Currently all processing will be from wet-blue but there are still plans for the provision of a beamhouse and a technical development unit on site, alongside the finishing plant and four footwear manufacturing units which produce 15,000 uppers and 3,000 pairs of shoes on a daily basis.

Asked why the company decided to proceed with the project when the tanning industry in China is facing such turbulent times, Panos Mytaros responds that ECCO never only look at short term horizons in any strategic investment. He says: ‘We have one of our top shoe factories here and will also have one of our top tanneries. It makes sense.’

The new tannery consists of three buildings: the production building; wastewater treatment unit and the utilities and warehouse building. According to Mike Redwood: ‘In some areas the machines are linked in a continuous way using alternate transport, minimising human intervention. While the machines are new and top quality, the technology being linked together is conventional, as required in a situation where all the companies’ plants are making identical leathers. 

‘The use of standard pallets and horses with the associated fork lifts has been eliminated. Instead, for the most part, goods will move on specially designed flatbeds running on an extensive rail system. 

‘Where the technology has not moved on too far in the industry, or where consolidation or closure in Europe has limited choice, Asian machinery has been bought. Yet where the European companies are really leading the way they have been rewarded by the perfect showcase for their products. For example ECCO have clearly been convinced by polypropylene retanning drums, and have installed them with an ultra efficient two floor system.

‘ECCO is a family business and one that understands the scale and scope that needs to come with globalisation. They are a second generation Danish footwear company showing the tanning world what is truly possible in our industry. A company that encourages ‘impatient curiosity’ and ‘constant exploring’.

‘If you visit ECCO Xiamen you will see not just one of the world’s best tanneries but the expression of a philosophy of how business can be done when a team has vision, commitment and the appropriate funds.

‘When he opened the Dutch facility in Dongen at the start of the decade Karl Toosbuy was already very ill. One thing he made clear: he would not have continued with the huge investment in leather without his faith in his leather director Panos Mytaros. There can be no doubt that Xiamen continues to prove him correct. A philosophy is important but the right people are required to carry it out.’


The production building

The production building is 150m long, 120m wide and 10m high, giving a production area of 18,000 m2. It is built in the form of a number of large boxes interconnected by glass windows to ensure plenty of natural light. The office area is positioned centrally and a bridge connects it to the production area.

A number of parameters were chosen early:

  • The buildings should be of Scandinavian design and create a lean production area and a good environment for the employees
  • Materials should be natural
  • The buildings should be light and airy
  • The buildings should be easy to maintain and clean inside and be flexible for further expansion.
  • The layout should be futuristic

Construction started at the end of October 2007 and at the time of the opening full production was forecast to be within the original one-year timescale planned, ie before the end of October 2008.

The capacity for Phase 1 is 20 million sq ft of finished leather. Later phases allow for an increase up to 50 million square feet.

The staff in Phase 1 will reach 175 and when in full production rise to 300. Most of the employees will be highly educated and skilled specialists in many disciplines.


The wastewater treatment unit

The facility incorporates the latest technology, cleaning the wastewater to the highest environmental standards. The wastewater treatment unit includes physical and biological processes and water coming out of the unit will be clean with no further treatment required.

The unit is designed in a way that makes it possible to expand in the future. It was planned by a German engineering company with the aim of reducing waste and fulfilling the highest environmental demands.


The utility and warehousing building

The building is 145m long, 40m wide and has a height of 6m. The first part is the wet-blue storage, with a capacity for three months work. The second section is the preparation area of the wet-blue for production.

A specially designed chemical storage area forms the third part. Last is the utilities area for production of hot water, the air compressors and water mixing units.


A green approach

By using polypropylene drums, rather than the usual wood or stainless steel, it is possible to reduce water consumption by 25%. The drums are easy to clean and maintain and use 20% less electricity than standard drums.

By installing a conveyor system for unloading the drums, this process becomes automatic. No longer will forklifts be required – this has always been a pollution issue and also one of the highest safety risk areas.

By investing heavily in the latest drying equipment it has also been possible to reduce the energy required for the drying of the leather. An estimated 20% energy saving is planned.

In the finishing area, ECCO have developed a new system which does away with the usual tables and use of forklifts. Instead, the new ECCO designed loading system will allow lean production and easier planning and control.

Chemicals will be injected automatically. This will eliminate any handling by employees with less risk of accidents and also reduce the overall consumption.

To create energy, the company have chosen liquid gas and there will be no use of diesel oil. This gives a markedly cleaner environment.

The construction of the building with much natural light and high ceilings reduces the use of artificial light and ventilation systems.



The tannery sits in a total land area of 106,856 m2

Total built-up area is 23,300 m2

Total production area is 18,000 m2

Total office area is 3,500 m2


Some of the machinery

Hüni of Switzerland supplied ten Jumbo polypropylene drums, 3m x 2m, fully automated with automatic doors and automatic drain and full external recycling with heating and cooling possibilities. They also provided process control Microtan for the existing ten drums with provision for the next phase of further ten drums, with two Prodomix chemical dosing systems, two Aquamix water mixing systems, a Prodotracer powder products registration and weighing system, PH-Tracer, Persontracer; all controlled and visualized by the Hüni Master and Visutan systems.

In addition they have Conoscreen filters for filtration on each line of five drums; an Aquamix lab for the ten Trial drums and an Aquamix for the wooden rewetting drum.

SystemHaus Europe has supplied the new tannery software Antara shop floor solution which has been fully integrated into the SAP solution which is handling all the administration.

Intermedia are located in Dongen in Holland which makes them ideally situated to supply the ECCO Leather Group with tannery machinery and accessories. For Xiamen they supplied: 4 Barnini spraying lines; 1 laboratory sized roller coater; 1 drying line from Thema plus a complete line of Thema components for their hang dry systems; 1 toggle dryer from Thailand; 2 buffing lines from Aletti; 1 dust exhaustion  and compacting system from Aletti; 1 GER measuring and bundling line; 1 yield measuring system from GER.

Bauce supplied their new hydraulic sammying 
machine called Bluestar TA 1S 30 MT.

Equitan say they have been proud to be a supplier to the ECCO Group for  a few years, providing them staking belts, conveyor belts and felts, rubber sleeves and accessories and including items for the new Xiamen plant.

Another supplier at Xiamen, Lamebo provided splitting band knives for splitting machines. Lamebo blades are known all over the world for the quality of steel, welding, straightness, perfect cut, constant high quality. Band knives range from 2,060mm-14,000mm, with different width and thickness, according to the type of the machine.

 ECCO Leather Group

The ECCO Leather Group is a division in ECCO, fully owned by ECCO Sko A/S.

The leather group is managed by Panos Mytaros from the HQ in Dongen, the Netherlands.

The leather group owns four tanneries, including the new Chinese tannery, and a Research and Development Centre.

  • ECCO Research and Development Centre, Dongen, the Netherlands

Employing: 40 people

Headquarters of the leather group and development centre

  • ECCO Tannery Holland BV, Dongen, the Netherlands

Employing: 110 people

Production of semi-finished product called wet-blue from raw hide

900,000 hides per year

  • ECCO Tannery Indonesia, Surabaya, Indonesia

Employing: 375 people

Production from raw hide to finished leather

350,000 hides per year

18,000,000 sq ft of leather

  • ECCO Tannery Thailand, Ayutthaya,Thailand

Employing: 250 people

Production from wet-blue to finished leather

12,000,000 sq ft of leather

  • ECCO Tannery Xiamen, Xiamen, China

Management: Arthur Jones, CEO

Howard Abbey, CFO

Bala Hari Krishnan, production director

In 2008 the leather group will produce a total of:

Raw hides to wet-blue   1,250,000 hides

Wet-blue to leather 30,000,000 sq ft

The plan is to grow at the rate of 14% per year to 66 million sq ft of leather by 2013.