Over 45,000 square metres of company premises at the German headquarters and exclusive production site in Burgbrohl alone, 17 international bases around the globe and in the meantime more than 1,200 employees worldwide: quite a lot has happened since the HEUFT company was founded 40 years ago as Part 2 of our new series on the 40th company anniversary impressively documents.
The company has maintained its dynamic growth since 1979 in parallel with the continuous development of innovative technologies, modules and systems, among other things, for superior quality control and in-line inspection during the filling and packaging process. From the first tiny "development laboratory" in the parental home of the company founder Bernhard Heuft to the current size of the company extending over a total area of more than six football pitches in the "Am Wind" industrial estate in Burgbrohl alone, from the first branch abroad to today's practically global sales and service network, from initially twelve to more than 1,200 employees worldwide: HEUFT has developed continuously and sustainably!
A new building was already needed to expand production capacity and office space less than three years after the company started in the former mayor's office in the Brohltalstrasse. The demand for genuine innovations such as the first complete system consisting of a precise fill level detection and the HEUFT DELTA-FW multi-segment flow rejector for the exact upright rejection of faulty beverage bottles which was patented in the year of its foundation was already so high. And not only in Germany, as the establishment of three international locations in the first ten years of the company's history alone shows: HEUFT Ltd. was the first of them to open its doors in Great Britain in 1985. HEUFT USA, Inc followed in 1988 when the first modular HEUFT SPECTRUM platform came onto the market and HEUFT HISPANIA, S.A.U commenced operations only one year later while 100 people were already employed at the German head office.
Rapid increase in production and service capacities
This pattern continued in quick succession from 1990 onwards with the foundation of HEUFT FRANCE S.A. in Brumath, Alsace. HEUFT SCAN APS followed one year later as the Danish branch and another one shortly afterwards, HEUFT Qualiplus B.V., in the Netherlands. At practically the same time parts of the production had to be outsourced – to specially rented halls in Andernach about 20 kilometres from the actual company head office. This was the only way to cope with the constantly increasing flood of orders for real innovations such as the world's first empty bottle inspector for an efficient linear operation launched in 1991 and also to accommodate all the employees whose number had doubled to over 200 in Germany alone by 1993. It was quickly clear that a new building was required: the first section of the HEUFT plant was built in the then new industrial estate "Am Wind" in Burgbrohl-Weiler in 1994.
The new plant already had to be expanded to a total of 10,000 square metres in 1997 because more than 250 people now worked there and at the "old" company location and an additional product line had been added with the HEUFT TORNADO labelling machines: the "Tornado Hall" was built. At the same time HEUFT do Brazil LTDA was the first South American branch to be added before HEUFT S.A. was established in Argentina two years later. In the meantime HEUFT ITALIA S.R.L and HEUFT MEXICO, S.A. started operations in 1998 – the year in which the first network-compatible HEUFT SPECTRUM TX systems came onto the market. HEUFT ASIA LTD. in Hong Kong started its activities in 2001 shortly after the state of the art had been redefined by the HEUFT InLine for the linear all-surface inspection of empty bottles on less than one square metre of floor space. And less than two years later HEUFT SYSTEMS TECHNOLOGY (Shanghai) Co. LTD. in China and HEUFT AUSTRIA GMBH near Vienna.
A growth spurt due to pulsed X-rays
The development of the HEUFT reflexx image processing system in the meantime and the pulsed X-ray technology, available exclusively from the technology leader, for detecting foreign objects carefully and precisely finally enabled the systems engineers to also gain a foothold in the food industry around the turn of the millennium. This meant renewed impetus regarding the number of employees. The number increased to an impressive 400 in the German head office by 2005 alone when the Weihenstephan standards for production data acquisition along beverage and packaging systems which HEUFT helped to design were published. More than 25 per cent of them worked in the research and development department. Over 600 employees around the world already belonged to the dynamically growing HEUFT family at that time. And the number of employees in Burgbrohl exceeded the 500 mark and globally the 800 mark only two years after the delivery of the first HEUFT eXaminer X-ray inspectors and the founding of HEUFT EURASIA in Moscow in 2006.
It goes without saying that more development and production space as well as a modern customer and training centre with spacious exhibition and live testing facilities were needed. The go-ahead for the second expansion of the HEUFT plant in Burgbrohl was therefore given in 2009. Newly developed game changers regarding in-line quality assurance already came on the market during the construction work which more than doubled the company premises to a total of 22,000 square metres – for example the world's first X-ray assisted empty container inspector or the first HEUFT system for the complete inspection of filled vials created exclusively for the pharmaceutical industry. Furthermore the central control centre came into being in the new customer centre for the worldwide 24 hour service established the following year. And the HEUFT SPECTRUM II the latest highly automated version of the comprehensive device platform with revolutionary audiovisual HEUFT NaVi user guidance for, among other things, a self-explanatory empty and full container inspection with an unprecedented performance which celebrated its trade fair premiere at drinktec 2013.
Concentrated competence "Am Wind" and service worldwide
The global demand for such modular HEUFT systems of the new generation quickly increased to such an extent that in the same year the number of employees worldwide increased to 1,000. There were now already 600 at the headquarters in Germany. Space was running out again so that a further new building was already required in 2014. This comprised a 6,000 square metre hall where, among other things, the mechanical series and final production and the HEUFT spare parts warehouse were located as well as two new five-storey office buildings into which more than 100 project engineers and sales clerks moved into two years after the start of construction. All the important areas of competence were consolidated in one location as from 2016 – from basic research to production and project planning to the headquarters of the worldwide after sales service.
750 people were already employed in Burgbrohl alone just another two years later and the number was increasing to over 1,200 all over the world. That is a hundred times more than when it was founded in April 1979! And three additional international sales and service locations were also added last year: HEUFT Oceania Pty Ltd. in Bankstown near Sydney, HEUFT (Thailand) Ltd. in Bangkok and HEUFT INDIA PRIVATE Ltd. in New Delhi – as well as genuine innovations such as the compact HEUFT eXaminer II XS for the space-saving lateral inspection of full containers at the end of line or the first semi-modular labeller of the new generation providing audiovisual support for the user!
Quite a lot will still happen at the technology leader's in the 41st year of the impressive HEUFT history as well as in the future. The challenge continues to be to further optimise and redefine the state of the art for highly automated and reliable in-line quality assurance when filling and packaging beverages, food and pharmaceuticals even in the age of digitalisation and artificial intelligence. Therefore the company founded in 1979 remains consistently on its course of continuous innovation and growth.