Less Fuss - More Money with Hilti

Published 23/12, 2015 at 17:16

PDi recently revisited Hilti headquarters in Schaan, Liechtenstein. Editor-in-chief, Jan Hermansson reports.

  • Johannes Wilfried Huber

Since PDi’s last visit almost the entire headquarter premises has being remodelled, including a 30,000m2 innovations centre, which was opened at the end of May 2015. The Innovation Centre, housing all units and functions involved in research and development, has around 400 employees. The centre emphasises its long-term commitment to progress and cutting-edge technologies.

In addition to the development area, the centre houses a cafeteria, a number of relaxation rooms, fitness centre and a room for worship. Close to the innovation centre Hilti also recently opened its Hilti Child Care Centre for its employees’ small children.

The Hilti insurance

“Our biggest priority is to make sure our clients are profitable by working with us,” said Hilti Diamond Market Development director Martin Gödickemeier. “We want to see our clients satisfied with our products because they know they can make more money with us and have less problems. With the Hilti Fleet Management programme contractors can minimize losses due to breakdowns, be in time and take on more jobs and all at planned costs.”

Hilti entered the professional concrete sawing and drilling industry in 1982. Ten years later they acquired Swedish manufacturer Gearmec. In 2005 the company introduced its Hilti Fleet Management programme whereby contractors rent or lease everything from Hilti. A Fleet Management contract runs up to fours years. When the contract ends the contractor can either purchase the equipment or sign up for a new period. By renewing contractors always work with the latest equipment and tools. If a machine breaks down the contactor will get a replacement machine and tools as standby if needed. Swiss contractors favour Fleet Management and are also becoming very popular in Germany where at least 70% of the Hilti users opt for Fleet Management. In Scandinavia about 30% to 40% of the users prefer the system. Hilti Fleet Management is soon to be launched in the US. “Most of our clients see Hilti Fleet Management as an insurance,” said Hilti Diamond Sawing Systems product manager Hans-Jörg Rieger.

Saving time and on what is relative

One of the driving forces for Hilti when developing new machines and tools for concrete cutting is to make things easy for operators. One good example is Hilti’s high frequency equipment that has few components. Compared to other manufacturers the electric converter is integrated in the sawing or drilling unit instead of in a box connected with a cable.

One of Hilti’s latest developments is the core drilling system Hilti DD 350-CA with the new auto feed device DD AF-CA. This is the first core drilling system with the Cut Assist concept launched mid of 2015. After the core drill system has been mounted it completes the drilling procedure on its own. It carefully establishes the first millimetres of the drilling, before accelerating and sensing for rebar, increasing torque, and signalling the tension to the operator. When through the rebar the system speeds up and stops automatically when the drilling is complete. The system is watercooled and spash water protected and there is no need for air-cooling of the drill motor.

According to Hans-Jörg Rieger the Cut Assist concept increase operators’ working time by up to 40% compared to manual drilling. There are no buttons on the new Hilti auto feed, only an emergency stop. Another advantage is the HF converter being integrated in the drill motor with just a short cable between the auto feed unit and the drill motor. “There is currently a lot of talk about increasing the cutting speed and efficiency. But with fast diamond tools there is very little time to be gained. Therefore for us time and efficiency can be gained on other things like the Cut Assist system,” said Rieger.

Get light with the Hilti diamond exchange module

Hilti has also developed a solution to simplify the retipping procedure and to save steel tubes and minimize weight in the concrete cutters’ vans. This solution was first developed for small diameters of core bits but is now available for core bits up to202 mm in diameter.

The end of the core bit, where the diamond segments are attached, can be removed and replaced. It is basically a diamond exchange module comprising a small ring that can be easily replaced with a bayonet mount.

During the tour of the production area Martin Gödickemeier advised that about 50% of production concerns Hilti’s fastening equipment. The other half is divided between electric tools and equipment and diamond tools. About 50% of the market is in Europe. Hilti has about 22,000 employees in 120 countries, where about 15,000 work in direct sales through subsidiaries mostly owned by Hilti. There are very few independent dealers. Hilti is an international company as more then 60 nationalities work in the head office, which has about 2,000 employees. There are About 2,500 employees in North America.


Strong growth since 2011

2011 was a quite difficult year, but since then Hilti growth has increased and last year by 3.6% to reach a turn over of €4.1bn. Hilti had a return on sales of 11.9% in 2014. About 45% of profit is reinvested in research and development. Hilti has significantly increased its spendings for R&D, by 18% alone in 2014 and again significantly in 2015.

Hilti currently has production in Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Austria, and USA and in a plant in India with over 500 employees. But the core technology will stay in Liechtenstein and Switzerland. Each year about four million diamond segments are produced in Schaan. The majority of these have the Equidist diamond system that radically improves the cutting performance and life of the segment. The Equidist diamond system was launched in 2009. Production of Equidist segments will also take place at the plants in India and Los Angeles, USA in the near future.

Manufacture of concrete cutting equipment is to be moved to Thüringen in Austria in the first quarter of 2016. Production of high cycle equipment is currently dominant at Hilti and their hydraulic systems are sold mainly to emerging markets like India. “It is incredible how things have changed with the high frequency technique,” said Gödickemeier. “Before we used to hire mechanical engineers. Today we are looking for electrical and software engineers and they dominate our R&D department. We see a strong demand for high cycle equipment. Since we launched our new 10kW remotely controlled DST 10 CA wall saw with Cut Assist in 2014 we have experienced a 60% sales increase.”  

The DS TS5-E was the first wall saw from Hilti with integrated converter or like Hilti calls it, with E-box. “It was a difficult task for our R&D department to fit the E-box inside the saw housing. We actually started this development in1996 and have refined the technology over the past 20 years, so that it is now possible to produce even very powerful machines without external e-box.. Another hard nut to crack was to integrate the E-box in our drilling system DD 350. But it worked and we are very proud of this unique solution,” said Gödickemeier. “We have solved a lot of problems and breakdown situations with the integrated E-box, as it is in the cable between a separate E-box and the wall saw where most failures occur.” The goal is to integrate the E-box in the largest Hilti wall saw DS TS20-E.



Interview with Johannes Wilfred Huber:

Innovation and diversity are key

Hilti Executive Vice President Business Unit Diamond Systems Johannes Wilfred Huber shares his thoughts about the current market situation and the future for Hilti concrete sawing and drilling systems.

Hilti is believed to be the biggest manufacturer in the global concrete cutting business predominantly through direct sales, although dealers cover some countries, like Norway. “We put a lot of effort in finding the best and the right local people in each region for the benefit of our clients. That is why innovation followed by diversity is paramount for us,” said Huber. “With an emphasis on diversity I think we can manage our work better. That is also why we very much like to see more women on various positions in our organization.”

Hilti has repeatedly won prizes in recent years for being one of the best companies to work for in several countries. “If our employees are happy with what they are doing and like their job they are also giving our clients a great service. I think that concrete cutters are more demanding today. They know what they expect from the tools and equipment they buy and they also ask us, the suppliers, for a very high level of commitment to them. Hence, having a strong and passionate team is key for us to fulfil our customers’ high expectations,” said Huber.


Focus on earning more market share globally

Hilti has a strong foothold in most of the big markets in Europe. Even the south of Europe is picking up slowly after years of recession. Huber believes that even if Hilti has a very strong foothold in several of the European countries there is still room to increase its market share. “How we see it is we are presenting solutions to contractors that our competitors do not offer. Simplicity, efficiency and increased profit for the users are our keywords. And we have worked and are working hard to develop products and services that accomplish that. More and more users are becoming aware of the advantages of our innovative products and complete service packages like the Fleet Management Programme and the Cut Assist System,” said Huber.

Huber also pointed out that the US market is prioritized and where Hilti can grow a lot more in the concrete cutting sector. An example of increased focus is that Hilti will start production of their Equidist programme in the US. Same thing with the production of Equidist in India with focus on the Asian market. In general Huber has big hopes for growth in Asia. The only territory that worries him is South America and in particular Brazil and Argentina. “Brazil has both economic and political problems. They were strong when the raw material prices were high. But when the prices fell dramatically the country’s economy joined in the fall,” said Huber. “It is completely different with Mexico, which is a market with great potential.”

For Hilti organic growth is a priority and not through acquisitions. Key growth drivers like innovation, or diversity are best built organically then through acquisitions. Huber thinks that in the future those manufacturers that have done their homework will succeed. The future will be more demanding with customer relations, products, diamond tools and service.  “And Hilti’s service programme is a key strength,  especially since Hilti is performing all repairs in its own repair centres,” said Huber. No repair should take any more then three days. “One day for transport to a repair centre, one day of repair and one day transportation back to the customer. And while the customer is waiting we will lend a replacement in many countries,” said Huber.

Huber stresses the value of being a privately owned company, providing Hilti a strong culture and long-term orientation. Hilti is owned by the Hilti family trust, but the members of the Hilti family have a very strong impact on the company. Martin Hilti founded Hilti in 1941 and Hilti will be celebrating their 75th anniversary in 2016.  The president of the Hilti trust is Martin Hilti’s son Michael Hilti.


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