It wasn’t an easy beginning: Wilhelm Harting had actually planned for his son to spend a fair bit of time in the USA on completing his studies. The idea was for the young business studies graduate to gain some experience before starting work. But everything changed on the sudden death of the company’s founder in 1962. Dietmar Harting joined his parents’ company on July 1, 1967—right after graduating. Now 77 years old, he can look back after fifty years in the service of the company on an impressive life’s work as one of the most important entrepreneurs in the industry, the local region and beyond.
Born in Berlin and raised in Dankersen, he took the helm of the company—founded in 1945 —with his mother. At the end of his very first year, there was a difficult decision to be made—the purchase of an automatic lathe at a cost of 750,000 Marks—by a company that achieved sales of around 29 million Marks with 1,000 employees that year. Mother and son decided to make “the massive investment” on their way home from the company Christmas party.
It paid off, and the powerful combination of technology and entrepreneurship underlying their strategy over the ensuing years saw the Technology Group make rapid progress: earnings increased by 50% within three years. With the adoption of an international outlook in 1979, expansion in Espelkamp and the diversification of its connector technology, HARTING was focusing on global markets and versatile applications and uses for its innovative products, solutions and customized hardware and software offering. “My father wrote in the family album for me, saying that quality was the most important requirement for success. Customers need to come back and not products. I’ve always stayed true to this—after all, it’s our name on it,” remembered Dietmar, who headed the company with his wife Margrit from 1987.
Involvement on national and international committees
Having said that, Dietmar hasn’t just been content to set the course within his own company. Since the 1990s, he has been involved with national and international associations and committees, holding leading positions and successfully campaigning for regulation and standardization, having made “a contribution to the success of European unity and the domestic market, which cannot be overestimated,” as the former EU Commissioner Günter Verheugen put it in 2010.
Harting was President of the Zentralverband Elektrotechnik- und Elektronikindustrie (ZVEI) between 1998 and 2004, and headed the Deutsche Institut für Normung (DIN) for eight years—and the European standardisation organisations CENELEC and EXPRESS.
He became a member of the Council for Research, Technology and Innovation under Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl and the Partner for Innovation initiative under his successors Gerhard Schröder and Angela Merkel. He occupied further high-ranking positions—such as BDI Vice President and Chairman of the Exhibitor Council and Deputy Chairman of Deutsche Messe AG. And the awards are equally numerous: Honorary President of the ZVEI, the Federal Order of Merit, First Class (with his wife Margrit), the Lower Saxony Order of Merit, the Erich Gutenberg Prize, the Trade Fair Gold Medal of Honour and an Honorary Doctorate from the Leibniz University of Hanover in 2010.
Identifying trends early on
This passionate and irrepressibly curious engineer always saw trends early on, analyzed opportunities, weighed up the risks carefully and made prudent decisions knew that sustainability for manufacturing, energy and materials consumption was of equally high value. The vision he introduced in 1996 required HARTING to “Shape the future with technology for people.” Dietmar has never had a doubt that innovative technology products and processes can help many people, making their work and daily lives easier. And the science and research behind technological progress are essential for securing and creating employment and the competitive edge and leading position of the German economy.
In spite of the company‘s global stance and his own cosmopolitan outlook, Dietmar—who is mostly quite reserved—remains intimately connected to his local region and homeland. He played handball at school and tennis later in life, and now supports and promotes sports clubs like ATSV Espelkamp, Preußen Espelkamp and GWD Minden, and provided the finance for modernising the Albert Pürsten Stadium in Espelkamp.
Dietmar and his wife Margrit were made Honorary Citizens of the City of Espelkamp in 2009. In his laudatory speech, Mayor Heinrich Vieker told how they had demonstrated exemplary commitment to the local region for decades—as supporters, trendsetters and patrons.
When he handed over Chairmanship of the Board to his son Philip in 2015 (daughter Maresa is Vice President Finance and Purchasing) to devote himself to “New Technology,” his record could not be more exemplary. In five decades, Dietmar Harting has shaped the company with a dynamic hand, transforming it into one of the world’s leading industrial connector providers, a global player, trend-setter and driver of Industry 4.0. And— with recent earnings at 586 million Euros—the third generation of the family is in very safe hands—and well on the way to making it one billion.