Q&A: Viktor Gaspar, CEO Hardinge Europe and Kellenberger AG

Whether it’s workholding equipment or turning, milling and grinding machines, Hardinge is a renowned name throughout the manufacturing industry. On the grinding front it has acquired many iconic brands including Kellenberger, Voumard, Hauser, Tschudin, and Jones & Shipman. In this Q&A, PES hears about the thoughts and aspirations of Viktor Gaspar, CEO of Hardinge Europe and Kellenberger AG.

Q: Mr Gaspar, you have been CEO of Hardinge Europe since March 2020 and also CEO of Kellenberger AG in Switzerland, which is a significant part of Hardinge. What has happened in the company over the past two years and what steps have you taken to lead Kellenberger into the future?

A: Kellenberger already entered a highly innovative phase more than two years ago. In 2018 – I was COO at the time – we launched a new machine philosophy. We switched from a series-based machine design to a modular one that allows a variety of technically advanced configurations. This modularity is now the basis for all new machine concepts, including the Voumard 1000 presented in 2020. This completely redesigned machine consists of the same fundamental technical modules that we use for our Kellenberger machines and was then specially configured for internal grinding applications.

In parallel, building on our proven Red Solution HMI software and Black CAM Solution add-on software, we have developed an innovative new control philosophy – a touch HMI software solution – which we featured on all machine series’ at the Grinding Hub in Stuttgart in May.

Q: We also hear new things from the competition in terms of control. How does your concept differ?

A: We are not just concerned with improved data exchange between our machines – we have been providing this to our customers for years with our COM Gateway. Our new control software is also not limited purely to a visual enhancement of the display; it also has a completely new software architecture that can be adapted equally to all our machines that’s easy to use and intuitive for the operator, regardless of whether the focus of machining is internal grinding or external grinding.

The new control solution is already available for the Kellenberger 10 and Voumard 1000 and will soon be adapted for the Kellenberger 100 and 1000 models – but it will be available on all Kellenberger and Voumard machines in the future. We presented all the advantages and details of the new software at the Grinding Hub.

Q: Let's go further into the future. What will the next two years bring for Kellenberger?

A: Our strategy always and above all focuses on added value for the customer. Today's manufacturing companies don't buy machines, they buy solutions, and we want to further meet this demand with the best machines in the grinding sector. 

That is why we have opted for a sophisticated new manufacturing philosophy for our future company headquarters in Goldach, Switzerland which we plan to move into in the summer of 2023. There, all grinding machine brands belonging to Hardinge – Kellenberger, Voumard, Hauser and Tschudin – will be brought together in one place with sales, research and development, production, assembly, warehousing and administration occupying around 25,000m². The previous locations in St. Gallen, Wittenbach and Romanshorn will be closed.

The 18,000m² production hall will be the epicentre and will also house the spindle construction department, the grinding shop and the measuring area, as well as a large showroom and a training workshop.

Q: Will the topic of sustainability also be a driving force for you in the future?

A: Today, every company is measured by its sustainable actions. At Kellenberger we are very conscious of how our business activities affect the environment. We have been analysing and improving the topics of circular economy, supply chain monitoring and minimising CO2 in our production for a long time.

In the new hall in Goldach, streamlined production and assembly processes will bring significant improvements in capacity and efficiency. Vibration-insulated foundations will drastically reduce noise pollution for employees and a central cooling and compressed air system using groundwater and Lake Constance water in accordance with the latest environmental aspects will help to reduce operating costs. And of course, the time-consuming and cost-intensive commuting between the sites will be eliminated by consolidating the brands into one location.

But our sustainability doesn’t end there. We also involve our customers by keeping our machines technically up to date on site with applications. Maintaining existing customers is just as important to us as acquiring new ones. Due to the modular design of our machines, which I already mentioned above, it is much easier to replace components when they are worn, to ‘re-fit’ the machine as needed, so to speak. Which brings us to the topic of retrofitting. Our machines are energy- and resource-efficient and contribute to low lifecycle costs with high-quality and durable components.

The Kellenberger 1000 and its predecessor models Kel-Varia and Varia, of which more than a thousand machines have been delivered worldwide, are very well suited to retrofitting, with the end result being many machines are ready for a second lifecycle.  

Q: Where do you still see potential for the future?

A: We are aiming for a major growth in turnover in the next three years, from today's €400 million to over €1 billion. This will not only derive from our existing business segments – grinding, turning and milling, which recently included the renowned lathe manufacturer Weisser, and workholding – but rather from strategic diversification. In order to expand our business fields, we will make further acquisitions in the machinery sector in order to establish ourselves as a system supplier and stand out from the competition.

Lutterworth-based DF Precision Machinery is the exclusive representative in the UK and Ireland for all Hardinge grinding products.

DF Precision Machinery

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