Harting Family Reminisces on 25 Years of U.S. Company

Oct. 14, 2011
Visiting Its North American Headquarters in Elgin, Ill., From the German Homeland, Harting Family Members and Other Company Leaders Tell of the Company’s Rich History

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of their North American subsidiary, members of the Harting family flew to the U.S. this week from their home base in Espelkamp, Germany. At a press luncheon in St. Charles, Ill., family members put emphasis on the people that make up the organization, and reminded attendees of the people and history behind the connector giant. It’s a colorful history including stories of pigs and jukeboxes, and the eye is on maintaining a leading position in the connectivity business, regardless of what technology that will ultimately entail.

Dietmar Harting, who runs the Harting business with his wife Margrit, told an interesting history of the company that his parents Wilhelm and Marie Harting began in 1945. Like his parents before him, Dietmar now runs the company along with his wife Margrit. Their two children, Philip Harting and Maresa Harting-Hertz, are senior vice president of connectivity and networks, and senior vice president of finance, controlling and tax, respectively.

In the early days, Harting bartered for its business, trading sausage from the pigs that the Hartings raised for supplies of copper wire. They bought licenses from RCA and produced record players, jukeboxes and the like, investing the money they made from those sales in connectors. Other products the company dabbled in ranged from electric cookers to cigarette vending machines. Shortly before he died at the age of 52, Wilhelm Harting decided to concentrate only on connectors, throwing all other product lines out, Dietmar Harting said.

The company now produces a wide range of connectors, including industrial connectors, modular connectors, circular connectors, PCB connectors and adapters, fiberoptic data links, I/O cable assemblies and more. The North American team recently won an award for the Han-Yellock connector, with its improved functionality. Asked what the next 25 years might bring for North America, Philip Harting envisioned a migration to more active and value-added connectors and cable assemblies. Along with the increased intelligence, however, Dietmar Harting added, “We will stay in the connectivity business.”

Harting established its first European subsidiary at the start of 1979, and now has locations in France, Belgium, the U.K., Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, the Czech Republic, Russia, Japan, Singapore, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Brazil and the U.S. The company has about 3,600 employees worldwide, some 1,600 of which are in Germany, and will earn about €471 million ($647 million) this year.

Moving forward, Harting sees more potential in countries like Brazil, Russia, India, China and to some extent South Africa, Philip Harting said. Asia makes up about 23% of the company’s sales, with a target of greater than 30% by 2014-15. In China, challenges are focused on protecting intellectual property. Production there is for products at least 15 years old so that newer products cannot be copied, Dietmar Harting said.

In the U.S., which accounts for 8-9% of sales, the challenges are different. Asked what kind of challenges Harting faced when it first came to the U.S. in 1968, Dietmar Harting noted the shear size of the country, reminding people that Montana alone is larger than Germany. “You have to know what you want to do there; what you can bring to the country,” he said, adding that the competition is very strong here.