If there is a saying that goes well with NOLTA founder Walter Tatje, then it is probably „Necessity is the mother of invention“. Germany in the year 1945. Numerous cities were destroyed. In the Upper Hessian town Marburg, the then 40-year-old lathe operator began to build a new life for himself and his family. He got lucky. Due to his political neutrality during wartime he was allowed to start a business. Together with his brother-in-law Heinrich Bonn, he opened the wholesale distribution of technical products (GTE) in his hometown and laid the foundation for a unique success story.
The beginning was full of obstacles. Which technical products could be sold when there was virtually nothing? On foot and by bike Tatje and Bonn set off to collect steel scrap. Every meter of cable, every light bulb was immensely valuable. The men made lamps from war waste such as old steel helmets and with infinite diligence and commitment, the GTE developed over the years to a major electrical wholesaler in Hesse.
Walter Tatje had a special talent: He recognized technical relationships and wanted to develop them further. „Making products smarter“ was his special passion. So he had the ambition to construct a „thinking“ immersion heater that shut itself off. He developed interior lights with particularly high efficiency or dreamed of street lights that do not blind drivers and still illuminate all lanes.
Walter Tatje was a tinkerer and it was only a matter of time before he came up with a groundbreaking idea: In 1959 he developed the first single-phase motor protection plug in collaboration with an engineer Nolte.
Walter Tatje also had a second talent: he was a good salesperson. That‘s why he presented the new invention to a major manufacturer of construction machinery in Munich - and received his first order for more than 300 devices. A great success, however, the production of motor protection plugs was still far from industrialized. The first order was therefore manufactured by hand, deliverery delayed and was nevertheless the encouraging start of the NOLTA. The namesake of the new company were the inventors themselves: Nolte and Tatje.
Through visits in Germany, the customer base grew and by participating in the Hanover Fair NOLTA was also able to make first international contacts. Already in 1960, the company introduced the 3-phase motor protection plug and began in 1969 with the production of control devices. Today, the range of NOLTA extends to the areas of motor protection, level switches and controls.
Joining the electrical wholesale company of his father was not an option for Felix Bonn. A dual degree in International Business Management at Siemens was more in line with his interests. The training led Felix Bonn to Switzerland, France, Indonesia and the USA. It opened his eyes to the world and the possibilities that exist in it. „In any case, I wanted to write my diploma thesis on a topic that had a practical appication. After all, good ideas should not be shelved,“ explains the current managing director of NOLTA.
It was fortunate that his father was involved in another company, the NOLTA. The renowned manufacturer of motor protection and water technology was on its way to internationalization at this very time.
The central purchasing of the customers had changed. Now it was important to be present in the respective markets. In addition, NOLTA had already achieved market saturation in Germany - NOLTA motor protection plugs were in use on nine out of ten construction sites. So where to grow? The diploma thesis topic for Felix Bonn was found. „After a market analysis, I wrote my work about the expansion of NOLTA in the United States,“ says Bonn. „But I did not just want to write the concept, but also implement it.“ So in 2007, he joined his father‘s company.
Felix Bonn initially supported Dr.-Ing. Jochen Knake, who had taken over the management of NOLTA in the mid-1990s. Thanks to his marketing background at Procter & Gamble, Knake streamlined NOLTA‘s offering, improving the company‘s profitability. In 2007 he was responsible for the expansion of NOLTA to China. Felix Bonn took over the expansion to the West during this time and built up a NOLTA presence with an office and warehouse in Boston.
Since 2012 Bonn and Knake share the tasks of the management.
In 2013, the duo decided to found a subsidiary in India in order to be more differentiated on the Asian market.
With the founding of the innovation hub NOLTA NOVA, at the beginning of 2017, Bonn and Knake are continuing on the company‘s road to success.
Today every german construction worker knows NOLTA plugs. Since its introduction, it has become a classic generic term, such as Walkman used to be for portable tape recorders or Kleenex for paper handkerchiefs. The reason for this is simple: With the innovative motor protection plug, NOLTA was the first to be launched on the market in 1959. And with the number 1, customers always associate something special, an innovation that they particularly value. This uniqueness no longer exists for the runner up in the market and certainly not for other imitators.
Another indication of a strong brand is a consistently high quality over decades. So it is not surprising that products by NOLTA are nowadays indispensable in the world of water technology.
The idea behind the NOLTA plug is as simple as it is ingenious: It protects motors from thermal overload, short-circuit or, if desired, from the wrong direction of rotation - directly within the device so that mobile construction machines or pumps can simply be switched on again in the event of a failure. On construction sites and in manufacturing plants, NOLTA plugs have made life easier.
The difference is in the detail
Where NOLTA plugs are used conditions are tough. In daily use, they must therefore withstand high mechanical loads. Where older models sometimes lead to material fatigue on the plug attachment, this phenomenon can no longer occur on the new NOLTA 50 series starters. The stability of the plug attachment is guaranteed by the fact that it is molded in one piece with the bottom of the plug. Occurring leverage effects are absorbed directly from the housing and making it virtually impossible to break.
Large product range for every application
NOLTA is a specialist for specialists. Thanks to a broad product range, customers benefit from contactor combinations for special machines and applications in order to operate them more energy-efficiently.
Christmas Eve in the 1990s. Peter Jankowski, a plumber, had on-call duty when he received a call from a farm in Baden, Switzerland. On this very day, the pump of the septic tank in the yard failed. Who wants to improvise over Christmas in terms of need and hygiene? A repair was urgently required. As an experienced plumber, Peter Jankowski knew: In 90% of the cases, not the pump itself, but the float switch is defective. Therefore, he had already stocked up on new switches and carried them with him in his truck.
Arriving at the farm, Jankowski asked the family not to use toilets for the next half hour and swung himself - a giant of a man - into the septic tank. Apparently, not all family members had heard his appeal. As soon as he stood in the narrow tube, he was hit by a torrent of black water. That was too much for the dedicated craftsman - and at the same time the key moment for a new life‘s work: He vowed to develop a float switch that would never fail. He already had the idea in the drawer and when Peter Jankowski reached retirement age, he started to get to work on this idea.
So it came to be that an installer with 40 years of professional experience used his retirement to rise with his company Niva GmbH to market leader in level controls. The product convinced customers on a national and international level. The innovative idea consisted of a double capsule of the float switch and a steel ball that actuates a microswitch at a certain angle of inclination. In addition, the teardrop shape developed by Jankowski prevented solids such as toilet paper from settling and holding down the switch.
At the age of 70, Peter Jankowski finally wanted to retire. He was already working closely with NOLTA at the time and offered the business partner to take over Niva GmbH, as they already had an excellent, complementing portfolio in the area of pump technology. An offer that NOLTA gladly accepted. In 2008, Niva merged with NOLTA to form a joint operation.