Pneumatics means movement caused by the energy in compressed air. If people were to be asked on a quiz show about what compressed air is used for, most respondents would think of examples such as bellows used for fires in the good old days, or, in the case of music-lovers, an organ. An industrial company like the Hafner Pneumatika Kft. from Halászi in Győr-Moson-Sopron County however would obviously come up with many more winning answers: this company develops and manufactures pneumatic valves, working cylinders, and also markets other pneumatic system components. The majority owners are the German founder’s family members. It also has four Hungarian owners, each holding a 5% share. Erik Hafner, who had Hungarian ancestors, returned to Hungary as a pensioner in 1991 to set up his business. The company first made square clamps to fix tables and shelves together, then they shifted gradually towards valve manufacturing, thanks to their already established network of German contacts.
They hired an in-house development engineer and developed a valve structure with a new sealing principle, creating a valve with a much longer guaranteed useful life. The novel idea was sizing the rubber separating the valve chambers between the copper rings so that it could move. This means that only the slider can move, and it seals only when it is under pressure. The corresponding reduction in friction extends the valve’s useful life, explains Gergely Újváry, Managing Director at Hafner Pneumatika. They have guaranteed operability for up to 5,000,000 switching actions so far. Their measurements according to the new ISO standard have shown that the valve can work for up to 10,000,000 switching actions, while keeping the leakage rate within the permissible range.
The company started as a microenterprise of friends where everybody was involved in every work process to the best of their knowledge. While there were only 5 employees at the beginning, they now they have 100. They have manufactured about 3,000,000 valves so far and have sold them in over 40 countries. Their manufacturing in Hungary is managed from Halászi, but they have a warehouse and a sales team in Germany as well.
The company started to work with traditional machines, old lathes and routers, but they are constantly developing. Nowadays, they use CNC machines for many processes. The company has had two major challenges: the 2008 financial crisis and the launching of valve manufacturing. Not that life was boring afterwards either. After the outbreak of the 2008 financial crisis, their priority was to keep every employee, even if it meant shorter working hours. “We assemble a lot of valves in small batches manually. We even take single-piece orders. Our product range has tens of thousands of articles. We supply tens of thousands of pieces for the automotive industry, but the oil and gas industry also use a lot of our magnetic products for valve islands. We sell thousands of our products to the paper industry. The quantities we sell to the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries are also increasing. These industries are looking for acid-resistant products to meet their requirements. Our release valves are quite sought-after on the international markets, but are not that popular in Hungary. In terms of size, our products range from 16×22×47 mm to 40×80×272 mm, but you can also find 10 mm diameter compact valves among our resold products”, added Újváry.
Their products are used for a wide range of purposes. Petrol station tire pumps are the most common places where you can find them, as the company manufactures control valves for these devices. The company manufactures parts for the door opening and closing systems of buses and subway train cars as well. For example, they merged two valves into one for a bus model manufactured in Hungary. They offer valves for truck and train brakes, and even for locomotive horns. Shipping also keeps them busy.
As automation is becoming more widespread, the popularity of pneumatics is growing as well, because the pollution generated by pneumatic solutions can be eliminated with the right filters. The remote controlling necessary for Industry 4.0 is being increasingly sought after, because it lets clients operate their compressed-air systems easily from their laptops or smartphones. “We try to keep up with the latest developments on the market of pneumatics. However, we can see that we can’t compete with the biggest global players in terms of development. Now we have four development engineers who focus on solutions for specific development needs”, added Gergely Újváry. “We pay high attention to manufacturing quality products; we don’t import parts from China. We develop and manufacture everything, and all the parts and raw materials we use are from the EU. We check our valves and working cylinders one by one for function and leakage. Our sales associates are not only salespersons but also qualified engineering professionals. They can read circuit diagrams on the site, recognise machine functions and offer solutions on the spot—with the help of our support team, if necessary. We pay special attention to satisfying customer needs. The customer is in the centre of our attention. Nothing shows this better than our being ranked among the top three candidates in customer satisfaction category in the Factory of the Year competitions in 2017 and 2018”, said the managing director.
Hafner Pneumatika is a well-capitalised company, the profits that the owners reinvest provide enough funds for their development. The company has not borrowed any money yet, except when it was mandatory for to apply for subsidies. They also make corporate social responsibility a priority, with donations to the Halászi kindergarten, school, and football team. They know each other with the regional disaster relief service, and they often support the organisation of the Mosonmagyaróvár International Violin Competition and the Moson Big Band brass-and-reed band. Their main goal with these activities is to make sure that locals know about them as well.