The turbulent history of the Ofichem Group

 “We have a company that is ready for the future”

Turbulent. That is what you could call the history of the Ofichem Group. In the mid 70s, Dr. O. H. Oldenziel and H.H. Oldenziel-Meursing,  founded Lab Ofichem. They worked hard for years to build the family business into a good functioning company. And this aim was achieved. Their son Weite Oldenziel, is now General Director of the Ofichem Group. He tells us about the history of the Group, his father and the plans for the future.

When Lab Ofichem was founded in 1975, the company only carried out chemical syntheses. “After his promotion to organic chemistry, my father started his own company together with my mother, Laboratorium Ofichem, Ofichem stands for Oldenziel Fine Chemicals. The company performed organic syntheses on assignment basis for a number of companies and agencies”, tells Weite. “But because my father was able to tinker everything together in the field of molecules, the pharmaceutical sector was soon knocking on his door.”

Focus on APIs

From that moment on the focus of Lab Ofichem was more and more concentrated on the production of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs); the active ingredients of both human and veterinary medicines. With about fifteen men employed, Lab Ofichem was to say the least a healthy business. Weite: “My father was a real production man, but also a Groninger in heart and soul. He kept a record of all of incoming orders in his head. And also carried out the orders personally even when it came down to toilet paper.”  

A firm foundation

The days were long for Otto Oldenziel. And although he made all of the decisions himself, Lab Ofichem flourished. “Over the years a solid foundation for our business was created”, says Weite. Yet in the late nineties the company had a big setback. “That was the moment when Good Manufacturing Practices was introduced in Europe and America. A directive officially took effect in 2005. From then on companies had to define how and under what conditions a product was manufactured. To follow their guidelines Lab Ofichem had to make a substantial investment.”

Prices under pressure

The arrival of the GMP-guidelines had a lot to do with the fact that in China and India more and more raw materials and finished products for the pharmaceutical industry were being produced. With the new GMP guidelines quality could be protected. “Necessary? Absolutely”, Weite believes. “In China and India, production was in full swing, but often not according to GMP-guidelines, which put prices under pressure. In such times it is difficult to make large investments. You therefore saw several small and medium sized companies disappear in Europe with the advent of GMP. This was actually an unintentional side effect and was not expected when the guidelines were introduced. Indeed, even today this can be described as a problem because many crucial products manufactured for the health care service are no longer produced in Europe and the United States. This gives a great dependency on China and India.”

The first expansion

Because the future was also uncertain for Lab Ofichem, in 2004 Otto Oldenziel decided to expand his company. In that year the trading company Ofichem B.V. was founded as a subsidiary under Lab Ofichem. “We had nothing to complain about, with respect to brand name awareness" says Weite. “However our portfolio was limited to APIs produced by us. Therefore my father decided to start Ofichem B.V. and to collaborate with experienced commercial people making it possible for the company to buy and sell APIs. A good match. The quality of all these ingredients could be tested immediately in Ofichem B.V.’s laboratory. The knowledge was already in-house.”

Achieving a goal

After a period of doubts (in the years between the late 1990’s and 2004) Otto Oldenziel decided in 2006 to introduce the GMP guidelines within his company and to commence with making his company up-to-date. “My phD in neuro-chemistry was nearly completed and I was working part-time as a pharmacist”, says Weite. “My father asked me whether I wanted to help him with the implementation of GMP. He wanted to achieve that goal anyway he could. Since September 2006 I have been working 4 days in the week at Ofichem and 1 day in the week as a post doctorate at university. In November 2006 I was promoted. We never talked or made concrete plans about me being my fathers successor however in December 2006 my father died at the age of 59 and I automatically took his place in the company on behalf of our family.”

Catching up

In recent years Weite and his team have redesigned the Ofichem Group. “We have done a lot of catching up. Practically all of the departments have been renovated and the whole company has been turned upside down. Also new business areas have been built. The whole organization has been addressed. For every department, a new head has been appointed and the processes and regulations meet all the requirements.

Expansion of the group

Since 2001 The Ofichem Group is 50% owner of Incopharm. “Incopharm is a trading company for APIs. The company is based in Hamburg. In addition there is a Trade Office in Moscow. Incopharm focuses on the Eastern European and Russian market”, says the general manager. “Through intensive contact with customers, Incopharm can give increasingly better service to customers in the Eastern European and Russian market.”                                                                                                          

Since 2011 a company has been added to Ofichem B.V., called Ofipharma. Ofipharma also deals in APIs, but only for human medicines. In fact it is a counterpart, as both Ofichem B.V. and Ofipharma are subsidiaries of Lab Ofichem. Whereas one is focused on the human market, the other focuses on the veterinary market. We have a wonderful new warehouse where these APIs can be stored and in the next six months we are going to go even further with this company.”

A strong and stable player

The synergy between the various companies is what makes the Ofichem Group a strong and stable player. “In the coming years we are going to expand the Group even further”, says Weite. “We have the knowledge in house and we have a large international network. Combining the knowledge of Lab Ofichem with the network of Ofichem B.V. and Incopharm we can help our customers more specifically with their questions and problems. We also produce and analyse APIs and have the facilities to be able to store a large amount of APIs in our own warehouse… In short we have laid down a company that is ready for the future!”