DUESSELDORF, Germany—Thomas Hahn founded Hahn Group GmbH in 1992 as a small engineering firm. Since then, the company has grown into an international company with 12 brands, including some powerhouse names related to rubber and plastics processing: GeKu, Waldorf Technik, Wemo, Hahn RobShare and the Sawyer collaborative robot business of Rethink Robotics.
You could see the results— nd lots of technology—at K 2019.
Hahn Group has continued its international growth by opening a larger U.S. unit, Hahn Plastics Automation Inc., in Windsor, Conn., on April 15.
Hahn talked about the company's history and strategy at K 2019.
After the show in Duesseldorf, Hahn Group purchased a large U.S. systems integrator, REI Automation Inc., and a majority stake in Ruhrobotics GmbH in Recklinghausen, Germany, an integrator that specializes in robot software and programming.
Q: You are 54 years old, and Hahn Group has an interesting history. The company has grown quickly since its founding in 1992. A big moment was the development of the LiftMaster, for handling loading and unloading of high-cavitation rubber molds. What was the motivation for this innovation, and what was the beginning of your company?
Hahn: Founding a company was not on my agenda at the time. The inspiration for innovation came from my job as a student trainee in a company making metal and rubber suspension components. The company went into a merger process and couldn't offer me a full-time position back then. So I continued to further develop my idea into an invention in the garage of my parents. In the end, I had invented a system that sped up the manufacturing process by up to 20 percent. Nevertheless, the plant director didn't want to lose my innovation and supported me by being my first customer.
I opened an engineering office and immediately became an entrepreneur after graduating in mechanical engineering. Soon this office was expanded with its own workshop to build complete automation systems. My family actually had to sign the mortgage to provide the startup capital because the bank deemed me too young. Luckily, I was able to pay them back within two years.
Q: Your new service portfolio, EVE Suite, hits several of the big trends we are seeing at K: augmented reality, Industry 4.0 and remotely available ERP systems with dashboard display on computers and smart devices. Can you describe the role of EVE Suite and its importance within the Hahn Group?
Service is what secures the next contract for us, and it does not end with the installation of a new automation system for our clients. EVE Support, which is part of our newest company Hahn Digital, is a service for real-time support and remote maintenance using augmented reality technology.
With EVE Vision, we offer a product to automate the process of end-of-line quality control, which is still a repetitive manual task and prone to errors of subjectivity. In my opinion, customer satisfaction is the key to success and digitalization is a key part of ensuring customer satisfaction as automation moves to the next level. The same applies to artificial intelligence, which rings in the future of robotics.
We launched the subsidiary Hahn Digital to guide manufacturing companies through their digital transformation. With Hahn Digital's consulting services, we are able to assess the current digitalization level within a company and which steps need to be taken to reach a higher level of digital readiness. Our goal with Hahn Digital is to take automation to the highest level of digitalization, which means that companies will use the results of their data collection and analytics for predictability and adaptation in their manufacturing.
Q: Hahn Group has 12 company brands and employs 1,400 employees at 24 locations. Are these factories/production facilities?
Yes, we do have 24 locations in 13 countries: in Austria, China, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Germany, Great Britain, India, Israel, Mexico, Switzerland, Sweden, Turkey and the U.S. Of these locations, 20 are actually manufacturing locations, while the remaining focus on service for local markets and management.