What is the short story of HELLA from the family perspective?
Andreas Kraler:My grandfather was mayor of Abfaltersbach and always tried to create jobs. When a company that produced venetian blinds went bankrupt, he, actually a farmer and turner, saved the company. The wife of the previous owner was Swedish and called HELLA. And then it started. Blinds were produced everywhere, in the garage, in the youth centre. My father joined after technical school and is now a member of the supervisory board.
The garage has become big…
AK: Yes, here in Abfaltersbach we have several garages with 35,00 square metres.
The real kick for growth happened in 2003. What has happened?
AK: At the turn of the millennium, there was a predatory competition. My father then turned to my grandfather’s vision into something big and started an offensive through takeovers. 2003, we took over “Arabella” in Germany, which was even bigger than the small HELLA at the time.
The level of automation in manufacturing is really impressive. Nevertheless, you see many employees in the factory and have the feeling that HELLA blinds are handmade.
AK: We are indeed a kind of manufactory, because every order is unique. We produce to measure, have nothing in stock. The sunshade - in every colour, in every configuration - is highly individualised. It’s custom tailoring.
What is the DNA of a HELLA product?
AK: The attention to detail that you don’t see from the outside. The lift belt alone is its own mechanism. Everything has been developed by us. Components like the motor are bought in, but the entire environment and concept come from us.
70 per cent of buildings in Germany were built before 1974, when thermal insulation standards were created. There will still be a lot of catching up to do. So the future for HELLA is rosy.
AK: It is difficult to look five years ahead today. What is clear is that global warming is progressing, and of course solar protection and thermal insulation are an important response to this. Climate change and climate management for buildings are a driver for all sun shading technology. There will still have to be many clever products for this. We are working on this development every day - especially for the need of renovation. A speaker at a conference on the subject once said that if all air conditioning systems in Paris were switched off, the temperature would drop by 3 degrees. That is logical because of the heat exchange from the inside to the outside. Sophisticated sun protection could cushion this to a certain extent.
Why does HELLA have its own hydroelectric power plant?
AK: My father had the sustainable idea very early on to generate the electricity we consume ourselves with a power plant and to have money for innovations through the savings. We would be self-sufficient, but we feed our electricity into the grid and draw energy from the grid.
HELLA is, after all, a metal processing company: What makes HELLA good and good for the world?
AK: With sun protection per se, we already manage buildings sustainably. We use steel aluminium in our products, which is 100 percent recyclable, and of course we also use recycled aluminium.
Do you know if the blinds are down at your house right now?
AK: I’ll have to have a quick look on our app. We’ll know in a minute... My daughter has her blinds up and with everyone else, they’re down. But in my daughter’s room, I can lower them right away.
So HELLA has ist own app and its own software. How come?
AK:We bought a start-up years ago to develop the entire control system autonomously and intelligently. The goal is always to keep it as simple as possible for the user. We have managed to do that. A QR code is used to scan the product and the user can adjust everything optimally.
In front of your company is a memorial to your grandfather. What would you tell him today about the year 2022?
AK: I would tell him we are in very turbulent and uncertain times because of the war and supply chains, but we are well on our way to achieving our goals. It’s interesting to see how these challenges bring us even colser together as a HELLA family.