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A Golden Opportunity

From jewelry to medical technology: it took a great deal of courage and precision work for family-run company Haager to create a new direction for their business – and their efforts certainly paid off.

Pforzheim in 2017. The city celebrates its golden legacy. Handsome townhouses still recall the commercial success story that began in the 18th century.
Pforzheim in 2017. The city celebrates its golden legacy. Handsome townhouses still recall the commercial success story that began in the 18th century.

It was the kind of transformation that just doesn’t happen every day. The current senior boss of Haager GmbH, Jörg Haager, couldn’t sit back and accept the poor prospects prevalent in the jewelry industry for a minute more. That was 15 years ago – and he wanted to try something completely new. The idea came to him at a trade fair: why not focus on medical technology instead of jewelry! This brainwave led him to reinvent his company. Until then, his company had been using precious metals to produce almost nothing but hook-and-eye clasps and other accessories for the jewelry industry.

The home of the Haager family can proudly look back over a long history of jewelry production. The southern German city of Pforzheim is going all out to celebrate its 250th anniversary as a city of gold. While nothing has tarnished its reputation as Germany’s foremost jewelry supplier, cracks are already beginning to form in the glittering facade. The jewelry industry in this part of Germany has definitely seen better days. It’s as if all the precious metals have lost their erstwhile splendor, and many of the traditional jewelry factories in Pforzheim have had to close their doors.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained

This is precisely what made Haager change his approach. He began by focusing on smaller-scale medical technology projects, such as producing small parts for endoscopes. Customers were happy and the products reflected the precision with which they had been made. And so it was that Haager, after his initial successes, decided to take a great risk: over time, he invested millions in new machines. The company now has an arsenal of 30 machines, each of which cost between €300,000 and 600,000.

Such investments were needed to get his company back on the right track, overcoming any obstacles along the way. The needs of the medical technology industry are much greater than those in jewelry production. The size of the finished products must not be more than a few micrometers off those in the specifications. By way of comparison, a human hair is approximately 70 micrometers thick. Precision really is everything – and customer demands are still on the rise. The medical technology heavyweights would like to integrate the parts from their suppliers into their products without having to conduct initial testing. For instance, a metal part from Pforzheim destined for an endoscope is equipped with a lens and chip in Japan. If the metal part does not deliver the expected quality at €17, Haager claims the manufacturer will have wasted over €3,000.

Committed to precision

Stephan Lehnert, who has worked in Quality Assurance at Haager since 2011, regularly evaluates the products’ quality and efficiency. Do they meet the strict requirements? Or are there any deviations? At Haager GmbH it’s the job of the ZEISS O-INSPECT measuring machine to find this out. The system scans the small and complex parts produced by the company, which are normally just a few millimeters in size, and compares the actual dimensions with those specified. Lehnert always pays attention to whether the products meet the customer’s specific requirements.

Sometimes, the measuring results achieved by this Pforzheim-based family company are even more precise than those of their customers. Lehnert remembers one complaint: “We explained to our customers that the results are precise and any measuring errors do not arise through any fault of our own. To guarantee this every time, we work with FixAssist, a device that sets the right angles for the styli quickly and easily. Staff at our customer’s site came to us to find out what it is we do. We mounted their styli on our FixAssist. And what do you know: their results suddenly matched ours.”

A decision that struck gold

This new focus on medical technology was no easy feat for a company steeped in tradition. But just like hurdlers, the employees took it one step at a time and made every jump as it came. The commitment among the employees and the courage demonstrated by the top management meant Haager could write its very own success story. So investing in the technology really did pay off. Lehnert also explains that the current production areas “will soon not be enough to cope with the company’s increase in business.” Haager is an enterprise that is constantly growing and expanding. Lehnert also thinks this new industry is “very exciting“ – particularly due to the constant battle to meet the relevant quality standards. Although he honed his craft at a jewelry company, he says he is much more interested in medical technology, especially since the industry is crisis-proof. Lehnert claims that his products are “better than gold.”

Picture this: you’re in a room devoid of light – everything has been plunged into darkness. You reach out. Suddenly, you feel something. What happens? The contact sends a signal to your brain, which tells your arm to stop what it’s doing. Your brain uses the position of your arms and fingers to detect the object you’ve touched.

A coordinate measuring machine works in much the same way: manually or automatically, the probe (arm) moves toward the part being measured. The probe features one or more styli (fingers), each of which has a stylus tip (fingertip). As soon as the stylus tip touches the workpiece, information about its location is sent to the computer connected to the measuring machine. This is how several points are probed and the size of the workpiece determined.

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