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The metalworking and machine engineering firm HERN s.r.o. is the largest employer in the Orava region. Since its founding in 1954 the company has seen a number of changes in its legal form and adaptations of its production program in the field of machine engineering.

Could you briefly describe the history of the company and most important moments of its development?

The company has gone through several milestones throughout its history. The 60’s were marked by the search for a production portfolio, when the company moved from the production of chimney doors, hangers, sofa legs through air conditioning to the components of Desta forklifts. In the 70’s, the company came under ZTS Turčianske strojárne Martin (Heavy engineering plant in Martin), where as a branch of the then one of the largest employers, it participated in the production of components for forestry tractors LKT (wheeled forestry tractors, Zetor as well as Ursus and tanks. This period ended with a new phosphate and painting line, which started further growth. At the beginning of the 1990s, the independent company ZTS Strojárne was founded, which in post-communist times began to find its place on the market. It was a turning point in creating the engineering future in Orava, the company opened up to the world and after initial business negotiations, cooperation begins with the tractor manufacturer John Deere (1991) and the construction machinery manufacturer Caterpillar (1993). The global giants have opened their experience and supply know-how of western suppliers, and already in 1997, the company obtained the ISO 9000 quality certificate. The beginning of the millennium represented another production shift and Claas and Atlet (now Mitsubishi) were added to the list of key customers. The company obtained certificates and every year expanded the portfolio of machinery to bring customers comprehensive production solutions with the attribute Made in Namestovo. The key moment was the year 2015, when there was a rebranding and the company continues to figure under a new name - Hern s.r.o. The new name brought pro-growth ambitions, the beginning of cooperation with new customers in order to double sales.

Please tell us what made your company so successful and gained the trust of its customers?

Many years of experience supported by a strong technical background. Focusing on the goal and finding solutions.

Which strategies have proven to be the most useful over time?

Absolutely important pro-export focus of the company and gradual cooperation to get to the design itself, when the company by knowing its strengths and weaknesses can offer a suitable solution applicable in the process of creating drawings for key customers.

Design and production

Company core competence is the production of details and weldments for tractors, earth-moving and road construction machines, combine harvesters and agricultural equipment, as well as handling equipment and other machines.

What are the exclusive elements that make your company unique from the point of view of design and production?

Our strengths from the point of view of production are high-quality machined weldments. These parts are welded and machined in tools that are designed and manufactured in our company by designers who have an average of more than 20 years of experience.

Can you tell us more about your products, services, production technologies and production facilities?

Over the last 15 years, our company has produced more than 6,000 different products, thanks to extensive technological conveniences “under one roof”. These include cutting and bending machines, heavy presses over 800 tons, flame and laser burning machines, machine tools and drilling machines, and welding robots. Categorically, we could divide our products into 5 groups: simple parts (burnouts); bent parts, weldments, weldments with machining, ROPS, complex projects (assembly) and pallets. The advantage is that we can finally modify all the mentioned groups by our own surface treatment process, either with powder or wet paint.

Please tell us about your company’s quality control system.

The inspection method is designed for each product separately based on customer requirements. From the simplest measurement with a caliper, through measurement with the most modern 3D measuring portals to ultrasonic and macroscopic inspection of welds. Of course, there is an inspection of the input material, inter-operational inspection and output inspection after surface treatment.

What are the certificates your company owns?

ISO 9001 in conjunction with EN ISO 3834-2, ST EN 15085-02, ISO 14001

The quality of products and services is your priority. You know perfectly well that there is no place for compromises in your industry, which is why you work only among the best suppliers and subcontractors. Would you like to distinguish particular companies?

In order to ensure the high quality of our products, we expect the same from our suppliers who must meet the criteria specified by us, they are regularly evaluated on the basis of quality and we work only with the best. To ensure the high quality of our products, it is necessary to work closely with suppliers who are regularly evaluated. We work only with the best.

Please tell us about the size of your production and the number of people you employ in your company.

Currently, our company employs about 570 people.

What were the new products and technological innovations introduced by your Research & Development department in the last period?

Our company works closely with technical universities. Most of the development is focused on the internal improvement and streamlining of production, such as suspension devices or measuring devices. The last successful innovation is the UNITEST load-bearing tester. It is primarily intended, for example, for testing the suitability of components of suspension and handling equipment. It enables testing directly in the production process, thus reducing production downtime and is a preventive tool for ensuring safety. The versatility of the tester is that the device can be tested on various elements such as chains, magnets, hooks, crossbeams, clamps, suction cups, pallets and many other components. The device is controlled by a computer, the whole course of measurement can be monitored in graphical form.

Are you planning any investments in the nearest future? How the new investments can change your company’s growth trajectory?

In our company, investments are planned every year with a volume of more than 8% of sales volume. In 2019, we invested more than 3 mil. €. We make investments based on the requirements and presented strategic visions of our customers.

Are you planning to launch any new products in the nearest future?

Company HERN is primarily a manufacturing company supporting the end customer. We do not currently produce our own commercial product.

Are any eco-friendly solutions you have implemented in your company?

In our company we have implemented eco-friendly solutions from production employees to dispatch. An example is the returnable packaging of manufactured products agreed with our customers. Of course, waste sorting throughout our company is associated with building awareness of the environment and regular familiarization.

Market trends and customers

The Company is highly export-oriented, with many of its customers being multinational firms and global leaders in their field. You have been suppliers to both John Deere and Caterpillar for more than 12 years.

Where are your main markets?

HERN´s main markets are located in western Europe (Germany, France, Italy, Sweden, Czech Republic, etc.)

Who are your most important customers right now?

From turnover point of view our four biggest customers are: Caterpillar, John Deere, Doosan Bobcat and Mitsubishi Logisnext.

What are the current market trends affecting your company?

We can recognize high focus on personalizing of machines (tractors, forklifts, dozers) and effect for our production is higher amount of different part numbers with lower batches. Top trend is IT development throughout all segments in our portfolio, but this trend is not affecting our production directly.

In your opinion, how has the market in your country changed in comparison to other countries in last 5 years and in which direction those changes lead? Is your company ready to compete with the new tendencies on national and international market? Please tell our readers about the company’s international cooperation.

As first, Slovakia cannot be considered as cheap production country, anymore. We can see significant growth of salaries and other costs in this region during last years. In the future companies from this region will have to focus for more complex products and assembly projects with higher share of added value for their customers. In HERN we have skilled and experienced workers to be able to do so, and to be competitive to other suppliers of assembled complex parts, even whole machines.

What are your plans for gaining new foreign markets?

We still plan to grow in western European markets by developing our current customers and also with starting cooperation with new partners mainly in that region.