The Cigar industry in Kampen
The cigar industry in Kampen started to flourish from 1825 following efforts on the part of then-mayor Frans Lemker to stimulate the improvement of the town's infrastructure.
New roads were constructed and the Ketelmond was improved. As a result, the town became much more accessible by road and water (the IJssel River), both in relation to Amsterdam and Germany.
The German cigar maker Johann Lehmkuhl from Bremen was one of the first to make use of this improved infrastructure. In 1826, he settled in Kampen together with a number of employees. Besides the infrastructure, Lehmkuhl's decision was also fuelled by the lower wages in Kampen and the shortage of adequately skilled staff in Bremen due to the greatly flourishing and growing cigar industry in Germany.
Around 1880, almost half of the population of Kampen worked in the tobacco industry, producing about 1.5 million cigars a week. The construction of large factories for the cigar industry was hampered by the fact that a lot of land was earmarked for agricultural purposes. As a result, workers would often manufacture cigars at home.
Founder Hendrikus v.d. Sluis
ITMGroup dates back to 1897, when the Van der Sluis family started a cigar manufacturing company in Kampen.
Hendrikus van der Sluis was a son of Jan van der Sluis and Hendrika Weijdeman. He became an orphan at the age of nine and went to live on the farm of his childless uncle and aunt. Life on the farm was wonderful, but farming was not for Hendrikus; he would much rather trade. Before too long, people in the neighbourhood started turning to Hendrikus whenever they needed something. One way or another, he always managed to find what they were looking for. In addition, Hendrikus was very fond of writing poetry, holding speeches and storytelling.
Factory Samuels and De Leeuw
In 1912, he bought the tobacco factory Samuels and De Leeuw (with the cigar brands Saleka, Samuels and de Leeuw Kampen) at the Botermarkt. Hendrikus was now a tobacconist; a business activity which would prove highly lucrative for him in the First World War.
Factory Van der Mijle
In 1919, he bought the factory of Van der Mijle on in the Voorstraat behind the Synagogue of Van der Mijle; this is where the brand Mijlpaaltjes ('Mile Stones') comes from.
Bad luck & back to work
The insurance experts had advised Hendrikus to increase coverage of the premises. But Hendrikus, being pennywise, ignored the advice, replying: “You don't have a fire unless you want to, don't you?” It was a cold day, the 10th of February 1929. The cigar makers had moved the stove in order to drive off the cold and singing to their hearts'content they were making their cigars. Hendrikus had gone iceskating with a friend. His son, Arend, was at the office, when, suddenly, nearing from the distance, voices cried “The mill's on fire!”
The chimney in front of which the workers had put the stove , appeared not to be a chimney but a duct leading to the tobacco stems stored in the attic. The mill was burnt to the ground. Hendrikus, skating, watched the billowing smoke over the city, turned towards his friend, saying: I hope that's not my mill!”. Whether he was underinsured or not, he had a modern mill built on the same site.
Hendrikus was good at coming up with advertisements for his cigars. One example features an image of a boy at a shop counter. The shopkeeper asks him: 'Well young man, what will it be?'. The boy looks at the shopkeeper with surprise and says: 'Only Mijlpaaltjes will satisfy me'.
A salient detail was that Hendrikus van der Sluis was “Chairman of the Association for the Prevention of against Mechanisation of the Cigar Machines in the Tobacco Industry”.
He truly valued quality and enjoyed hearty, strong cigars.
The first phase of mechanisation (1920-1950)
Under the influence of the first national collective labour agreement (1920) and the introduction of the excise duty on tobacco (1922) the - already strongly declining - cottage industry is largely forced out. Requirements governing working areas are imposed and a ban is introduced on the independent, home-based manufacturing of cigars by factory workers. As a result, home manufacturing virtually disappears.
The large decline in exports after World War I is insufficiently offset by the increase in domestic demand. This leads to falling prices and overproduction. Many companies close down in the twenties and thirties. The big companies emerge victorious from this fierce competition, partially because they often have the funds for mechanisation, thus allowing them to manufacture more cost-effectively. The trend towards rationalisation and mechanisation is strengthened by rising wages and by the shift in demand towards cheaper varieties which can easily be manufactured mechanically.
The production process however is still not continuous and fully automated; human labour is still required to feed, control and power the machines.
2nd generation V.d. Sluis
Sons Arend and Jan started working at the company (of their father Hendrikus) at an early age. When they entered the business, the company employed 60 cigar makers and was struggling financially.
It was a time of crisis and many customers were suffering. There was a constant fear of bankruptcy and even the women in the Van der Sluis family helped out in the company to reduce labour costs. Arend borrowed money from his family.
Trading in second hand machinery
In the 50s and 60s, the company was split up into the 'Grossierderij' (wholesale) and the 'Sigarenfabriek' (cigar factory). Cigars (both produced on-site and purchased), cigarettes, tobacco, machinery and miscellaneous other items were traded.
The records from 1958 show that by then, the company had started trading in second-hand machinery. Not in the 'modern' equipment which could churn out complete cigars, but in the machines which had already been in use for some time to support production.
Arend, who spent a lot of time on the road, learned from shopkeepers which brands of cigars were struggling and which were popular. Next, it was quite easy to make a bid on the wrapping equipment of the poorly performing manufacturer and make the well-performing manufacturer happy with just that piece of equipment he needed. According to the annual figures of 1962, the accountants did have their doubts about the machinery business though: 'the prospects look less favourable for this'.
A lot of cigar factories were established in the last decades of the 19th century and many of them were still in operation until the end of the nineteen-sixties.
Due to the rise of the cigarette, automation (the cigar machine was introduced in the 50s of the 20th century) and the shift of production to low-wage countries, many jobs in the cigar industry disappeared.
At one time, the Netherlands had one of the leading cigar industries in the world. However, not much is left of this. By the end of the nineteen-seventies, most cigar factories had closed down.
3rd generation V.d. Sluis
Arend's son Henk is mentioned in the books for the first time in 1961. He was assigned the regions of Zeeland, Friesland and Limburg as a cigar salesman. The factory was churning out boxes of SSK (Sluis Sigaren Kampen) and Havana Character.
After a visit to the machine manufacturer Arenco in Sweden, he decided to not only trade in cigars & machinery, but to also start refurbishing it. In November 1961, he sent customers a letter stating they could now turn to Sluis Vereenigde for well-functioning, reconditioned second-hand equipment.
The refurbishments were carried out by two technicians. In 1967, brother Arend joined the company. Customers were not only offered 'as is' machinery but also refurbished equipment. A workshop was built at the Haatlanden industrial estate on the Energiestraat in Kampen.
Tobacco Machinery Sluis International N.V.
Arend and Henk established Tobacco Machinery Sluis International N.V. in 1970. In 1972, this company was transformed into International Tobacco Machinery (ITM) B.V. Through this B.V. (private limited liability company), Arend traded in cigarette machines. The rationale behind the establishment of ITM B.V. was to isolate the risks involved in trading in cigarette machines. The machines were tremendously expensive to purchase and this market was still unchartered territory. Arend however was confident that this trade could be profitable.
In the nineteen-seventies, the mechanisation of the cigar industry had advanced to such an extent that all the benefits from earlier mechanisation had disappeared. Around 60 or so of the roughly 1500 cigar manufacturers were still in business. They built larger, new plants in Belgium, where they were not hampered by the logistics nightmares affecting many Dutch manufacturers in their old buildings. In addition, the wages in Belgium were much lower than in Kampen. After a record profit in 1968, the profits of the cigar factory slowly started to decline in the following years.
This however was not the case for the wholesale business, which - somewhat opportunistic, of course – bought cigars more cheaply in Belgium and sold these on to retailers. The wholesale margins also came under pressure though, especially regarding the trade in cigarettes with its particularly slim margins. In 1973, this activity was therefore immediately discontinued.
The machine trade grew, but the results proved very fickle. In that time, the custom was born to include a gift in the crates in which the machines were packed: clogs. Because of these clogs, strikers in Cardiff were only willing to unpack the crates from Kampen during an industrial action. This would later become a frequent topic of conversation in Kampen and Cardiff.
In 1970, Sluis International Tobacco Machinery N.V. was established.
In 1972, this company was converted to International Tobacco Machinery B.V. Through this Ltd., Arend traded in cigarette machines.
In 1977, Van der Sluis Cigar Machinery B.V. was founded to accommodate activities relating to the trade in cigar machinery. Gradually though, more and more workshops started to emerge abroad.
In 1985, the last remaining cigar factory of Van Kampen almost folded. SCM then acquired de Olifant, which still produces wonderful cigars to this day.
ITM Poland (1991)
In the late 1980s, the tobacco industry started globalizing and expanding into new, emerging markets.
Poland, as a part of Eastern Europe and close to the very promising Russian market, was an ideal place from which to follow that trend. Changes in the economic system, the significant size of the domestic market and the relatively easy access to highly skilled people were additional arguments to start a facility in Radom, Poland. Last but not least, the good working and personal relationship with the then-president of ITM, Mr. Arend van der Sluis Sr., with Mr. Andrew Stanikowski’s, owner of a small private garage “ Tobacco Factory Radom”, was the start of a flourishing company. Great innovations like the Capricorn, the fi-fo [first-in-first-out] cigarette and filter reservoir, the Delphi waste cigarette tobacco reclaiming technology and later the Solaris filter combining platform, resulted in that the company turned out from a highly respected supplier of pre-owned machines and technology—towards a recognized OEM.
Precision Machine Parts Poland Sp. z o.o. part of ITM Group was established in 1997.
Former director of ITM Poland, Mr. Andrew Stanikowski was visionary who saw very early on the future that there was a critical need for high quality OEM parts for the Tobacco machinery.
From a passion of engineering & precision PMP was born. The company is located next to our ITM Poland facility and is a qualified supplier to a number of different industries such as food (including tobacco), machine tools, packing, printing, medical, and aviation. Products made by PMP are delivered as either single parts or sets of parts, but the majority consists of ready-to-use and tested sub-assemblies or components of machinery and technology lines. PMP’s core business is prototype production and small-batch production.
In 1997, the Swiss company TDC was acquired in which our current member of the Board, Mr. Jeroen Slobbe (Managing Director of TDC) and Henk van der Sluis (former Managing Director of SCM) were involved. This company specializes in RYO products and was moved to Kampen, also taking over the RYO packing activities of SCM.
TDC is a leading supplier of new machinery for “other tobacco products” (OTP) and the main supplier of turnkey projects in this segment. In recent years, it has come up with innovations in pouch making and packing, snus handling and molasses dosing, as well as new solutions for volume packing. TDC’s portfolio comprises equipment for the dosing and packing of roll-your-own (RYO), make-your-own (MYO) and expanded tobacco in pouches, cans, bags, special packs. The firm also develops equipment for the manufacture of e-cigarettes. Our Tricas Industrial design bureau is heavily involved in all projects relating to OTP and e-cigarettes.
Today, the ITMGroup consists of production sites, regional offices and service centers worldwide. A total of 700 employees are devoted to serve ITM's customers with innovative products and solutions.
Over the years, the company has gradually expanded, setting up offices and factories around the world. Today, it incorporates several companies, each catering to a different segment of the tobacco industry. The mains ones are International Tobacco Machinery (ITM), Sluis Cigar Machinery (SCM), Technical Development Corp. (TDC) , Efficient Packaging Solutions (IMAtec) , delivering OEE software and continuous improvement services (Gemba Solutions) and Industrial Research and Product Development (Tricas).
ITM supplies turnkey solutions for cigarette and primary tobacco applications. The company’s large portfolio is designed for high efficiency, careful product handling and optimal flexibility. In close collaboration with its customers, ITM is continuously looking for new, complete solutions.
SCM, which includes GTS-SCM in the Dominican Republic, is known for its expertise in building, trading and refurbishing cigar machinery. SCM has an extended portfolio of new machines and innovations as well as rebuilt and used machines, including the classic MIR series by Arenco. SCM can deliver everything from a single spare part to entire production lines is believed to have the world’s biggest stock of used cigar machinery.
IMAtec has a solid and long-standing reputation in packaging for tobacco, food, pet food, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Known as a creator of innovative and value-added solutions in OTP and packing, the company produces cigarette paper booklet machines, pouch makers, clear-wrap kits, shrink kits and end-of-line packaging solutions. In addition, IMAtec offers complete packaging solutions, from concept to machine acceptance, including efficiency-improvement services.
Tricas is an industrial design organization that has been creating great innovative products for over 15 years
in the tobacco and non-tobacco industry. The company provides services throughout the full lifecycle of product development:
from concepts and prototyping to engineering and manufacturing.The team prides themselves on their commitment to being open-minded and out-of-the-box thinkers,which result to their capabilities in cross-over innovation. Together with their partners they create new, innovative solutions for the clients market.
Gemba Solutions, is an acknowledged specialist in delivering OEE software and continuous improvement services that maximize production efficiency, increase throughput, reduce inventory and provide all round visibility of a site’s operation and processes. They are able to support our customers with customized workshops and transformation programs which will lead to significant cost savings.
To maximize the opportunities for innovation, the ITMGroup has its own Innovation centre—an in-house production site where products can be tested from concept to final production launchThe company’s openness to innovation and its commitment to customers have resulted in several new machines, including the Solaris, a high speed solution for filter combining and heat not burn products, and the Genesis, the first automated solution for e-cigarettes.
In addition to these companies, the ITMGroup also includes Green Products and Hospital Equipment Services, De Olifant and De Eenhoorn.
But even as the ITMGroup has grown and evolved with the rapidly changing industry, one thing has remain the same—the company is still headquartered in Kampen, the city where it all started, and continues to be run by the Van der Sluis family. The current generation took the reins of the ITMGroup in 2007, when Arend Jr. van der Sluis became president of the board.