On July 23, 1937, Robert Baruch and Willy Cohn establish “Roba Metallurgische Handelsmaatschappij” in Amsterdam. Both Baruch and Cohn are experienced metal traders. Due to their Jewish background, the pair have fled from Germany to the Netherlands earlier that year, with the hope to rebuild their lives in the Netherlands. Their business starts with trading and processing scrap. An activity that would nowadays be called recycling. For their activities, Roba has a storage site at the old ‘Entrepotdok’ at the Kadijksplein.
Foundation of Roba
Driven by a passion for metal, we founded our family business Roba Metals in 1937. In more than 80 years, we have grown to become the international and independent metal business that we are today. Nowadays, our originally Dutch company has offices and plants in six different countries, while we are active worldwide. Our history is unique, and has shaped us. It has developed our character and the values that Roba still stands for, until this day.
Right from the start of the war in the Netherlands, Baruch and Cohn realise all too soon that as Jews, they are likely to be stripped of their positions and their property. When the German occupier lays claim on the company’s office at the Nieuwe Doelenstraat 6-8, Roba soon finds new premises at the Van Baerlestraat 76. As a precautionary measure, Baruch and Cohn also appoint a non-Jewish director: Mr B.C.W. Koers. Baruch and Cohn’s suspicions prove well-founded, when in late 1940 the first ordinance aimed at removing Jews from the business community comes into force. The Germans appoint an administrator to oversee business at Roba.
At the end of the war, the families of the two founders have been hit hard. Founder Robert Baruch does not survive the war – he died in the camps. His daughter Mary is the sole survivor of their family. After the war, she marries Stefan, the son of Willy Cohn. Cohn survives the war in hiding. He returns to find his company stripped and plundered. Virtually nothing remains of pre-war Roba. There is luckily one small ray of light – Roba is transferred a small payment for confiscated stock. With this modest starting capital, Willy Cohn sets to work again.
The name of founder Robert Baruch continues to live on in the name of the company (RoBa).
Despite all the misfortunes during the war, Roba expands its trading activities in 1949 by starting a new division focused on the purchase and sales of steel.
From 1953 onwards, Stefan Cohn joins his father Willy at Roba. This means the second generation of the family enters the company. Also future generations would later join the company. Up until this day, Roba is still a 100% independent family-owned business.
Stefan Cohn: “As a child, when I was off from school, I accompanied my father to his scrap yard. When he saw a piece of metal he picked it up. My mother thought it was shabby; today it’s called recycling!”
With the expanding trade in steel and other metals, Roba moves its warehouse in 1964 from Amsterdam to IJsselstein, a city nearby Utrecht. A few years later, the office also moves to IJsselstein, including its Amsterdam employees. Soon, an extra warehouse is built on the Zomerdijk to accommodate the products of the 1969 established division for semi-finished copper products.
The many crises of the 1970s do not stop Roba. In 1976, the Belgian company Affilips is taken over. Affilips is a smelter that produces copper-, aluminium-, nickel, zinc- and lead based alloys.
While the early 80s are characterised by economic downturn, Roba identifies an opportunity to establish a new division: stainless steel. Also in the United Kingdom, Roba sees opportunities. In 1987, Roba Steel, Metals and Alloys Ltd. is being founded in Redditch. In 1988, Roba further expands to Belgium, by opening a trade office in Brussel for stainless steel, aluminium and steel.
In IJsselstein, Roba expands with a 6.000 m2 indoor recycling works. A year later, this is followed by the opening of a stainless steel service center in IJsselstein. The service center possesses a cut-to-length line and a grinding machine.
Also in the field of aluminium smelting, Roba expands its portfolio. Kawecki Billiton Metaalindustrie (KBM), a producer of aluminium alloys with plants in Delfzijl and Oss, has gotten into financial difficulties. Roba is happy to save the company and provide KBM and its employees a future. KBM starts working closely together with Affilips, the earlier taken-over fellow producer of alloys. Both companies form until this day a major part of the Roba Group.
The successes in IJsselstein create the possibility to start a new service center for steel in Genk (Belgium). First only with a slitting line, yet soon followed by a cut-to-length line.
Roba continues to focus itself even more on services. Stock capacity increases, IJsselstein starts using a second grinding-line, while the production in Genk also grows in scale. A new division, Stainless Steel Export & Specials is also established in 2002.
In these years, Roba further expands the various divisions. In 2005, Roba opens a Poland branch: Roba Polska. The year after, Roba takes over Van der Rijn, a Belgian company specialised in non-ferrous metals. In 2009, the acquisition of aluminium smelter Thomal takes place. The smelting works is later being renamed to Roba Metals Delfzijl (RMD).
In 2019, Roba Korea is founded in Seoul, South Korea, with a focus on purchasing steel. The following year, Roba presents its new visual identity, complete with a new logo and slogan. With a modernised look and feel, yet with the same values, knowledge and traditions developed throughout 84 years of entrepreneurship – Roba is ready to enter the new decade.
Our history does not stop here. We continue to innovate and develop ourselves within our field. However, one thing will always remain unchanged: people will always remain central. Whether it is our employees, or our customers. We will always work together and try to go the extra mile. With our own team of specialists, but also with our (future) partners. At Roba Metals, we are always open for new collaborations.