Our goal is achieving modern, resource-saving production

Interview with
Dr. Andreas Imhoff, HARTING Managing Director Operations

tec.news: In your opinion, what are the essential criteria for the sustainable manufacturing of connectors and tools/manufacturing machines?

Dr. Andreas Imhoff: It is essential that we design so as to conserve resources and produce with as little waste as possible. Our strategy underlines this objective. The goals are: to harness energy-efficient systems, to achieve the lowest possible rejects and scrap rates, while relying on the use of energy from renewable sources. Achieving our goals requires the deployment of state-of-the-art technology. In this context, process stability, precise manufacturing and compliance with tolerances are basic requirements. The issues of transparency, resource conservation and energy savings are firmly anchored in the corporate strategy – and this is lived by the foundation right down to the plant level.

tec.news: What is HARTING already doing well today in addressing these criteria? What are the points where you see a need for optimization?

Imhoff: HARTING is very well positioned and ranks as a pioneer in many areas. For many years now, the topic of sustainability has played a decisive role. However, we are continuing to strengthen our activities. Let's take energy consumption: Here we are making very good progress in terms of control and optimization. In future, we will continuously determine energy requirements, also down to the level of small production units.

Our goal is to achieve modern, resource-saving manufacturing. In order to achieve this, we must consistently deploy the latest, most advanced machinery. We want manufacturing that monitors its own consumption and renders the use of environmentally relevant substances fully transparent. We already record every material utilized, from the lubricant in production to all the substances we add to aluminum die casting, for example. We have recently taken huge steps forward in terms of these issues and have developed a wealth of measures to conserve resources. The financial means to realize this are at hand.

tec.news: What concrete measures are linked with the sustainability strategy at HARTING?

Imhoff: At present, the focus is on investments in digitization. They provide us with optimum energy and material yields through maximum transparency. But we are also investing continuously in resource-saving machines and tool technology.

Moreover, HARTING can also look back on a long tradition of harnessing sustainable energies. And it is an advantage in that we have full control over almost all process steps due to the high vertical range of manufacture at HARTING.

tec.news: Keyword lead times: Many companies are currently trying to use digitization and software to link the various stages of the production chain more closely together - and are installing comprehensive production control systems. Is this a sustainability issue for you? And: How does this all work at HARTING?

Imhoff: Short lead times reduce inventory levels and the consumption of resources. In this context, we live the idea of fully digitalized synchronous planning.  This approach is supplemented by hard and also by virtual process linking. We have already successfully implemented a large number of projects in this respect. We continue to take care of process linking in numerous large and small projects. Avoiding unnecessary process steps saves considerable resources. 

tec.news: Short throughput times require pinpoint precise deliveries. Are supply chains part of sustainability concepts for you? Are supply chain disruptions also a problem in connector manufacturing?

Imhoff: Like all other manufacturers, we were temporarily confronted with severe material shortages. Good customer-supplier relationships, however, make a company resilient. The crisis has shown how well HARTING is anchored regionally - in this case nationally in Germany and internationally in Europe, where we have repeatedly been able to fill gaps. Nevertheless, there were phases in which it became difficult for individual components. Naturally, local sourcing represents an important contribution to avoiding emissions. 

tec.news: Is HARTING pursuing the goal of establishing comparable production capacities in several world regions in order to avoid supply chain interruptions due to local events, for example?

Imhoff: We understand ourselves as a global production network and we have a regular international exchange at plant management levels. The specialist departments for the global supply chain are also in close contact. We also have a lively ongoing exchange of ideas for improvements in production processes. This strategy ensures short transport routes and fast response times – as well as strengthening the stability of our supply chains.