A Man who embraces Change
Born in Berlin, entrepreneur Dietmar Harting celebrated his 80th birthday in September. Originally based in Westphalia, it was in Berlin that he became widely known as a pioneer of automation.10 Nov 2019
During the earliest stages of Germany’s Industrie 4.0 concept, Harting and his family boldly initiated a new business model with new people, new ideas and a new location in the city of his birth. Joined by IT experts from Silicon Valley, the Berlin team conceived MICA – an open computing platform designed to simplify factory networking, making it more comprehensible and cheaper. Harting calls Mica the fastest intro to the fascinating factory of the future: industry’s equivalent to Raspberry PI. MICA is constantly being developed, not least with input from its users. In 2016, it earned the prestigious Hermes Award, presented to Dietmar Harting and team in the presence of Barack Obama, at HANNOVER MESSE . Pictures of the US President with members of the company at the Harting stand in Hannover were seen worldwide.
At first Harting rejected the idea of working in the family’s engineering company. The eldest son of Wilhelm and Marie Harting was far more interested in history and archeology than business and technology. However, his father vetoed his plans, insisting that his eldest son study electrical engineering. This he did before switching to a course in business management. Meanwhile, his brother Jürgen, two years younger, had begun to study technology. In 1967, five years after the untimely death of their father, Dietmar – aged 27 – joined the family business, which by that time already had a workforce of nearly 1,000 and a turnover of approx. 29 million Deutschmark. Dietmar Harting assumed leadership of the steadily expanding company, at first with his mother and brother (who died in 1973) and then, from 1987 ran it with his wife Margrit.
His leadership ushered in an era of constant change, big decisions and impressive development. The company turned away from its original portfolio, shifting the focus from waffle irons, hot plates and energy-saving lamps, medical equipment, car electrics, turntables and portable record players to connector technology. With its Han® industrial connector, patented back in 1956, the company set standards that apply to this day. In addition, the company achieved a lead position in the manufacture of cigarette vending machines for indoor and outdoor use.
The opening of a Paris subsidiary in 1979 was an important landmark that heralded the start of the company’s global expansion. Although Dietmar Harting later admitted "I was unsure and had doubts," his bold strategy paid off and was crucial to the company gaining a foothold on some key markets and the development of new business fields. Sales offices soon sprang up elsewhere in Europe and in America and Asia, while the first production sites were established in Switzerland and the UK. The share of turnover generated outside Germany thus doubled from 30% (1981) to nearly 60% in 1999 and 70% in the business year 2017/2018.
In 2009 Dietmar Harting received an Honorary Doctorate from the Leibniz University of Hannover for services to business, science and technology as well as to industry associations and organizations. For his long commitment and service to Deutsche Messe AG (including 12 years as deputy chairman of its Supervisory Board), Harting received the company’s Honorary Gold Medal in 2018. Harting had a stand at the first HANNOVER MESSE in 1947 and is one the few exhibitors never to have missed this industrial technology show.
In 2015 son Philip, the grandson of the company founder, became the third generation chairman of the board, which now comprises Philip, his parents and his sister Maresa Harting-Hertz along with three managers not related to the family. Dietmar built an impressive legacy for the next generation of the family business. Harting is a world leader in industrial connector technology and a pioneer and partner in Industrie 4.0. Its innovative products, customized solutions and services, especially in the fields of automation, robotics, transportation, digitization and the networking of machines in the cloud, place it among the best. The company also plays its part in the energy transition and e-mobility, supplying innovative charging technology to automobile manufacturers as well as boasting a portfolio of products and solutions for the wind energy sector. The company has also established a strong position in the retail sector with cash zone products.
For many years Dietmar Harting concerned himself with the compatibility of ecology and economic growth. The Harting Technology Group has consistently supported the energy transition and, as a founding member of the Association of Climate Protection Companies, committed itself to carbon neutral energy in its production processes. Some 25% of this energy is generated in the company’s own bio-methane plant in Uchte. Dietmar’s motto: "We want to shape the future with technology for people." True to his word, after the successful software startup in Berlin he has devoted himself to sustainable farming and renewable energy production.
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