From a classic German mid-size business to an internationally-oriented holding company describes, in short, the structural changes in the JK-Group of companies in recent years.
The company was founded in 1927 by Josef Kratz, Sr. It was a small, family-owned cabinet making and wheel righting business. The original corporation was called Josef Kratz GmbH (the current holding of the JK-Group of companies was founded in 1969). During the course of its 30-year history, it developed from a sauna manufacturing company into one of the world's leading companies in the tanning industry. Walter Kratz is the owner and Chairman of the Board of the JK-Group of companies. Herman Nanninga is the President & CEO of JK-Holding GmbH.The JK-Group of companies is currently concentrating its activities on the development, production and sales of tanning beds for both private and professional use. In the area of professional solarium production, i.e. tanning beds that are used by companies for business purposes, the JK-Group is the global market leader. Furthermore, the JK-Group of companies enjoys an estimated market share of more than 65% in the German market with its Ergoline brand. With international sales in more than 40 countries worldwide, the entire JK-Group of companies employs approximately 1,000 personnel – about 550 of them in Germany.The increasing competitive intensity over the last few years in the so called professional market has caused JK to adopt a two brand strategy. The goal is to demonstrate Ergoline’s leading product and quality characteristics in national and international competition. The Ergoline professional sunbed program provides exceptional product innovations as well as a comprehensive line of products for all applications related to cosmetic tanning.The Soltron brand, revived in early 1999, with its high quality and know-how standards, fresh design style and a mid-range price strategy is targeted at alternative and younger clients (commercial applications, operators, end users, etc.). With the founding of the independent sales organization Soltron GmbH, company management is betting that the separate initiative and responsibility given for a single product area will create the greatest possible synergy – similar to what you might see with the formation of process-oriented, smaller company units.The acquisition of SUN Industries in the United States in August 1999 has laid a strong foundation for the marketing of Ergoline brand professional tanning beds in the North American market. The company is headquartered in Jonesboro, Arkansas. It is one of the leading manufacturers in the U.S. with up to 200 employees and annual sales of more than $40 million. The Sun Ergoline company has an excellent market reputation, an existing dealer network and a comprehensive product line. Ergoline professional sunbeds make an excellent addition to the Sun Dash product line in the high-end professional segment. This is a continuation of the two market strategy, which already has a successful track record in Europe.JK-Light (formerly Global Sun Light) has been operational since October 2000. It is acting as a counterpart to the European JK-Licht GmbH for North America. The central thrust of all activities there is the marketing of consumer goods related to solariums and tanning salons. For the moment, this merger has no immediate impact on the German market. The vision for this acquisition is the international expansion and development of the U.S. market.Product developments and innovations originate from the JK Development Center, which employs more than 60 people (designers, technicians, electrical engineers, mechanics, etc.). Many of our development projects are supported by grants from the Department for Small Business R&D of the German state governments of Nordrhein-Westfalen and Rheinland-Pfalz.Professional quality control for all production and management processes has been a longstanding commitment at JK. For this reason, JK-Holding GmbH became certified by the European standard DIN EN ISO 9001 in 1993. Recently, the JK-Group successfully completed an environmental audit as per EWG 1936/93.Along with the development of innovative product designs and technologies, which in the past have set new industry standards again and again, new solutions are also being developed in the area of production techniques. These new techniques place high quality and know-how requirements on suppliers. For many years, JK has also employed modern management methods to design efficient development, production and administrative processes and keep the company’s organization “lean.”JK can also point to numerous activities in the area of industry development:
- Training of external service technicians, salon personnel and investors as well as JK employees
- Founding member and active participation in the umbrella trade organization Sonnenlicht-Systeme e. V. as well as active membership on its economic advisory board, as well as a member of ESA (European Sunlight Association) since the beginning of 2000.
- Cooperation with other industry companies (e.g. Philips GmbH, UB-Philips GmbH) in the area of market research for determining basis data for the entire industry.
- Institutionalization of experience exchange with long-term suppliers to increase the efficiency of procurement activities for JK and its suppliers.
- Development of company-specific management methods and the distribution of them to cooperating companies
- An active member of the ITA (Indoor Tanning Association)