75 years of TALKE

The specialist logistics company celebrates its 75th anniversary and sets a course for the future.

75 years of TALKE chemical logistics

“Proud of what was and now is – and ready for what is to come” was the key message of Alfred Talke’s welcoming speech at the TALKE Family Day.

The logistics company for the world of chemicals celebrated its 75th company anniversary in August at its headquarters in Huerth, near Cologne, Germany, with its employees and their families. Further anniversary events will be held this year at locations in Germany and Europe, the USA and the Middle East, as TALKE is also present in these regions and employs over 4,600 people.

Strong roots

TALKE’s roots sprang during a pioneering period from its post-war foundation into the 1960s. Shortly after the end of the Second World War, Silesian carpenter Alfred Talke, grandfather of today’s managing director, recognised the potential of the chemical industry in the Rhineland.

The Allies had decided to help Germany get back on its feet economically. With this in mind, he founded a transport company named after him in Huerth. The main cargo was initially lignite, which was needed in large quantities as an energy source for production in the chemical industry.

But with technological breakthroughs in the chemical industry, the demands on transporters changed. In 1949, for example, chemist Fritz Stastny at BASF discovered a process for foaming polystyrene – the basis for the ‘material of the century’, Styropor. Mass production of the various materials requires large quantities of liquid chemicals. So, Alfred Talke rose to the challenge. He developed the first truck of his own for their safe transport – and thus created a new standard. The fleet subsequently grew continuously, and in 1953 the first branch office was established in Dusseldorf. The company continued to develop most of the vehicles it used itself until the early 1960s.

Regional growth in the 1970s

By the 1970s, the Rhineland had finally developed into a major chemical region. Like its numerous customers from the chemical and petrochemical industries, TALKE continued to grow during this period. In 1973, the company moved to its current headquarters in Huerth, near Cologne. Among the major advantages in Huerth are the company’s own filling and storage capacities and a dedicated truck cleaning station and workshop.

But it was not only in the Cologne area that the company grew. In 1972, a new site was built in Stade at the same time as a new Dow Chemical plant was established. Due to the rapid development of the industry, it became increasingly important for TALKE to be close to its customers in other chemical regions as well. One of these locations was Ludwigshafen am Rhein, which today is BASF’s headquarters and the hub of one of the world’s largest chemical sites. In 1974, TALKE also opened a new logistics centre there, including a high-silo facility in Ludwigshafen.

In 1975, TALKE secured a connection to the shipping industry with its own logistics centre in Cologne-Niehl. This site also has its own rail siding, and as such the foundation for intermodal transport services was thus laid.

International expansion

For TALKE, the path to the wider world opened in 1987, starting with Europe. With TALKE Forwarding NV, the company founded its first foreign subsidiary in the Belgian hub port of Antwerp. Just two years later, this strategic decision led to a significant innovation in the industry: in 1989, TALKE took over the planning, construction and operation of the first on-site logistics facility, including elevated silos, for the former company Statoil in Antwerp. Today, these services are an integral part of the Logistic Solutions business unit.

The fall of the Iron Curtain marked the start of expansion towards the East, and with TALKE Polska, the first branch office in Eastern Europe was opened in 1995.

Global expansion really took off in 2003. With venture partner Aljabr, TALKE took on the first on-site logistics outsourcing on the Arabian Peninsula for plastics manufacturer Tasnee.

As with the proverbial ‘green field’, the company started its activities in the barren desert. Today, the company is firmly rooted in the region with its joint ventures SA TALKE, RSA TALKE and Aljabr-TALKE.

In parallel, TALKE continued to expand in Europe, founding the Global-TALKE joint venture with a Spanish global freight forwarder in 2005. In 2016, TALKE made the leap across the Atlantic by entering the US market, and new plans call for the opening of a hazardous materials warehouse in Port Klang, Malaysia, in 2023.

As a result of these and other activities, TALKE can now look back on a presence in 12 countries. And always close to the customer: either physically on the customer’s premises or within chemical parks and hubs, and digitally, thanks to comprehensive IT solutions.

New brand, strategic direction

As TALKE’s history shows, the company has always taken its future into its own hands – then as now. For 75 years and into the future, TALKE’s top priority has been to focus on its customers. From its broad portfolio of services, the company puts together custom-fit solutions along the entire value chain for individual requirements. Today’s core competencies are transport, packaging, storage and handling of hazardous and harmless substances of all aggregate states. In addition, TALKE advises, designs and implements all aspects of logistics processes, buildings and facilities.

Last but not least, as a family-owned company, TALKE is aware of its special responsibility. Responsibility for ensuring that all activities are in harmony with the environment and the interests of all stakeholders. The overriding goal is to make a positive, visible difference today and for future generations.

In its anniversary year, TALKE is making its spirit of optimism for the future clear with a new mission statement and brand identity. “As #1 solution partner for the world of chemistry, we set standards and elevate logistics to the next level,” is the company’s ambitious vision. The ALFRED TALKE Logistic Services brand now becomes TALKE, combined with the claim “Always a Smart Move”. The company remains true to its red and blue colours, but in much more modern hues. After employees were introduced to the new logo at the anniversary celebration, the global rollout is now beginning. The course towards the future is thus clearly set.