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Continuing to evolve

Just a few months after the end of World War II, Wilhelm and Marie Harting established Harting in September 1945. The company, called ‘Wilhelm Harting Mechanische Werkstätten’, worked out of a small hall, a repair workshop, measuring no more than 100m2 in Minden.

Back then, the company focused on supplying basic necessities for people struggling to adapt to life in a post war world, such as energy saving light bulbs, much sought after hotplates, electric lighters, twin plate electric cookers and irons.

Today, Harting has changed out of all recognition and supplies electrical, electronic and optical connection, transfer and network technology, manufacturing, mechatronics and software, and produces and sells tailored data, signal and power solutions and products for industry.

The company has created an extensive portfolio of intelligent high-performance connection technology with products comprising of connectors, device connection technology, network components and ready to use system cables supplying a wide range of industries from factory automation to stage and event management technology.

There is no question that this privately owned company has come a long way. Today, it employs more than 4000 people across 42 sales companies and 12 production locations – a remarkable post-war success story, even by German standards.

Harting has remained 100% family owned and managed since its foundation and the owners Dietmar and Margrit Harting head the company in cooperation with executive staff and their two children: Philip Harting and Maresa Harting-Hertz, who is senior vice president finance and purchasing.

Philip Harting embarked on his career with Harting in 2005 and is now responsible for the connectivity and networks area as part of his role as vice president, as well as president and general partner.

"Since 1945, we have worked hard to address technological change," asserts Harting, "and to work closely with our customers and with the markets we serve in order to better understand their respective needs. As a business, you need to be able to recognise trends at an early stage, offer top quality products and solutions in response and – if possible – to set the relevant standards. It's what we did with the Hanconnector. Hanstands for Harting Norm, which means Harting standard. Today, people using the connector just say 'Give me a Harting!'."

The Internet of Things and the rise of the Smart Factory will mean significant change in terms of complexity, greater customer individuality and irregular order repeatability, according to Harting.

"We're seeing the digitisation of products, their networking and the generation of new services and, as a result, we're having to work harder than ever to support customers and offer them a broader range of customised solutions. Connectivity is at the heart of the company's vision of what we describe as 'Integrated Industry'," explains Harting.

"For example, we are delivering connectors with sensors to obtain information about specific states and conditions.

"In order to develop these technologies, we have established a new Quality and Technology Centre to support the need for a greater focus on science and technology research."

The company uses this facility to test out new ideas and those that are successful are then brought to market.

"At all times, our focus has to be on the benefits we can bring to our customers. That is and will remain our primary concern," says Harting. "We are looking to drive technological advancement forward in the field of integrated industry in close collaboration with science."

While a sustained recovery in Europe has proved elusive – recent figures suggest that, perhaps, a recovery of sorts is beginning to take hold – Harting has had real success in growing the business outside of Europe. But while the company has expanded its global presence significantly over the past few years, it remains keen to extend that presence even further.

"The US economy has recovered strongly and what I perceive as a growing reindustrialisation of the North American economy is certainly a positive factor for our business going forward."

According to Harting, the company is also closely monitoring developments in specific growth countries.

"Above all, the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), but also the SMIT countries (South Korea, Mexico, Indonesia and Turkey)," he says. "In the long term, we plan to expand our capacities significantly by 2020 to generate growth and to create new jobs.

"Our production plants that meet global demand for components and innovative new products are being expanded and we have created new production capacity in Russia and Brazil this year. We also plan to focus on South Africa and Mexico in the coming years."

At this year's Hanover Messe, Harting is showcasing solutions under the claim of 'Integrated Industry 4 You'.

"Fairgoers will be able to experience our concept of integrated industry first hand at our HAII4YOU Factory, where we will be producing individual Han connectors," Harting explains. "Consistent vertical integration extends from the eShop via SAP all the way through to the machine and the benefit is a genuinely customised product that can be produced quickly and efficiently, just as it would be if it was being mass produced."

According to Harting, the company is positioning itself to be, "an 'enabler of the connected world of integratedindustry'.

"We want to be a key supplier in this rapidly developing integrated industry market, as we see it, and it is part of our vision of shaping the future with technology," he concluded

Neil Tyler

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