Heger Diamond Tools Excellently yoursPublished 23/9 at 12:08
Unlike the ‘golden age’ of the 1980s and 90s when diamond tools practically sold themselves, today running a consumables business is an uphill job. Competition is going up all the time while margins are going down. In order to survive and prosper in a cutthroat environment like this, a supplier has to excel at what it does, which is exactly what Heger has been managing to do for over a century now. Andrei Bushmarin reports.
As far as construction machinery is concerned, Germany is not only Europe’s biggest market, but is a hotbed of innovative ideas and trend setting companies. The country’s engineering tradition is undisputedly one of the best and long lived in the world. It is small wonder, then, that many German engineering and manufacturing firms, particularly those based in the state of Baden-Württemburg, can trace their history back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Established in 1908, Heger by all counts fits into this time honoured category.
A century long tradition
The original company was founded by Rudolf Heger in Freiburg; a charming university town in the heart of the Baden wine growing region. Back in those days, it was tools for the cutting and engraving of various materials that most manufacturers produced. Later on, abrasive tools with diamond or cubic boron nitride (CBN) embedded in hard metal discs fitted on steel cores came into the picture. Heger was among the companies that manufactured these steel cores. In the 1950s, Heger became part of the development of the sintering technology when it started designing its own sintering machines.
In the early 1990s, Michael Heger, the grandson of Rudolf, sold the company to a private investor who owned and managed it until 2001. Then, from the early 2000s until 2013, Heger was part of the US based behemoth Illinois Tool Works Inc. Under ITW management, it was merged with the two ‘Toolmatic’ companies (also belonging to ITW) based in the Netherlands and Belgium under the umbrella name of Heger. 2013 was a watershed year in the modern history of Heger. It was then that its two managing directors Stefan Haag and Günter Dreyer, following a series of long and strenuous negotiations, acquired control of the company as part of a management buyout. Then, they proceeded to rename the newly bought out company becoming Heger Excellent Diamond Tools. By that time the two partners had accumulated a quarter of a century track record in diamond tools working all sides of the industry: contracting, sales and product management, design and manufacturing. At Heger, all managerial decisions are made together, with Günter Dreyer focusing on R&D, product and sales management, while Stefan Haag is primarily responsible for production and administration.
New home, new strategy
In 2015, Heger moved into a new 2,400m2 manufacturing and office facility located in Heitersheim, a small town half an hour drive from Freiburg. The company currently employs some 50 people, with roughly half of them involved in the manufacturing process. Heger produces a full range of diamond consumables for professional contractors serving the construction and refractory industries. The company’s strongest suit and unique selling point is the ability to provide project specific diamond products in a fast and flexible manner. Thanks to the fact that both owners (who personally handle every aspect of product development) come from the industry, Heger offers unmatched lead times for customised and specialty tools. As Stefan Haag puts it, “We aim to be the professionals’ first choice as far as diamond consumables are concerned.”
Made in Germany, sold all over the world
Although Heger does have customers in over 40 countries worldwide, it is Germany that accounts for over 50% of the company’s sales. This is where the Heger brand is best recognised and customer relations are the strongest. Almost 90% of sales to the domestic market are done directly to contractors by Heger’s dedicated sales force. That’s probably the reason why the manufacturer favours German trade shows such as bauma, BeBoSa and Ceramitec. Homeland aside, Benelux, France and Italy make the top three on Heger’s list of overseas markets. Heger tools had already been well known in Benelux since the ITW times, and, to further strengthen its presence in the region, in 2013 the German company opened a fully owned subsidiary Heger Excellent Diamond Tools BV in Hoogerheide, Holland. In recent years, Heger has significantly reinforced its position in the Italian market too, thanks, in no small part, to the efforts of its representative Walter Malaguti - a well-respected figure in the national concrete sawing community. Outside of Europe, the Middle East countries and North America are now being eyed by the manufacturer for further expansion.
‘We take it personally’
As an industry veteran and the manager of a diamond tooling company, Stefan Haag has a very down to earth view on his chosen trade. He says that all the IT and social media wizardry notwithstanding, sawing and drilling still remain a person to person business. Understanding your customers’ needs is of paramount importance, and the best way to learn them is through personal interaction. And that is something Heger is really good at. Never big on advertising gimmicks and PR stunts, the company prefers to win customers over by offering them high quality products and a prompt efficient service. When asked about promising niche markets, Stefan Haag commented that microtrenching for fibre optic installation and surface grinding to reduce noise pollution on roads and motorways hold a lot of potential. According to him, Heger is already staking a claim in these markets with its products. Diamond blades for microtrenching applications, along with the new ‘Titan’ wave segments and grinding tools for superhard refractory materials, were the main highlights of the Heger booth at bauma this year.