A Proud Legacy
TDM, as we know it today, started with the very humblest of beginnings when brothers Helmuth and Peter Scharf fled Germany during World War II to the safety of South Africa.
Upon their arrival, the brothers rented a small workshop and founded TDM (formerly known as Pinewood Industries) – little did they know how the company would grow to become the leading wooden door manufacturer in South Africa.
With a start-up capital of R200, the brothers grew TDM (Timber Door Manufacturers) into a large corporation that now boasts with more than 44 000m2 of factory space on a 10 hectare site.
Helmuth Scharf, a founding member of TDM has a lot to celebrate as the year 2015 marks his 84th birthday as well as the 54th anniversary of the company he helped build from nothingwith his brother Peter.
He explained how the journey to this point has been marked by memorable moments, both sad and exciting, and how it has culminated in a company philosophy at TDM that places social responsibility, people, and life fulfilment at the forefront of what they do.
Helmuth grew up in Tanzania, but with the outbreak of World War 2, he and his family, being of German decent, were repatriated to East German. His father starved to death in a Russian prison camp, and at the end of the war he, his brother, mother and two sisters fled back to Africa. They came to South Africa, as this was where they had deep roots stretching back to 1817, when the Scharf family set up the first mission station in the country, at Genadendal near Greytown.
The brothers came here with the single minded aim of starting a business. Carpentry was a skill that had been passed down in the family from the brothers’ grandfather to their father and then to Peter, and so a carpentry business was the obvious choice. It began as a one person enterprise, with Peter doing any carpentry work that came his way. Helmuth worked his way up to become the chief buyer for OTH Beier, a big company that manufactured boots, tents tarpaulins and carpets amongst other things. At night, he did the books for his brother. The business grew steadily and Helmuth eventually joined his brother. “I was used to dealing with the world” Helmuth remembers, “At OTH Beier I was buying jute from Calcutta, leather from Toronto and machinery from Germany.”
He brought these skills to the fledgling business and it soon benefited.
“My brother was the joiner and I was the office boy,” he smiles, “and I was selling more than he could make.” He remembers a “fantastic period of building up” as the business developed an export market and saw growth explode. “It was exciting,” he says. “We were bumping elbows working hard to meet demand.”
Together they built a company that today employs 530 people and manufactures over 400 different products. There have been many changes over the years, but certain core traditions have remained. TDM is still a family run business. Helmuth’s eldest son Martin has inherited the carpentry skills passed down through the generations, and has been trained as a wood engineer at the prestigious Rosenheim University in Munich.
He is the managing and technical director at TDM today. Helmuth’s second son, Hannes, is the sales and marketing director at TDM.
With family ties in South Africa that go back five generations, the Scharf family’s history is tightly interwoven in development here and as a retired director of TDM, Helmuth is resolute that being involved in the local community and well-being of staff is a crucial part of their operation. “It’s not only about moneymaking.” He emphasises. “It’s about spreading the wealth, about education, and about responsibility.” It’s a proud legacy to celebrate!
A Global Footprint
The TDM team of today has propelled the company to even greater heights, with the highest SABS accreditation and an astonishingly small carbon footprint, the company remains at the forefront of the wooden door manufacturing industry in South Africa.
The TDM team are all extremely proud of the company, its values and its industry-leading technology. Our team undergoes regular training and education to ensure that they stay at the top, where they belong.
TDM have a strong footprint throughout South Africa, in Port Elizabeth, Johannesburg, Cape Town and East London while they are also exporting into Africa and further abroad to America, Australia and Europe.
The TDM team continues to strive for personal growth as well as the growth of the company. Through the years we have built unrivalled partnerships by offering a comprehensive product range to suit any application.
For more information about the company, our people and our products, please contact us.