Our History: A Century in the Making

The Tembo name was introduced by the fourth generation of the Van der Sluis family, further developing a global company supported by a strong legacy.

Beginnings in the Cigar Industry

It all started in Kampen, the Netherlands. 1912. Hendrikus van der Sluis convinced his aunt, uncle, and parents-in-law to sell their farms, so he could launch his tobacco business. This bold move proved to be a lucrative one, as the Great War increased demand and allowed Hendrikus to buy the Van der Mijle factory, alongside the cigar brand, Mijlpaaltjes in 1919.

Ten years later, Hendrikus purchased the cigar factory, Samuels & de Leeuw.

Challenging Times 

Sons, Arend and Jan, had been involved in the family business from an early age. By the time they officially entered the organisation, the company employed 60 cigar makers – but it was struggling with debts of 100,000 guilders. The family came together to help the company reduce the labor costs, and Arend sourced enough funding to avoid bankruptcy.

New business ideas

By the 1950s and 1960s, the company was doing wholesale and production – trading in cigars, cigarettes, tobacco, and other products. Arend spent a lot of time on the road, and he learned which brands were struggling and which were popular. He used this information to bid on the equipment of poorly-performing manufacturers and traded this machinery to the healthier companies who needed the equipment to scale their operations. By adding machine trade to the portfolio, a new business was born. 

Renovating machines

Each generation of the Van der Sluis family has introduced a new activity into the business, and the third generation was no exception. After the second generation had started trading in equipment, Arend’s son, Henk, started refurbishing used machinery.

Having joined the organisation aged 22, Henk contacted customers in 1961 to advertise their offer of high-quality refurbished second-hand equipment. The accountants had their doubts, noting in 1962 that “the prospects look less favourable for this,” but Henk pressed on, and by 1967 he and his brother Arend were solely dedicated to the machinery side of the business.

Machine Development and Company Expansion

The brothers’ interest in machinery led to the foundation of International Tobacco Machinery B.V. (ITM) in 1970 and Sluis Cigar Machinery (SCM) in 1977. These two companies started to develop their own machinery, setting the early pace for our current group, which is committed to developing high-tech and innovative machine technology for a huge variety of sectors.

To better serve customers, the Van der Sluis family looked to acquire other companies with specialist capabilities. In 1982, they bought a Dutch company in Eindhoven with expertise in cigarette-making, which they named ITM Eindhoven. And in close cooperation with current supervisory board member, Andrzej Stanikowski, they started ITM Poland SP. z.o.o in 1991. ITM Poland is dedicated to developing new technologies and designing machine platforms.

In 1997, the brothers acquired Technological Development Corporation (TDC), incorporating their advanced weighing technology into Sluis Cigar Machinery’s equipment.

Exploring New Markets

In the 1990s, the Van de Sluis family started to explore more new markets. Using modified cigar machinery, GreenProducts started producing paper pots in 1991, which are used for seeding and growing plants. Two years later the family started De Eenhoorn, a delicatessen shop in Kampen next to their traditional cigar factory, De Olifant. And after founding PMP Poland in 1997, the group was able to start producing customised machine parts, components and subassemblies.

Manufacturing Excellence for Various Industries

When the fourth generation of the Van der Sluis family entered the organisation, a new impetus was given to the group. In order to future-proof the business, Arend Jr., Hester, Michiel, Marianne, Arnout and Binet cast their net far and wide.

The group acquired Imatec and Tricas in 2013, Gemba Solutions in 2015, EME Engel in 2016, and RNT Machinery, SPI Developments, and TAM in 2018. These companies brought a huge versatility and a wealth of expertise to deliver solutions in a variety of industries.

Introducing Tembo: A Family Company With a Global Outlook

As the group broadened its scope of activities and began working across a range of industries and sectors, a new name was required. So, in 2018, Tembo was introduced.

Meaning “elephant” in Swahili, this name reflects the old cigar factory in Kampen (De Olifant), but it means so much more. Elephants are strong, energetic, powerful, and persistent. Above all, they have strong family connections, taking care of each other and learning from one another.

Each company within the Tembo family is supported and encouraged to express itself as a strong individual entity. In total, around 1,200 people are employed by a Tembo company, mainly in the Netherlands, Poland, and the Dominican Republic. Combined, you’ll find Tembo at 17 separate locations, in 14 cities, across 10 different countries.

Manufacturing solutions for sustainable alternatives

While every Tembo company has its own area of focus, we align in our ambition to make the world more sustainable. Collectively, we use our expertise to support customers and partners to manufacture better sustainable products.

On a group level, we are investing heavily in sustainability, with initiatives such as the foundation of our paper straw company, Tembo Paper.

Working in the cigar factory
Hendrikus selling his 'Mijlpaaltjes'
Shipping our first machine
New companies: SCM and ITM Eindhoven
IMAtec joins to broading our portfolio
New headquarters in The Netherlands
Exploring new technology in manufacturing