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Changes beyond imagination

Upon the reunification of Germany in 1990, Friedrich Hoppe and his sons were strongly determined to make an active contribution to the setting up of the free and social market economy in East Germany. After explorations, discussions on site and then unfortunately very tedious negotiations with the Treuhandanstalt (THA), on 1 July 1991 in Crottendorf, a former state-owned company manufacturing fittings under the management of THA was taken over. With all 98 employees at the time, 18 of them in subsidized temporary layoffs. At the same time, a new production facility was built in the newly established industrial estate, which was inaugurated as early as 1993.
At this time, there were already 252 employees who manufactured door fittings and window handles there. From the outset, it was a production facility with complete added value, i.e. not an “extended workbench”, as many companies from West Germany created in the East during this time purely for cost reasons.

It began with the production of aluminium handles, which remained the core competence of the production facility over the next two decades. Brass handles have also been manufactured in the meantime, and products manufactured in other production facilities for home improvement centres were temporarily delivered from here. Assembly for small and very small orders was also one of the activities carried out here. In the range of tasks of the production facility with 31,500 m² of production space, which has continuously employed over 500 employees since 1997, there have been serious changes time and again, in which the employees have proven themselves very well. But what happened after 2012 represented a whole new dimension of transformation.

Wolf Hoppe's face (on the left in the picture) is beaming with joy over the successful strategy project. Next to him is Thomas Hahn, Plant Manager of the newly established HOPPE Group Assembly and Logistics Centre. Photo by: Silke Koppers
Wolf Hoppe’s face (on the left in the picture) is beaming with joy over the successful strategy project. Next to him is Thomas Hahn, Plant Manager of the newly established HOPPE Group Assembly and Logistics Centre. Photo by: Silke Koppers

The HOPPE Group’s “Strategy Project” was launched in 2012. “The objective of the ‘most intensive fitness programme’ in our company’s history to this day was to reconfigure structures in order to optimise the effectiveness of business processes, and thus to maximise customer benefits” explains company owner Wolf Hoppe. The overall package includes around a dozen individual projects that influence all areas of the company. As part of the optimisation of production, the competencies of the production facilities in Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic were pooled and the production facilities were focused on their strengths. After intensive planning, the transformations began at the end of 2013 in Crottendorf: From a plant that manufactured aluminium fittings all the way from casting to packaging, the production facility was to become an assembly and logistics centre for the entire HOPPE Group. Changes beyond imagination

Machines and equipment were relocated at full speed to other production facilities. An important turning point in this regard was the dismantling of anodised and waste water installation – both in terms of production technology and psychologically, as one hears from the employees’ stories time and again. In return, new assembly work from the other production facilities came here. A new storage and transport system was planned. Extensive construction work began in 2015 as a requirement for the new utilisation concept. Thomas Krüger, member of the plant management team and a leader in the project right from the start, is particularly impressed in this context as he recalls that three holes through the 50 cm thick ceilings were required for the “lifters”. The holes were cut into the reinforced concrete with man-sized saw blades. A high single-digit euro million amount was invested in assembly and storage technology. Further transfers took place between the production facilities. There was a delay in the work from November 2016. The path recommended by experts to introduce new company software and the warehouse management system at the same time was not successful. A fundamentally new personnel, organisational and IT concept was necessary. Even though the implementation of the planning took longer and was more expensive than envisaged due to this, today the “new” production facility can look to the future with confidence. Around 35,000 finished product variants are assembled. The storage and transport system has been in operation since March and is currently in the optimisation phase. The internal transport route is longer than 1 km, and the 40 autonomous transport robots transport the orders at the various levels connected to lifting stations. In addition to the assembly of small and very small series and to logistics, semi-finished goods made of steel and zinc are still manufactured at the production facility – so there is still some production, but overall the plant, which (as of 1st August 2017) still has 638 employees, is completely different. The last relocations are expected to be completed by the end of the year. The significance of the plant for the entire HOPPE Group is already even higher than before.

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