Winner despite crisis: Harting Applied Technologies is “Toolmaker of the Year 2020”

Press Release / November 19, 2020

Even in the “Corona Year” the international toolmaking industry does not give in and proves to be resilient to the crisis: Harting Applied Technologies GmbH from Espelkamp in Westphalia, Germany, won the “Excellence in Production” award this year and is thus awarded the title “Toolmaker of the Year 2020”.

Winner's trophy for the Toolmaker of the Year 2020.
© Fraunhofer IPT
Winner's trophy for the Toolmaker of the Year 2020.
© HARTING Applied Technologies GmbH
Happy about the two awards (back row from left to right): Christian Lürken (Fraunhofer IPT), Christoph Ebbecke (WZL of the RWTH Aachen University), Alexander Wiens, Cord Speckmeier, Andreas Weiß, Jörg Krumrei (all Harting Applied Technologies). Front row from left to right: Reiner Hußmann, Managing Director Dr. Volker Franke, Thomas Heimann (all Harting Applied Technologies).
This year, the award ceremony for the Toolmaker of the Year was transmitted via livestream.
© Fraunhofer IPT
This year, the award ceremony for the Toolmaker of the Year was transmitted via livestream.

After it was clear to the organizers early on this year that the International Colloquium “Tool and Die Making for the Future” in Aachen would have to be cancelled as a face-to-face event due to corona and be replaced by a Digital Toolmaking Day, new solutions were also required for the annual “Excellence in Production” award. It was uncertain whether there would even be enough companies in the crisis year of 2020 that were willing to invest the time and capacity in order to participate in the well-known industry competition.

But in the end more than 200 companies took up the challenge and in a field of top-class participants, Harting Applied Technologies GmbH was able win the competition and thus earn the title “Toolmaker of the Year 2020”. After several years in which the company has convinced the jury in the category “Internal toolmaking company with less than 50 employees“ multiple times, the overall success in these turbulent times has a very special meaning for all those involved.

The award ceremony also did not take place in front of its usual large audience in the Coronation Hall of Aachen Town Hall, but digitally as a live stream. The finalists were connected online, and the laudatory speech for the overall winner was held by Michael Stepper, Managing Director of last year’s winner Fritz Stepper GmbH & Co. KG.

Harting Applied Technologies GmbH: Competence center for complex injection molding and die casting tools

The jury was impressed by Harting's clearly defined strategy for each division, which included roadmaps with defined fields of action and goals, as well as the particularly high level of awareness of vision and strategy within the employees. Furthermore, the high machine utilization in all manufacturing technologies through extensive automation, powerful machines and innovative solutions was also positively noted. Having a complete system landscape with high data consistency, the company relies on a color system that provides information on tolerances, technologies and surface characteristics.

Harting Applied Technologies GmbH is an independent company within the Harting Technology Group based in Espelkamp, Germany. It develops, designs and manufactures injection and die casting tools for aluminum and zinc as well as assembly systems and special machines in two independent divisions .

In the toolmaking division, the company with its 49 employees manufactures high-precision tools in single and multi-component technology. The range of products extends from relatively large-volume housing components for plastic and aluminum connectors to micro injection molded parts with shot weights of less than one gram and structural sizes of less than 100 micrometers with the highest demands on surface quality. In addition to the production of injection molds, the development of associated injection molding processes for the manufacturing of metal-plastic composite components is a key focus of the company.

The process chain in the internal tool shop at Harting includes in-house engineering for new manufacturing processes and concepts as well as comprehensive and early consultation with customers. The manufacturing of tools includes engineering, design, production and assembly in an extensively equipped technical lab.

Harting – also the best internal toolmaking company with less than 50 employees

In addition to the overall winner, Harting also received the award in the category “Internal toolmaking company with less than 50 employees”. Other finalists in this category were Jehle AG – Werkzeug- und Formenbau from Etzgen in Aargau, Switzerland, and Roto Frank Austria GmbH from Kalsdorf near Graz, Austria.

Winner in the category “Internal toolmaking company with more than 50 employees is the Fischer Werkzeug- und Formenbau GmbH

This year's victory in the category “Internal toolmaking company with more than 50 employees” goes to Fischer Werkzeug- und Formenbau GmbH from Horb am Neckar.

Among the particular strengths of the internal toolmaking department at Fischer Werkzeug- und Formenbau GmbH, the jury counted the systematic use of methods to derive strategic goals and measures, as well as the good segmentation of the machine pool with consistent installation of shop floor boards for key figures, goals and general information for employees. The extensive use of automation solutions and the well equipped machinery with high technological performance also impressed the judges.

Fischer Werkzeug- und Formenbau, based in Horb am Neckar, is an integral part of the Fischer group, which manufactures world-famous fastening systems. Fischer Werkzeug- und Formenbau is manufacturing high-precision multi-cavity and multi-component tools for internal and external customers. In cooperation with its own automation technology team, Fischer Werkzeug- und Formenbau also offers complete tool solutions and services such as maintenance, repair and production support for the tools.

The other finalist this year was Gerresheimer Regensburg GmbH.

Winner in the category “External toolmaking company with less than 50 employees” is Schülken Form GmbH

The best “External toolmaking company with less than 50 employees” was Schülken Form GmbH from Waltershausen near Gotha in Thuringia, Germany.

Schülken Form particularly convinced the jury with its consistent positioning as an international full-service provider with a broad upstream and downstream service spectrum for so-called turn-key solutions. Schülken focuses on reducing paper usage in its production by using viewer workstations and Industrie 4.0 solutions, for example in the form of augmented reality glasses. In this context, the jury also praised the high level of qualification of the employees and the high number of training days per employee in all areas of the company.

The Schülken Form GmbH, which emerged from Ralf Grübel Werkzeugbau GmbH, manufactures complex and sophisticated injection molds at its Schwarzhausen site in Germany and, since 2016, at its Kazan site in Russia. A team of 30 employees focuses on the design and production of the molds, primarily for the manufacturing of packaging, closures and medical products. The focus is on high-cavity high-speed molds and multi-component molds. An after-sales service for the molds and a fast delivery of spare parts worldwide are guaranteed.

Other finalists in this category were BBG GmbH & Co. KG from Mindelheim in Lower Allgaeu, Germany, and Hanns Engl Werkzeugbau O.H.G. from Bozen in South Tyrol, Italy.

The best “External toolmaking company with more than 50 employees” is Fischer GmbH

The winner in the category “External toolmaking company with more than 50 employees” is Fischer GmbH from Geringswalde in Saxony, Germany.

The jury was particularly impressed by Fischer's cooperation with universities, which is not only used for the continuous development of tool technology but also helps the company to open up new business areas and achieve a high degree of industry diversity. The company uses a self-developed, requirements-oriented calculation system with an analytical and highly standardized methodology. In addition, the high degree of tool standardization, which is achieved through the use of parametric designs and standard templates, also had a positive impact.

Fischer GmbH manufactures tools for punching and injection molding processes with more than 70 employees in three work shifts. The company develops and manufactures follow-on composite and transfer tools, injection molding tools for single or multi-component injection molding, zinc die casting tools, special equipment and fixtures for the automotive, electrical and metal industries. The focus is on follow-on composite tools of medium size.

The other finalist in the category “External toolmaking company with more than 50 employees” was EMO – Orodjarna d.o.o from Celje in Slovenia.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT and the Laboratory for Machine Tools and Production Engineering WZL of the RWTH Aachen University together with an expert jury determined the best toolmaking companies in four categories on the basis of a detailed benchmark and visited them on site during the summer months: The ten jurors from industry, politics, industry associations and science then selected the ten finalists, the category winners and the overall winner. A total of 278 toolmaking companies took part in the competition, 203 of them completed the entire questionnaire and 50 were shortlisted. The “Excellence in Production” competition took place for the 17th time this year. The day after the award ceremony, selected finalists and partners of the Aachen institutes presented their success strategies during the Digital Toolmaking Day, which was broadcast live from Aachen this year instead of the International Colloquium “Tool and Die making for the Future”.

New chance next year

Next year, too, the best toolmaking companies will once again compete with each other. Interested copanies can already find detailed information about the competition under www.excellence-in-production.de and will be able to register from December 1, 2020. All participants in the competition will receive an individual evaluation of their strengths and opportunities for potential improvement.

After registering, all participants will initially fill out only the first part of the questionnaire with a small number of central questions and will receive an initial evaluation of key figures on this basis. In the second phase of the competition, more detailed questions have be answered. Two additional on-site visits by the Aachen toolmaking experts will be raffled among all participants in the second phase.

This year's competition is supported by the companies Hasco Hasenclever GmbH + Co. KG, Böhler-Uddeholm Deutschland GmbH, WBA Aachener Werkzeugbau Akademie GmbH and the Verband Deutscher Maschinen- und Anlagenbau e.V. as well as Kunststoffcluster Österreich and the Swiss Toolmaking Association Swissmem. The media partners VDI nachrichten, FORM+Werkzeug as well as werkzeug&formenbau are promoting the competition through their comprehensive coverage of the winners and finalists. Another partner of the competition is the “formnext” trade fair, which this year also took place in a digital format. The Digital Toolmaking Day is also supported by the “Moulding Expo” trade fair and the Swedish Hexagon AB group.