+49 (0) 421 9600-10
17 January 2019 - Reinhard Wirtz

A successful future based on attention to detail

Success stories

Like father, like son – Rolf Indorf and his son Tim
Like father, like son – Rolf Indorf and his son Tim © WFB/Frank Pusch

What would be your idea of a traditional manufacturing company in the orthopaedic shoe sector? You might be picturing a small workshop with traditional tools on the workbench, a sewing machine, a device for grinding and polishing, with scraps of material scattered around the working platform and a pervasive smell of leather, rubber and glue. But Indorf Orthopädie-Schuhtechnik GmbH & Co. KG in Bremerhaven quickly exposes any such notions as lazy clichés. Rolf Indorf and his son Tim have set a course for growth and future success with a new building, new services, and new, ergonomic production methods.

On 8 June 2018, the two orthopaedic master shoemakers celebrated the opening of their new premises at Rudloffstrasse 64 together with their ten employees and a number of guests. The building offers around 450 square metres of floorspace, with a reception area, workshops, store rooms, offices and staff areas. “This new building is helping us make the company fit for the next 81 years,” says Tim Indorf, in reference to the origins of the company, which was founded in Bremerhaven in 1937. Indorf acquired the municipal site, which covers just over 1,700 square metres, for its new building with the help of BIS Bremerhavener Gesellschaft für Investitionsförderung und Stadtentwicklung mbH. Together with BAB – the development bank for Bremen and Bremerhaven – BIS was also able to further support the investment project by accessing subsidies from the LIP 2014 regional investment programme. “Bremeninvest, the BAB and Weser-Elbe Sparkasse savings bank all supported us greatly with help and advice. The whole thing was seamless,” reports Tim Indorf approvingly as he looks back on the collaborative efforts of all those involved. Indorf supplies and makes orthopaedic shoes, offers adaptation of mass-produced shoes (incl. safety shoes) and insoles, and also provides shoe repairs. The range of products and services has been carefully planned and is clearly defined. “Our advantage is that we do not need to maintain an online shop. Our products are handmade, but we do not offer traditional bespoke shoemaking either. With our shoes, there is always an orthopaedic element involved. However, we do supply a lot of sportspeople with suitable shoes,” says Tim Indorf as he explains the company’s philosophy.  

Master shoemaker Indorf at work – combining traditional and modern methods
Master shoemaker Indorf at work – combining traditional and modern methods © WFB/Frank Pusch

The business has expanded rapidly over the last few years thanks to comprehensive customer support that includes services such as individual requirement analyses, electronic analyses of pressure and gait and various other measures, coupled with the entry of Tim Indorf into the family business. Eurogate, Lloyd’s shipyard, Tchibo, NTB, BLG, Frozen Fish (Iglo), Senvion and others – the list of customers quickly grew longer and longer.

The list of customers quickly grew longer and longer.

Orthopaedic master shoemaker Tim Indorf

“I joined the company in 2008 as a journeyman and became a master craftsman in 2013. From that point on the firm had two orthopaedic master shoemakers, so we could take on additional orders. My father continues to be a fully active part of the operation. This allowed us to expand our portfolio, and we have acquired many new customers,” explains Tim Indorf as he describes developments over the past few years which ultimately led to the decision to invest in a new company building.

When Indorf is not in the office, where the telephones seem to be constantly demanding his attention, he’s on the road. He estimates that around 90 per cent of his time is not spent in the office or the workshop, but on site with his customers where he provides consultations on aspects such as work and safety shoes, individual foot measurements, and product development. This may require workplace inspections or dynamic pressure measurements on customers’ feet. Then there are individual gait analyses, and the assessment of safety categories required for footwear in tough working environments. And ergonomics and comfort always have a role to play as well, of course.

‘Can’t be done’ just doesn’t cut it

The shoes are normally supplied by partners, based on the specifications from the orthopaedic analyses. For major customers such as Eurogate, who require several tens of thousands of pairs a year, this can take the form of direct distribution. For customers whose orders are on a more manageable scale, Indorf supply the shoes themselves or put them in touch with suitable suppliers. If existing models of shoes simply will not fit, Indorf is able to offer adaptations, insoles or made-to-measure footwear. ‘Can’t be done’ just doesn’t cut it. The company’s new building contains state-of-the-art machinery that can be adjusted to each employee’s individual working height at the push of a button. Elaborate extraction systems and filters provide clean air for the workshops. The workbenches have different working heights. The equipment for the orthopaedic adaptation of the shoes is fitted with hydraulic ramps – which benefits customers (wheelchair users) as well as employees. And there is a 3D printer that transforms the data recorded by the foot scanners and foot cameras into perfectly fitting lasts for custom-made shoes.  

The process of creating orthopaedic footwear in a wide range of shapes and sizes
The process of creating orthopaedic footwear in a wide range of shapes and sizes © WFB/Frank Pusch

Indorf’s stock of old lasts gives a glimpse into the traditional production process before 3D printers, which is occasionally still used today. At one time, an orthopaedic specialist used to measure the customer’s feet and then create lasts to produce specific shoes based on these measurements from a block of beechwood. A more recent technique for producing lasts which is still in use is to take a plaster cast of the foot and then fill it with plastic foam. Around 1,000 such lasts – stored in numerical order at an easily accessible height – provide Indorf with a valuable base for subsequent orders.

State-of-the-art shoe production – hot off the 3D printer
State-of-the-art shoe production – hot off the 3D printer © WFB/Frank Pusch

It isn’t any quicker to produce the model of the foot using a 3D scanner, CAD software and a printer rather than a plaster cast, explains Tim Indorf. The main advantage is that the scanner, which is the shape and size of a vacuum cleaner nozzle, can be used anywhere, including on the customer’s premises. There is also no need for the cover sheets and cleaning buckets required for the production of plaster casts. After a short pan around the customer’s feet the hand scanner delivers precise results that can be easily replicated.

The fifth customer worldwide ...

Using CAD software and 3D printers does take a bit of practice. Indorf is certainly an industry pioneer. The new equipment is produced by the company go-tec, based in Münster, Westphalia. Indorf says they were go-tec’s fifth customer worldwide. As an early adopter of a new technology, they don’t have access to the support of a large user community but must rely on trial and error instead. Indorf admits that there is still room for improvement when it comes to consistent output quality and dimensional accuracy of the results, and for now they are aiming for progress with individual projects. But two machines are already in place, with a third one to follow soon. “I knew that we would not simply be able to get cracking right away. But I want to be one of the people who are ready to go immediately when the time comes. Anyway, the technology will only make economic sense when the machines are operating around the clock.” There is also another reason to be planning for the future now. Like many other industries, suppliers of orthopaedic shoe technology face considerable problems in recruiting qualified employees. The Indorfs know this means they will need to find solutions to simplify and support the work processes in future.

Employees are actively involved in the planning

The challenges of new technologies and processes require a certain degree of openness and flexibility. This was true at Indorf when they were planning the workshops, offices and staff areas at the new site in Rudloffstrasse 64. Father and son sketched out their early designs on A1 sheets of paper and asked their employees for feedback and suggestions for improvements. According to the Indorfs, this led to a substantial number of changes to the details. There was also discussion about a fairly recently added electric repair machine in the sewing room, which now sits abandoned in a corner to the left of the entrance. It has been ‘banished’ there because the workforce unanimously decided to keep working on the historical foot-powered Adler sewing machine rather than use the newer one. It allows them to apply a more delicate touch, and will continue to be used and maintained with the utmost respect.  

A running track around the company building

Next year the Indorfs are planning to install a running track with stone and tarmac sections around their new building in Rudloffstrasse. This would enable customers to take their new orthopaedic shoes or insoles for a trial run. With such attention to detail, the Indorfs are gearing up for a successful future. 

Visit the Indorf shoes website


Andreas Gerber

acquisition and projects

Team leader Bremeninvest

P +49 (0) 421 9600-123


Success stories
2 July 2020
Publicly listed companies from Bremen

At the end of May 2020, JDE Peets followed in the footsteps of other successful businesses from Bremen and made its initial public offering. We have put together a brief introduction to exchange-traded companies from the region and their business models.

Success stories
17 June 2020
Copper tape against coronavirus

Social distancing, masks and hygiene – a variety of different measures help to slow down the spread of coronavirus. Bremen company Statex has developed another tool to add to the armoury. Its copper tape ensures that viruses on door handles and other surfaces are deactivated faster.

Success stories
9 June 2020
How industry and the economy are benefiting from trade between Taiwan and Germany

Bremen and Taiwan share a long-standing friendship. The Hanseatic city has been in close contact with the Asian island for more than 30 years. New opportunities in Far Eastern markets are opening up for Bremen-based companies despite the coronavirus crisis.

Success stories
27 February 2020
Co-working in Überseestadt

Co-working spaces are very much in vogue. Especially in large cities, more and more people are renting space in modern office communities - for hours, days or months. We take a look at the co-working spaces in Überseestadt and answer key questions: How much is the rent? What do I get in return? And of course: Where do I get my coffee?

Success stories
16 January 2020
50 years of the Bremen Fibre Institute

Fibre composites have become a permanent fixture in everyday life. The Bremen Fibre Institute (FIBRE) has been working on these materials for five decades, and has gained another strong partner this year in the form of the ECOMAT research centre.

Success stories
28 November 2019
Eight products from Bremen that nobody has heard of, but everyone uses

Products made in Bremen can be found in many everyday objects, and most of us are likely to come into contact with one or more on a daily basis. Read on to find out what they are.

Success stories
30 October 2019
Combating climate change with electricity storage from Bremen

Storage batteries are an increasingly popular way of making energy generated by PV systems available around the clock. That is good for the environment and helps to keep costs down. Storage battery manufacturer Powertrust is looking to tried and trusted technology and giving it a new lease of life.

Success stories
4 September 2019
Measure, test, inspect – precision technology ‘made in Bremen’

Not many people could name a manufacturer of metrology and testing equipment, but without their products we would not have space probes, aircraft or medical equipment. And Bremen is home to a whole host of these specialist companies.

Success stories
11 June 2019
Linhorn: Trust but verify

Enquiry, quote, order, delivery, payment – that’s the standard procedure the world over, but it doesn’t always run smoothly if the business links involved span thousands of miles. So in 2015, the Chinese Linhorn Group opened its only European branch in Bremen in order to establish better contacts with its suppliers.

Investing in Bremen
28 May 2019
Twelve hidden champions from Bremen

Companies that are largely unknown but are market leaders in their field – those are hidden champions. Which of these twelve hidden champions from Bremen do you know?

Success stories
18 April 2019
Generating your own energy transition

In 2019, many people are seeing their energy costs rising yet again. Intelligent energy solutions that use solar panels and storage batteries can save quite a bit on electricity. And ADLER Solar from Bremen know how.

Success stories
26 February 2019
Four entrepreneurs talk about what attracted them to Bremen

A company founder lives for his or her idea – no distance is too far and no obstacle too high. Four foreign entrepreneurs in Bremen share their passion for their vision.

Success stories
20 February 2019
Bremeninvest is highly appreciated in Turkey

Since 2011, economic relations with Turkish partners have been strengthened through the Bremeninvest office in Izmir. Kolja Umland, Project Manager for International Settlements and Erol Tüfekҫi, Director of the Bremeninvest Office in Izmir, report on the current situation.

Success stories
5 February 2019
Flyline – two decades of success in Bremen

Bremen-based Flyline can look back on two decades of success and expansion. The British Airways (BA) subsidiary began as a call centre with a 30-strong workforce. Today, Flyline employs around 400 people at Bremen airport.

Success stories
11 December 2018
When precisely isn’t quite precise enough

Extreme precision is the norm at Eickworth Modellbau. Major automotive companies and aerospace manufacturers rely on the services of this Bremen company whenever something needs to be accurate down to a hundredth of a millimetre.

Success stories
13 November 2018
Bremen is one of Germany’s leading industrial hubs

Bremen is Germany’s sixth-largest industrial hub in terms of revenue. Whether the sector is aerospace, food, automotive, shipping or steel production, Bremen has always been a major player.

1 November 2018
The man with an eye for AI

Esteban Bayro-Kaiser has big plans for his start-up, WearHealth. And he has no doubt that Bremen can become a leading hub for artificial intelligence technology. But what made this globetrotter choose Bremen?

Investing in Bremen
16 October 2018
The Bremen property market is booming

Bremen is expanding. Several construction projects will reshape the city centre. The 2018 Bremen property market report – an overview of office, logistics and retail properties, and of investment market trends – confirms that the city is an attractive location for investors and developers.

Success stories
6 September 2018
Safety first: sensor expertise in Bremen

We don’t normally get to see Littelfuse’s products. And yet there’s hardly any electronic device that doesn’t require components from this global market leader. The European headquarters of the US firm are located in Bremen. And they’re far more than just a sales office.

Success stories
9 August 2018
“I fell in love with Bremen as soon as I saw it”

It was a cold February evening when Paramjit Kohli first came to Bremen from India – and he loved it immediately. Read on to find out why he founded a company here and what lessons he has learned over the past year.

Investing in Bremen
7 August 2018
Bicycles made in Bremen – Velo Lab moves to a bigger site

Stathis Stasinopoulos built his first bike so that he could get to and from work in Athens more easily. At the time, he could not have imagined that his idea would see him set up his own business in Bremen. We visited the entrepreneurial engineer in his new workshop in the north of Bremen.

Food and beverage
2 August 2018
The capital of fish fingers

Fish fingers have been made in Bremerhaven for almost 60 years. Over this period, they have withstood all food trends and are more popular today than ever before. On average, each German consumer eats 24 of them a year. And they were probably made in Bremerhaven, the fish finger capital.

22 May 2018
Artificial intelligence made in Bremen

Artificial intelligence isn’t just a matter of computer programming. It’s a challenging question: how can a robot successfully deal with real, unpredictable surroundings? For 30 years, solutions to this problem have been developed at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI). This Bremen-based facility has been so successful that its employees are now founding their own company.

Success stories
17 May 2018
Team Beverage moves headquarters to Bremen

In April 2018, Team Beverage AG moved its headquarters from Wildeshausen in Lower Saxony to Bremen. The company provides services to the drinks industry in wholesale, retail and the catering and convenience sectors. Now, its success story is set to continue at Bremen Airport-Stadt with the relocation of its head office and 90 or so employees.

Success stories
3 May 2018
New life for old batteries

Batteries are indispensable in our day-to-day life. But when they run out of energy, they become an environmental challenge. As the global leader in the recycling of household batteries, Bremerhaven-based company Redux GmbH is ready to take on this challenge. What’s more, the firm has now developed a method to deal with lithium-ion batteries.

Success stories
3 April 2018
Recycling containers that stand out from the crowd

Whenever you need to dispose of old clothes, shoes or electronic waste, you will often throw them into a recycling container. Most people have no idea that a large number of these containers are made by Bremen-based company JO-BA, which has established itself as a brand across Europe. Now the company has its sights set on greater sustainability.

Success stories
8 March 2018
How five women made their careers in Bremen

Wind energy, geophysics, translation, design and communication – we portray five diverse women, who have successful careers and shared their fascinating stories with us. What is their industry and working life like? What motivates them? Why Bremen?

Success stories
30 January 2018
Brefeo sells Turkish furniture in Africa

Fatih Özdemir has furniture made in Turkey and sells it to customers mainly in Africa and the Middle East. In theory, he could run his business from anywhere in the world, but there are good reasons why he chose to relocate to Bremen and found Brefeo Hanse GmbH.

Maritime economy and logistics
11 January 2018
A Bremen-based SME is bringing excellent sound and picture quality to mega-yachts

Bremen-based company Home & Marine works in a sector that generates huge interest, but is often shrouded in secrecy – it builds complex entertainment systems for mega-yachts. The company is reluctant to speak about customers and orders, but since it was founded just over 25 years ago, Home & Marine has worked on more than 100 yachts.

Wind energy
8 June 2017
DEME: Using Bremen as a base to focus on offshore projects

GeoSea, a subsidiary of the Belgian DEME group, is helping to construct of some of the largest offshore wind farms in the German North Sea – and in Bremen, the company has found the ideal location to carry out its work.

Investing in Bremen
30 May 2017
Leela Cotton – sustained success through sustainability

Environmentally friendly manufacturing and ethical standards are the principles on which the fair trade clothing sector is based. Leela Cotton, a successful German-Turkish textile company, produces clothes for children and adults that are not only stylish, but also make a positive contribution to the environment in the way they are manufactured.

Investing in Bremen
9 May 2017
AlfaNet: The Bremen-based company that brings Taiwanese display screens to Europe

Weatherproof displays for transport services, and screens that don’t produce glare in bright sunlight – these are just some of the devices provided by AlfaNet Computer und Electronic Handels GmbH, a Bremen-based company founded nearly 25 years ago by Thomas Lie.

Investing in Bremen
2 May 2017
ACSK Clothing: The cosmopolitan clothing company taking a stand against fast fashion

Three continents, four countries, and Bremen at the centre of it all – a start-up could hardly be more international. The young entrepreneurs Ahmed Cheema and Stefan Kuzmanovski want to make sustainable manufacturing and the use of ethically sourced materials standard practice.

Investing in Bremen
2 May 2017
ACSK Clothing: The cosmopolitan clothing company taking a stand against fast fashion

Three continents, four countries, and Bremen at the centre of it all – a start-up could hardly be more international. The young entrepreneurs Ahmed Cheema and Stefan Kuzmanovski want to make sustainable manufacturing and the use of ethically sourced materials standard practice.