Norbert Hanke, president and CEO of Hexagon Metrology, talks about about the company’s brand portfolio.
Hexagon Metrology is part of the Hexagon AB Group and includes leading metrology brands such as Brown & Sharpe, Cognitens, DEA, Leica Geosystems (Metrology Division), Leitz, m&h Inprocess Messtechnik, Optiv, PC-DMIS, QUINDOS, ROMER and TESA.
The company’s brands represent a global installed base of millions of Coordinate Measuring Machines (CMMs), portable measuring systems and handheld instruments, and tens of thousands of metrology software licenses. Hexagon Metrology helps its customers to fully control manufacturing processes that rely on dimensional precision, ensuring that products manufactured precisely conform to the original product design. Its offering of machines, systems and software is complemented by a wide range of product support, aftermarket and value-added services. Simon Duval Smith spoke to president and CEO Norbert Hanke.
AMS: Hexagon Metrology now has 12 brands; how have you harnessed the best traits of these brands’ and what special qualities have the main ones added to the portfolio? NH: The history of Hexagon Metrology really started in April 2001. Our DNA, when it comes to M&A, is highly advanced, we are always looking and seeing [suitable companies to acquire]. Each time we find an interesting area to do business in, we have to decide to make or buy – develop ourselves or buy-in the expertise. In the first couple of years, our drive was really on regional expansion, to get a footprint in every region. The emerging markets were, of course, one of the major areas of interest. I think we have now finalised our M&A. It was a major driver for us to start in Brazil, China and other countries in Asia. Now we are going on our own in the new regions. but we are very much concentrating on acquiring or developing technology rather than than adding regional footprint.
AMS: Hexagon Metrology offers both contact and noncontact measuring systems. How do you a see the market developing; will there always be places where contact countries? What special demands do these regions have?
NH: In these areas, we tend to start off with entry-level machines, looking at the activities of the local competition. I think it is also very important to have a good local service organisation to take car of the customer, no matter which region they are in. We are looking at markets where we can see OEMs and Tier suppliers setting up plants, this above all drives our location decisions. We have just opened up a branch in Indonesia, we see this as one of the new emerging regions for automotive (and other measurement) business.
AMS: In both established automaking areas and developing ones, what training and support do you offer your customers; do you keep Hexagon Metrology people ‘on the job’ with a customer?
CMMs etc are needed or will non-contact systems take over measuring applications in automotive?
NH: I think the trend is going toward non-contact. Improved and advanced software for controlling noncontact systems is constantly being developed and we will certainly see considerable advances in this area. But contact will certainly not disappear; there are areas like powertrain where contact is the most appropriate form of measurement system.
With our offerings, through our company Cognitens, with its ‘white light’ system, we have a good suite of products for the non-contact market. For reverse engineering and similar applications, we are cooperating with GE on computer tomography (CT) systems and this is definitely a growth area for us.
AMS: Hexagon Metrology Metrology does not have any photo spectrometry technologies for paint measurement. Can you tell me if you are considering moving into this area?
NH: At present we are not looking into this technology; I have not seen a convincing business case for developing products for this area. At the moment we do not feel there is enough business to make investment worthwhile.
AMS: How is the company performing in the new BRIC?
NH: We have more than 60 precision centres worldwide [as well as] our training and support offices and technical centres. We try to base these relatively close to our customers. These are set up by Hexagon metrology in the main, some were started by the companies we have acquired.
AMS: Are you seeing competition from measurement equipment manufacturers from the emerging markets – India, China
NH: Yes, there is increasing competition from local companies in every region. We supply entry-level machines in China for example, under our SEREIN brand, which we acquired about four years ago. These ‘starter’ machines are a great way into customers who are maybe making cars or parts to a local level of quality and sophistication; we would hope to upgrade the customer as they upgrade their offering to their market.
AMS: And what are the quality and price of offerings from these countries?
NH: I have seen some competitors that are a little behind the curve in supplying a total system: some have machines of reasonable quality but do not the support network for the customer. And some companies offer the reverse; they have established technical centres but their products not so advanced and often lack many of the features that a Western supplier like Hexagon Metrology can offer.
AMS: Many OEMs are always looking to improve quality in assembly areas. How far into final assembly can Hexagon Metrology measuring machines penetrate?
NH: We are offering laser measurement and checking solutions in final assembly. Sometimes these can be used to replace vision cameras or manual quality control. Some of our customers use our assembly line area systems on a temporary basis, perhaps when trying out a new line or changing an existing line. Also, we offer a contract inspection service, where we inspect the customers’ parts after production in our laboratory. This can be carried out ‘blind’, where our engineers do not know the name of the customer and/or whether the batch of parts they are examining has been judged good or faulty by the customer’s own quality control department.
Another area where we can help our customers is in the support network that we offer, whatever the measurement or quality challenge, or operational difficulty, we will have service personnel close enough to find a solution very quickly.
AMS: With PC-DMIS, how far advanced do you consider the software offerings of the group and are you looking to acquire more and different software expertise by acquisition or organic growth?
NH: Through our acquisitions, we have gained a lot of good software products and expertise and we also develop a lot in-house. Hexagon bought the US software firm Intergraph for $2.1 billion (€1.6 billion) in July 2010; this was to capitalise on expanding demand from energy, security and infrastructure customers; the acquisition will also help us in our automotive business.
[Intergraph specialised in computer-aided design and geospatial intelligence software]. There are discussions ongoing about automotive manufacturing applications developed through the Intergraph unit. For Hexagon Metrology, software is one of the key drivers for the measurement business.
AMS: Are you buying-in probes and such like from suppliers or mainly making all your own components? NH:We make some probe parts ourselves and also buy-in parts from outside. Sometime our customers will specify a particular probe. At present it does not make good business sense for us to make all the smaller components and I do not see that changing significantly in the future.
AMS: So, where will Hexagon metrology be expanding next? NH: We are looking hard at Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam and other points in the eastern side of Asia.
AMS: Your next company event is the Hexagon User Group conference in Las Vegas, how big will this be?
We are expecting around 3,000 delegates; these will be guests of the total Hexagon Group of course, not just the measurement division.