Whenever I begin to feel down about humans and the human condition, whenever politics and social media crap get to be too much, then a story about the human spirit comes my way.

I met a couple of members of the Harting family at a tech event several years ago. The company exemplifies the “connection” part of The Manufacturing Connection even though I seldom acknowledge them 

But to think, there the family was in the peace following the devastation of the Second World War starting a company that has grown and thrived for 75 years. 

In this hall in Minden, a few months after the end of the war, the Harting company was launched under the name of “Wilhelm Harting Mechanische Werkstätten”.

For 75 years now, the HARTING Technology Group has been driving technological change and providing decisive impetus for the future. The vision formulated in 1996 by the owner family “We want to shape the future with technologies for people” remains the guiding star of our entrepreneurial activities. September 1 marks the 75th anniversary of the founding day of the family company. The manufacturer of everyday products such as waffle irons and irons has evolved into a worldwide leading supplier of industrial connection technology for the three lifelines of data, signal and power, a global player fielding innovative products and solutions focusing on Industry 4.0 and digitization.

Wilhelm and Marie Harting opened the “Wilhelm Harting Mechanical Workshops” on September 1, 1945, in a repair workshop covering about 100 square meters in Minden, Westphalia. Wilhelm Harting initially concentrated on everyday consumer goods, which were in short supply after the war: Immersion heaters, hotplates, energy-saving lamps and electric firelighters that sold like hot cakes. His wife delivered the goods by bicycle in the surroundings of Minden and was paid with bread, bacon, eggs, and legumes. For copper and other raw materials, the company’s first buyer had set off to Cologne and Wuppertal with his rucksack. The return trip was on a coal freight wagon.

The nascent company had a stand at the first HANNOVER MESSE in 1947 and received numerous orders for alternators, starters, regulators, fuel pumps and ignition distributors.

The company grew rapidly and needed more space. From 1950 onwards, the company gradually moved to the neighbouring refugee settlement of Espelkamp. By 1955, the company already had 500 employees and was able to double its turnover to 8.6 million D-Mark within a year. 

The Han (HARTING standard), patented in 1956 and a registered trademark since 1957, became the standard, the epitome of the industrial connector and laid the foundation for the ascent of the medium-sized company from East Westphalia. Thanks to the Han-Modular series, customers are able to achieve optimal design solutions for the supply of machines, systems and plants. Today, the Han-Modular represents the market standard for modular industrial connectors.

Like the company founders, Dietmar and Margrit Harting are also committed to the region. They support projects, initiatives and associations in the fields of culture, sports, education and science. Margrit Harting, until 2018 also Vice President of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce of East Westphalia in Bielefeld, has received several awards for these activities. She is Honorary Chairwoman of the Philharmonic Society of Eastern Westphalia-Lippe, Honorary Chairwoman of association for the promotion of the Minden-Lübbecke district, Honorary Chairwoman of the Local Cultural Agency Espelkamp, and honorary citizen of Leibniz University Hanover. In 2002 she received the Espelkamp Medal.

For many years, Dietmar Harting was active as a leading luminary in national and international associations and committees, including as President of the German Institute for Standardization (DIN), President of the German Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers’ Association (ZVEI), member of the Presidium of the Federation of German Industries (BDI), President of CENELEC (European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization) and Chairman of the German Commission for Electrical, Electronic & Information Technologies in DIN and VDE (DKE). From 1995 to 1998, Dietmar Harting was a member of the “Council for Research, Technology and Innovation” under Chancellor Helmut Kohl and from 2004 to 2006, he was also active as a member of the “Partners for Innovation” initiative of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and Chancellor Angela Merkel respectively. Several organisations honoured his high level of commitment with honorary membership or honorary presidency. In 2013, the Erich Gutenberg working group bestowed its “Praktikerpreis” (Practitioner Award) on Dietmar Harting.    

In 1998, the entrepreneurial couple received the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany and in 2009 the Federal Cross of Merit First Class. In the same year, the city of Espelkamp acknowledged the Hartings by bestowing honorary citizenship. Dietmar Harting was also honoured with the Lower Saxony Cross of Merit 1st Class in 2004 and has been an honorary doctor of Leibniz Universität Hannover since 2010.

Dietmar Harting was Chairman of the HANNOVER MESSE Exhibitors’ Advisory Board for many years and also a member of the Supervisory Board and Executive Committee of Deutsche Messe AG. In 2008 he was awarded the Golden Trade Fair Medal. To this day, the technology group ranks as one of the very few companies to have been present at the trade fair every year without interruption.

In October 2015, after almost 50 years in the management of the Technology Group, Dietmar Harting handed over the reins as Chairman of the Board to his son Philip (46). Today, Philip Harting and his sister Maresa Harting-Hertz (Member of the Board for Finance, Global Purchasing and Facility Management) work closely with their parents Margrit and Dietmar Harting on the Board.

The HARTING Automotive subsidiary develops and produces charging equipment for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. HARTING is also making its key contributions to sustainability in the generation of regenerative energy and has long featured as an experienced and reliable partner to the wind turbine industry.

In recent years, HARTING has been increasingly relying on cooperation activities, networks and partnerships such as the MICAnetwork and the Future Alliance for Mechanical Engineering, with which Industry 4.0 and digitization are being driven forward, while shaping and co-determining the networking of processes and objects. The Technology Group regards partner networks as an ideal platform for the further development of Integrated Industry. In this way, the future can be shaped and designed with technologies for people and values created. 

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