, the market will not grow. Therefore, we will dig deeper into production depth and at the Siemensstraße location, we will specialize in custom packaging. Custom orders, crate construction for overseas export, and special packaging will be the focus here. Also, considering the development towards the East, securing wood resources will be our top priority. Our goal is to process German wood in Germany and keep the added value in the region. We clear the forest, ensuring that as much material as possible is used from the raw wood to conserve resources and improve the CO2 balance."