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Andre Tillmanns, a trained industrial manager, began his career at the Coroplast Group more than 20 years ago with a six-year stint in the Wires & Cables sales department. Previously, he had completed an apprenticeship at the German cable factory Kabelwerke Reinshagen (today APTIV/Prysmian). He had also tried out an entirely different branch altogether and had spent five years working in the music industry. If there’s one thing Andre Tillmanns likes, it’s variety: his motto for his free time is that every sport should be tried at least once. His latest hobby is surfing – both indoors and out.
So in 2000, he gladly accepts the offer to settle in China and manage the sales department, Tillmanns jumped at the chance. It was an adventure right from the start and his first trip took him out into the provinces, to the city of Ningbo in a propeller plane. “The big bridge over Hangzhou Bay didn’t exist back then. Instead, we had a 20-minute flight from Shanghai to Ningbo and then another two-and-a-half-hour drive in the car.” Our destination was a dealer who supplied a Tier 1 for Volkswagen in Shanghai. “That was really pioneering work at the time. We were there for five days and our contact person wanted to show us the rural side of China. Every day they served us new delicacies, which we tried without really knowing what we were eating,” Tillmanns recalls, smiling to himself. But after a while he began to like it there and he got down to work: He analyzed supply chains, set up an entire sales network for cables and adhesive tapes and also began working on the first local approvals for ABS wire harnesses.
On-site production began in 2004. “At times it was a bit of a rocky road, but in the end we managed it,” he says. Five years later, he headed back to Europe: There, the sales expert was in charge of “what we would nowadays call business development” for the areas of Eastern Europe and the UK as well as Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia. In 2014 he returned to China – this time as General Manager and this time for Coroplast Tape. And the results of his work are impressive: “In Kunshan, we now have an adhesive tape factory with approx. 100 employees. 2009 – a difficult year after the Lehman Brothers collapse – we had revenues here just under a million euros. Ten years later, our revenues have grown by more than twenty-fold.” Despite the challenges posed by the Corona crisis, 2020 also closed successfully with a record revenues.
Every morning he leaves his house in Shanghai around 7 AM in order to arrive at the factory before 9 AM. In one of China’s largest cities with around 24 million residents, rush hour means traffic jams of monumental proportions. To avoid it, Andre Tillmanns often does his grocery shopping on the way home or stops by his favorite running path along a lake in Kunshan. Tillmanns sums up his tasks as General Manager of Coroplast Tape Technology in Kunshan in two words: “coordinating and supervising.” As a trained salesman, he particularly values relationships with customers and partners. The goal, of course, is acquiring new customers and expanding the existing business – especially with exports to neighboring Asian countries. Outside of work, Tillmanns has a passion for kickboxing; in Shanghai, he has participated in five fights, though he has no plans to do another.
I’m probably the only person at Coroplast that has participated in five kickboxing fights in Shanghai.
Tillmanns is glad to see his employees in China becoming “real Coroplasters” – employee turnover has decreased dramatically. He knows, too, that, in China, team building is incredibly important. “We do a lot together – from dragon boating to yoga, playing badminton or soccer, to celebrating the Chinese New Year festival. This brings us closer and makes our team, and the company as a whole, stronger.” He himself is a Coroplast brand ambassador through and through: “A real Coroplaster is someone who stands behind our products, who’s not waiting by the phone for a headhunter to call, someone who acts responsibly and, when the company needs it, stays in the office after 5:30 PM or works remotely.” Incidentally, Tillmanns had his own interview for Coroplast in person with current CEO Natalie Mekelburger. For Tillmanns, the sense of family within the Coroplast Group was always a big positive. He still really enjoys his job in China, but, in the long-term, the father of two children definitely intends to return to Wuppertal. And if he does happen to win a million, then he will donate an indoor surf park to his hometown – just as promised.