HAKO – An innovative medium-sized company.

The firm Ferdinand von Hagen is first mentioned in a bill of purchase for a piece of land in the Wüpperbogen on the Evertsaue between Ernst Hilger and Ferdinand von Hagen who acquired the plot on 15th October 1832 for 9,000 Taler Prussian Courant. The firm was founded on 26th September 1833 as the deed, presented to Otto von Hagen the owner at that time, bears witness to.  
 
Hinges and other metal fittings were manufactured here in the Wupperbogen for some 70 years using water power to drive the hammers which can still be seen at some industrial hamlets here in the region. Hinges for doors, trunks and boxes as well as for other uses were produced.
 
At the end of the 19th century the need arose to find new facilities and opportunities as new production techniques had been created. In addition the towns of Elberfeld and Barmen were looking for a suitable site for a sewage works.  
 
The two towns purchased the Evertsaue site for 250,000 Marks on the 1st February 1903.
 
At the same time a piece of land was acquired from the town of Vohwinkel in what was at the time Kaiserstrasse. It is here on the site of the Sonntagskind brown coal mine that the production works were established using the most modern technology.  
 
Using steam engines powered by the coal, and of course a tall chimney, production machines standing on the packed down clay floor were driven by transmission belts.
 
In the year 1912 the firm von Hagen merged with the firm Koch thus giving rise to the name HaKo.

Over the intervening years the range of products was augmented with piano hinges and bonnet hinges. These were initially produced in 6 – 8 individual manufacturing processes until HAKO designed and constructed their first piano hinge machine which cam into operation in the 40’s, producing hinges up to a thickness of 1.5mm and 3,500 mm in length fully automatically in one working process.
 
The era of the piano hinge dawned for HAKO and business flourished. Apart from piano hinges and Rückwanddeckelbändern”for example for the firm Steinway the most important products were bonnet hinges for the automobile industry. At that time the majority of vehicles had a long bonnet which could be opened and raised with the aid of 3 or 4 so-called bonnet hinges. One of the main customers was Mercedes.
 
This brilliant period came to an abrupt end in the 50’s as the automobile industry’s designers introduced the bonnet which opened from behind and the days of the bonnet hinge were virtually over. However, they are still produced on a small scale and used for a wide variety of different purposes.
 
HAKO had to rethink. At that time HAKO had three managing directors Kurt von Hagen, Julius Koch and Ferdinand Arntz, still had a clay floor in the production halls and the machines were still driven by transmission belts. In winter bricks were warmed over night and distributed during the day to the workers to make up for the more or less nonexistent heating.
 
New markets had to be found and new manufacturing processes and products had to be developed.
 
 
Gradually the transmission belts, which produced a lot of dirt and dust due to the friction, were replaced with individual electric motors for each machine. The clay floor made way for one made of concrete and new halls were built.
 
In the 50’s sales activities were directed at the overseas market and considerable quantities of hinges with inch measurements were sold above all in the USA and Canada. Cooperations were set up with US companies which sold HAKO hinges and fittings exclusively.
 
This period was, however, short-lived because competition from the Far East was becoming increasingly apparent. It was above all the Japanese in the 60’s who provided some tough competition and caused business in the USA to shrink.
 
At this point in time the fate of the company was in the hands of one man. Managing director Günther Krech pressed ahead with constructional work and looked for new customers and manufacturing processes.
 
HAKO concentrated on its core competence, i.e. steel processing and treatment. Surface treatments such as painting, galvanising and polishing were outsourced in good time, the piano hinge machines ,which were still in operation, were converted, the not exactly simple production of rust-proof hinges was tackled, the first Berninghaus punching press with a compressive force of 160 tons was purchased and last but not least new customers were sought.
 
The construction sector was booming and in addition to automobile and vehicle construction, wagon building for the railways, machine and plant engineering and construction, piano building etc. came the building industry especially fittings for windows. Via the firm Aldra in Meldorf for whom robust mounting brackets were being produced HAKO made contact with the Danish firm Velux. Velux had at that time registered a patent on the tilt and turn window and were looking for a manufacturer in Germany and it was HAKO that was selected.
 
The tilt and turn fitting consisted of 82 individual components such as stamped parts, rivets and screws, springs and a sophisticated surface finish. Technically speaking it was a gigantic challenge for HAKO also in reference to quality standards.
 
The installation of a multi-user construction line, the acquisition of hydraulic presses and riveting machines and devices with automatic feeding system not to mention the introduction of a quality system, which was unusual at that time, posed what initially seemed to be insurmountable obstacles for HAKO.
 
In 1969 the first PV-68-fittings were approved by customers and up until into the 90’s available as assembled parts and later as stamped parts.
 
 The first 250-ton automatic punching press was purchased from the firm Kaiser. New coilers capable of processing of coils with diameters of up to 1,800 mm and thus enabling long punching times were bought, HAKO participated in the research project “Stanzzeitoptimierung” (punching time optimisation) initiated by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia as well as installing a process monitoring system from the firm Bramkamp which the first unmanned shifts possible. The QS-system was developed further and EDP systems for administrative as well as technical purposes were already in operation by the early 70’s.
 
Not only the dependence on technical development but also adaptability to it became evident in the 80’s. After, as already mentioned, new developments brought an end to the boom in bonnet hinges and thus more or less stifled the associations with automobile industry, the separate and stowable rear seatback was initially developed as an optional extra for passenger cars.      
 
 Since hinges were required for the independent movement of each of the seat’s halves at was only a matter of time before HAKO was asked to develop and construct the necessary fittings.
 
Up till that time it had been customary to offer and produce parts according to the manufacturer’s drawings. In the 80’s it became normal to discuss and optimise special parts with each individual manufacturer thus determining and solving any problems concerning production, assembly and quality beforehand so that the start up of a new series was relatively devoid of any disruptions during production.
 
HAKO has now been active in this business sector for nearly 30 years. The standards set by our customers, technical innovations and above all the TÜV’s (Technical Inspection Authority) requirements and safety stipulations have turned the simple hinge into a high-tech system where a great deal of know-how is involved.
 
A lot has been done in this time in order to safeguard all of this. The ‘new era of the automobile’ was followed to a large extent by Günther Krech together with Bernd Bigge who was appointed as 2nd managing director in the 80’s and who has been running the company single-handedly since 1996. 
 
Capacities were increased for the future, firstly with purchase of a 250-ton and two 400-ton automatic punching presses from the firms Gräbener and Schuler respectively and more recently a 1,000-ton automatic punching press with transfer system from the firm Kaiser. Kai Bigge was appointed as additional Managing Director in order to safeguard the continuation of the family-run concern.
 
It became necessary to construct a new 12-meter high production hall complete with heavy-duty cranes capable of moving 15-ton coils and massive tools sometimes 4,000 mm in length and weighing up to 15 tons.
 
Consistent improvement of the QS-system, introduction of environmental management, increasing the number of staff and their qualifications, apprenticeship training specially geared to our requirements and last but not least good contact to our business partners as well as flexibility and our ability to react quickly to customers requirements have enabled the company to increase turnover from approx. DM 8 million in the 90’s to more than Euro 35 million in 2008.  
 
Despite the fact that the company has hired many new employees in recent years, the average period of employment for our staff still lies around 12 years. Many former employees and pensioners, who all enjoy good relations with the firm and are regular visitors to the company’s celebrations, worked at HAKO for more than 40 years. All of them contributed to the success of the firm and a special thanks goes out to them.
 
In September 2005 the firm HAKO-Sport was founded. A sports centre for football on artificial turf was set up in the former production halls and in the outside area. HAKO-Sport offers something for everybody and there is a special area for events and other venues with lavish catering facilities for all kinds of parties and celebrations, as well as a skating rink in winter.
  
A successful company and its management should try to share their success with others and give something back.
 
HAKO has been making every effort to do this for many years by supporting sports, cultural and community organizations in and around Wuppertal. Whether it be in the form of financial support of sponsoring or counselling and honorary activities especially in the sector of schooling and training and advancement of young people – HAKO is in the thick of things