Colourful industrial culture at Covestro
Dormagen - Germany
It is 10 October 2017 and there is a lot of activity going on at Gate 10 of Dormagen’s Chempark complex. Hundreds of employees from Covestro, their family members, friends, industrial neighbours and Dormagen residents have gathered in black, white and yellow hoodies in order to set a world record. Even Covestro Board of Management Chairman Patrick Thomas and Dormagen’s Mayor Erik Lierenfeld have temporarily discarded their suit jackets for hoodies to merge into the crowd. At 11.45 a.m. on the dot, a bird’s eye view reveals what the whole venture is all about. A throng of 694 enthusiastic participants raise their arms with a cheer. Together they have just formed the largest forklift truck ever drawn with human "pixels". A world record to which MC-Bauchemie also contributed! At the invitation of Anja Waidele, Project Manager for the "Covestro Artwork", MC Sales Advisor Frank Schontaube joined the crowd in a white hoodie. Yet the actual reason for this undertaking was another highlight that made nationwide headlines for Dormagen in Germany.
A job for MC-Color Flair vision
The successful world record attempt was simply an overture for the inauguration of the latest "Covestro Artwork": the Dormagen high-bay warehouse located directly at Gate 10 in Dormagen’s Chempark. In cooperation with the Wuppertal-based graffiti artist Martin Heuwold, Covestro redesigned the huge façade of the 69 metre long, 35 metre high and 23 metre wide building near the central visitor reception.
The coating selected by Covestro was MC-Color Flair vision, a high-end pigmented coating from MC which also serves as preventative concrete protection for weather-exposed exterior surfaces. MC-Color Flair vision features "Easy-to-Clean Technology", ensuring particularly low dirt pick-up and the durability of the colourful high-bay warehouse design over the long term. Compliant with EN ISO 11998, MC-Color Flair vision comes with Class 1 wet scrub resistance and a Class 0 cleanability rating. It can be used in the splash and spray areas exposed to de-icing salts and can be applied both manually with short-pile rollers and by airless spraying.
MC is very familiar with the requirements that prevail at Dormagen’s Chempark, having been involved for many years in a variety of protective applications relating to reinforced concrete structures. Even at the high-bay warehouse, site of the world record attempt, maintenance was carried out a few years ago on the concrete cross section; this is still in impeccable condition and is now supporting further expansion work. The advice provided by MC’s sales and technology personnel has consistently provided Covestro with technically optimised solutions.
Some raw materials that MC uses for its MC-Color Flair vision product range actually come from Covestro,so this was also an important factor. Artwork project manager Anja Waidele expressed her pleasure at the towering result: "This colourful, industrial-scale work of art enhances Covestro’s profile and is also an excellent advertisement for the quality of our products." A colourful building block motif with rectangles, circles, bridges, semicircles and triangles shines visibly from afar in the six company colours – a major presence celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Chempark facility in Dormagen. Patrick Thomas, CEO of Covestro, was also delighted: "This is further proof of Covestro’s entrepreneurial spirit and once again reflects our commitment to cooperation, cohesion and courage as elements of the company’s still young history."
Covestro’s merger of industry and art
The company is indeed still young and yet it can look back over a long corporate tradition. A legally independent entity since September 2015, Covestro was listed in the DAX, Germany’s index of stocks and shares, in March 2018. It has its origins in the Bayer Group, whose roots go back to the 19th Century. The company later developed into the Bayer Material Science subgroup, with more than two dozen sites in Europe, Asia and America. The business was initially spun off under the new name "Covestro" in 2015 and floated on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange in October of the same year. Today, Covestro is one of the world’s largest polymer manufacturers and a leader in the development and production of high-quality materials used in many areas of modern life. The company name is made up of the English words ‘collaboration’, ‘invest’ and ‘strong’. In 2017, the more than 16,000 employees worldwide achieved annual sales of around €14 billion.
This is not the first time that Covestro has shifted the boundaries between industry and art. The company’s unusual creativity first became apparent in 2015 when Martin Heuwold introduced a mobile "graffiti wall". This 25 metre wide and 3 metre high graffiti art-interpreted company logo is currently touring Covestro’s various locations around the world. In 2016, Covestro commissioned the artist to design the 132 metre high chimney of Brunsbüttel Industrial Park as a colourful multi-piece jigsaw puzzle.
MC-Bauchemie also supported this project with its expertise. "As a young company, Covestro exhibits a great deal of dynamism and agility," stresses Patrick Thomas, "and this is what we express in our industrial works of art. In a rather colourless chemical industry, we present ourselves as a multi-facetted, bright and diverse player."
The making of the artwork
The redesign of the Chempark’s K15 high-bay warehouse started at the beginning of June 2017: "The building block motif almost emerged of its own accord. As a colourful bold visual that is intended to arouse curiosity about us, it not only cleverly visualises our corporate values but also perfectly reflects aspects of warehousing and logistics at the Dormagen site," says Dr. Klaus Jaeger, site manager of the Lower-Rhine Covestro plant.
For Martin Heuwold this was a real break: He and his art had a unique canvas at their disposal. The huge painting area of 4,500 square metres is the size of around 23 tennis courts.
However, this surface first had to be cleaned to remove grime and old coatings. Here, too, MC products played an important part: After the specialist applicators had initially cleaned the surface using high-pressure water jets, they applied the fine filler mortar Nafufill KM 110 in order to eliminate any pores and voids and thus create the ideal substrate. They then treated the levelled surface with MC-DUR 1177 WV-A. This multifunctional transparent epoxy resin serves as an adhesion promoter between cement-bonded substrates and surface protection systems, and as a primer for subsequent reactive resin sealants. With the completion of the preliminary works, the project was now ready for creative implementation. Heuwold and his team drew 328 building block motifs on the warehouse façade according to a precise blueprint. These were to be painted in the six different company colours in accordance with the artist’s instructions. Added to this, 12 different shades were to be incorporated in order to achieve realistic 3D effects.
The next step was to fill in the pre-drawn contours, with MC-Color Flair vision having an important part to play. This two-component aqueous polyurethane polymer combination is UV and weather-resistant and therefore particularly colour-stable. In addition, the high-quality coating with integrated "Easy-to-Clean Technology" not only offers permanent protection against discolouration and blemishes, but also protects the concrete through its carbonation-inhibiting effect. The pigmentation of the coating makes numerous colour combinations possible within the MC-Color-Flair vision palette. In Dormagen, this was a major contributor to the overall success of the artwork. Two shades of the six main colours each provided an impressive depth effect within the individual building blocks. All the necessary colour shades were determined jointly by Dr. Doerte Bartel, head of the pigmentation laboratory at MC, specialist consultant Frank Schontaube and the artist himself. The company produced a total of 18 colour variants with such precision that the artist was able to fully implement his design without compromise. The coloured areas could now be filled in by the applicator, Bottrop-based KST-Kunststofftechnik, following Heuwold’s precise guidelines, a job that involved a total of 1,800 kilograms of MC-Color Flair vision.
Horst Mews, plant engineer at Covestro, led the art project as its technical director. As an IT maintenance engineer, he is normally responsible for the operation, ongoing maintenance work and handling of logistics projects within the company. So the creation of the artwork was something quite new and special for him: "We could all see the Covestro design taking shape day after day. Now this amazing vision is bringing our individually well-versed teams closer together as a larger whole."
Site manager Dr. Klaus Jaeger is similarly enthusiastic: "The artwork is a perfect brand ambassador, providing a wonderfully successful visualisation of our corporate values. We are curious, courageous and colourful. And now we have a landmark in Dormagen that we can all be proud of."
“This has been a really special day. It is not something that you often experience and it is a first in my 25 years at MC,” says a visibly impressed Frank Schontaube. “Everyone involved, from the project management of Covestro to MC-Bauchemie, the application company KST and the artist’s team, collaborated together in perfect harmony to create this remarkable work of art.” The “Covestro Artwork” concept has proven to be a great success, with further projects already in the pipeline: The design of two building complexes is in progress in Shanghai. In Switzerland, meanwhile, Covestro will soon be known as the curious, courageous and above all colourful competitor in an otherwise rather drab industrial landscape.