Balluff is writing a very special success story in the Hungarian town of Veszprém, which has a population of 60,000. The town is a 90-minute drive southwest of Budapest and close to Lake Balaton. Veszprém is not only a wine growing town; Balluff Hungary has been expanding here since 1989 under the guidance of the then Technical Managing Director Ernst Gass.
Balluff follows its own path
Ernst Gass grew up in Hungary and through his knowledge of the country, he greatly contributed to the success of the plant. “Founding the company was a courageous step,” said Michael Unger, the former managing director of Balluff, who was also involved in the development of the Veszprém plant. “Whereas many competitors transferred their production operations to Asia, we went to Hungary even before the end of the east-west conflict because we were impressed by the high level of technical training.”
Balluff Hungary began operating with 13 employees under the direction of Arpád Melles and now has a workforce of 860. Today, 6% of these employees work in research and development along with around 86% in production and production support areas. The plant has only had two managing directors – Arpád Melles and his successor Tamás Ötvös – in 32 years, an indication of great continuity.
“Production in Veszprém started with coils for proximity switches. “At that time we worked with an automatic coiling machine (Kinomat) and a hand-operated coiling machine,” remembered Unger. A small van containing finished parts traveled twice a month from Hungary to Neuhausen and returned with new material.” It soon became clear that Veszprém was a successful model. Back in November 1989, Ernst Gass stressed: “With our Hungarian employees, we have a pillar of support that is important for the entire Balluff company.”
An anniversary party for the team and the whole family
25 years later, Balluff Hungary celebrated this success story with a large anniversary party. Employees, their families and Michael Unger enjoyed the party in 2014. He always remembers the events in Veszprém fondly. “Those were great family and team events! For example, there was a sailing regatta on Lake Balaton, a hard-fought soccer tournament, or an impressive fireworks display as a finale.”
Production, development center, and even more
Veszprém is now the largest production center in the Balluff Group and specializes in the production of housings and SMD components. Veszprém is also Balluff’s second largest development base after the head office in Germany. More than 30 patents stem from Balluff Innovation Management in Veszprém. The purchasing, quality management and IT functions are also located in Hungary.
The plant has a site area of almost 60,000 m² and a building area of 22,400 m², 11,820 m² of which are accounted for by the production department and the warehouse. “Balluff Veszprém produces sensors with different operating principles, for example, for distance measurements and object recognition,” said Tamás Ötvös, Managing Director of Balluff Hungary. “We also manufacture suitable network and connection systems. This is advantageous for our customers because they receive complete customized systems from a single source for their own production.”
Solutions – innovative and elegant
Balluff Hungary is currently producing the industrial RFID read/write head BIS VM, which won the renowned Reddot Award for design in 2015, and IO-Link solutions. With these solutions, Balluff offers the first worldwide standardized IO technology that allows communication on all levels from the sensor to the controller.
More than 3,600,000 products are manufactured annually in Hungary. “Every month we produce an estimated 290,000 sensors and other products. However, we are on the point of increasing our capacities due to the high level of demand. That’s because total capacity utilization was 105% last month and actually 120% in certain production areas,” said Ötvös.
Attractive employer in Hungary
“There are definitely key features that make Balluff a desirable company in Hungary”, said Krisztian Szavel, HR Manager at Balluff Hungary. “Employees want fairness and to be respected on the job and this is what we try to provide to them. The positive company culture is one reason people like to work for Balluff and the supportive management has a key role to maintain.” The good reputation was also fostered through the relocation of jobs from Veszprém to the structurally weak Csetény region in March 2019. For this courageous decision, among other things, Michael Unger was presented with the Hungarian Economics Prize in Budapest in 2019.