The historic Jacob Delafon ceramic sanitary site taken over by the French SME Kramer

A French buyer for the emblematic Jacob Delafon ceramic sanitary ware factory installed since 1889 in Damparis, in the Jura. Nobody would have bet on this outcome nine months ago, when, in September 2020, the American group Kohler, owner of the site since 1986, announced its intention to part ways with it. To justify his decision, he put forward a “Chronic overcapacity” of the site, and production costs significantly higher than those of its plant in Tangier, Morocco.

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At the end of several twists and turns in recent months, the Kramer group, 112 employees (30 million euros in turnover in 2019), founded in the Meuse in 1981, announced on Friday June 4 in a press release that it was “The new buyer” of the site and would launch its activity there from 1er July. The company specializes in medium-range sanitary fittings, and in particular private labels for sale in DIY chains, and very high-end (Horus). “Through the Horus company, which already offers a range of ceramics in its Classic collection (basins, bathtubs, toilets, etc.), the group will develop a dozen new models which will enrich its catalog by 2022” Kramer indicates in his press release, highlighting “Made in France”.

The president of the group, Manuel Rodriguez, had explained his motivations to the World when he first applied for the takeover, in February. ” It is the last site capable of producing sanitary ware in stoneware and porcelain in France, and its closure would sign the definitive disappearance of this know-how in our country, he declared then. I had an entrepreneurial and industrial reflex. At a time when we speak of “Made in France” and to reindustrialize France, the planets seemed to me to be well aligned. “

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He then withdrew his offer following disagreements with the Kohler group. Finally, “With the help of the State and the region”, he made a new one in March. It is original in that it is the agglomeration community of Grand Dole which acquires the land and buildings via a semi-public company in which it is a shareholder. Amount of the operation: 1.350 million euros, including 600,000 euros in subsidy from the region. A hire-purchase (or leasing) contract has been established with Kramer, which will pay a little each year to become the owner within fifteen years.

Reclassification leave

“It’s a smart process, underlines Jean-Yves Hinterlang, commissioner for restructuring and prevention of business difficulties in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region. This reduces the costs for the purchaser and allows him to initially devote his money to other priorities, such as the purchase of new equipment, the development of new models or the constitution of a cash flow. “ Kramer estimates its total investment at nearly 5 million euros. The SME also hopes to benefit from the help of the recovery plan.

However, the picture is not all rosy. The initial disagreements between Kramer, the buyer, and Kohler, the seller, did not allow the sale to be completed before the end of the job protection plan, signed on March 3, recording the economic dismissal of 151 employees. The first affected have just received their notification. They have reclassification leave which will allow them to receive “Almost their salary for a year”, indicates Rodolphe Gomis, CFE-CGC delegate for the site.

Kramer expects sixty-five hires during the first year, during the development of the models, from the drawing to the manufacture of the molds.

However, the Kramer group project provides for “A staggered hiring program in which former site employees will have priority”. About twenty dismissed employees, and in particular those with the most specific know-how, essential to relaunch the production of new ceramic sanitary ware models, could be quickly rehired on the site. Kramer undertakes to inform the reclassification unit of vacancies. He plans to hire sixty-five in the first year. The time for model development, from drawing to mold making. And aims to find a total of 150 employees by 2026, “Reconnecting with the original site workforce”.

Employees, who have been torn in recent months over the strategies to be followed, were informed of the takeover on Thursday, June 3. ” There were a bit of all the feelings. Some were delighted to see that they would be able to continue this profession which fascinates them, others will not come back ”, notes Isabelle Baudin, CGT delegate, who sees it, she, ” good news “. ” We would have preferred not to be fired! launches Rodolphe Gomis. Finding yourself several months inactive is not going to be easy. ” But there is optimism and relief in his voice: “Finally, we have our chance to start over! “