Entrepreneur with courage, vision and skill
Even as a young boy, Dietmar Harting wanted to grow up to “become a boss". And he became a veritable boss. For nearly five decades, Dietmar Harting commandeered the company founded by his parents in 1945, today's HARTING Stiftung & Co. KG, and turned the small mid-sized enterprise into a successful global player during his era. Now, on September 15th, the senior director of the Espelkamp-based Technology Group - who has received numerous honours and recognitions, not least for his great commitment in important industry associations and standardisation organizations - celebrates his 80th birthday.
The Berlin native initially did not even think about a career in his parents’ high-tech company. The eldest son of Wilhelm and Marie Harting was far more fascinated by history and archaeology than economics and technology. However, Harting’s father thwarted all his son’s plans. Dietmar initially had to opt for electrical engineering, but eventually completed his studies in business administration after his brother Jürgen, who is two years his junior, had begun studying technology. In 1967, five years after the company founder's untimely death, the then 27-year-old joined the family business, which at the time boasted revenues of some 29 million Deutsch marks and a workforce of just under 1,000 employees. Harting initially assumed the helm of the emerging company together with his mother and brother (the latter died in 1973), and ran it from 1987 together with wife Margrit.
It turned into an era of constant change, big decisions and impressive development. After saying farewell to the products of the first few decades, e.g. waffle irons, cooking plates and energy-saving bulbs, medical equipment and automotive electrics, turntables and portable record players, HARTING concentrated on connection technology. With the Han®, which had already been patented in 1956, the company had set a standard that continues until today. In addition to industrial connectors, HARTING also achieved a leading position as a manufacturer of cigarette vending machines for indoor and outdoor use.
The opening of a subsidiary in Paris in 1979 was of great importance and heralded the start of the company’s internationalisation. "I was unsure and had doubts," Harting later admitted. However, this strategic courage was rewarded and proved crucial for conquering important markets and the development of new business areas. Sales offices in Europe, America and Asia were opened in rapid succession, and the first production sites in Switzerland and Great Britain were established. The foreign share of sales doubled from 30 percent (1981) to almost 60 percent in 1999, reaching approximately
70 percent in the 2017/2018 financial year. HARTING became an international technology group and, with its global network of development, production and sales companies, was clearly on course to achieve its declared goal of becoming a "global company".
Far beyond the borders of the region and the country, Harting became known as the president of German and international organisations and committees. In 1998, he became the first head of an SME to head the influential Central Association of the Electrical Engineering and Electronics Industry (ZVEI) and steered the association back into safe waters following the turbulence caused by the foundation of Bitkom. After his departure in 2004, the ZVEI appointed him honorary president for life. That same year, Harting became a member of the committee of the Federation of German Industries (BDI) and from 2003 to 2009 headed the German Institute for Standardization (DIN), which thanked him for his work by presenting him with the DIN Ring of Honour. Federal Chancellors Helmut Kohl, Gerhard Schröder and Angela Merkel appointed the Espelkamp-based company to the "Council for Research, Technology and Innovation" and the "Partners for Innovation” initiative. At the international level, "Mr. Standardisation” - as he was called by former European Commissioner Günter Verheugen - headed up the European Electronic Component Manufacturers Association (EECA) and the Comité Européen de Normalization Electrotechnique (CENELEC).
In 2009, Dietmar Harting was honoured with an honorary doctorate from Leibniz Universität Hannover for his outstanding commitment as an entrepreneur and sponsor of science and technology in associations and organisations. In 2008, he was bestowed with the Trade Fair Honorary Gold Medal for his many years of service at Deutsche Messe AG, which included 12 years as Deputy Chairman of the Supervisory Board. HARTING has been among exhibitors at HANNOVER MESSE since the industrial trade show began in 1947. In 2009, the city of Espelkamp, headquarters of the technology group, bestowed honorary citizenship on Dietmar and Margrit Harting. In 2009, the couple was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit 1st class.
In 2015, son Philip, the grandson of the company founder, became the third generation chairman of the Board, which also includes his parents, his sister Maresa Harting-Hertz and three non-family managers. Dietmar Harting succeeded in handing over an impressive oeuvre to his successor. HARTING is one of the world's leading suppliers of industrial interconnection technology, a trailblazer and partner of Industry 4.0. Its innovative products, tailor-made solutions and services, especially in the fields of automation, robotics, transportation, digitization and networking of machines with the Cloud, place it among the best the industry. In e-mobility, the company is a major automotive supplier with its charging technology portfolio, supports the energy transition with its range of wind turbine offerings and services, and has positioned itself in the retail sector with the creation of checkout zones.
For Dietmar Harting, solid business policy, strategic thinking, a high willingness to innovate, absolute quality as the highest standard and social responsibility are the principles of entrepreneurial action and the prerequisite for economic success. This also applies to the home region of the family business, in which the birthday celebrant has earned great merit, above all by supporting popular and elite sports, promoting youth work, and constructing sports facilities.
After stepping down from the Board chairmanship and operational company management, Dietmar Harting – always down-to-earth and modest, yet tireless in retirement as well – has dedicated himself to new technologies and other topics of the future. For in addition to history and archaeology, technology, together with its perspectives and potential, has become his great – even greater – passion, and Dietmar Harting has always been aware of the HARTING vision formulated in 1996: "We want to shape the future with technologies for people."
Not only is he a start-up entrepreneur with a software company in Berlin, he is also passionately committed to sustainable agriculture and renewable energy production at his farm in neighbouring Uchte. Dietmar Harting has devoted himself to reconciling ecology with industry for many years, be this through the HARTING Technology Group’s consistent focus on alternative energy, as a founder member of the Association of Climate Protection Companies and insisting on 100 percent Co²-free energy for production. 25 percent of this comes from his own biomethane plant in Uchte.
The fact that he is concerned about the future is also evident in his task as a passionate grandfather for his eight grandchildren. Whether riddles, puzzles or tinkering – with technical reference – his motto is "just do it!"