28 June, 2013

The Neoteric Way: Neoteric Partners with Hirth Engines

Across the globe, the automaker Toyota is highly recognized for consistently raising the bar for manufacturing, product development and process excellence – the major reason Toyotas are the most preferred cars on the market. Neoteric shares many of Toyota’s business philosophies and has adopted the automaker’s world-famous TPS System (Toyota Production System). One of the main tenets of TPS is establishing partnerships with suppliers and partners to work hand-in-hand for mutual benefit.

Göbler-Hirthmotoren KG (Hirth Engines) is Neoteric’s largest supplier, and this month Neoteric president Chris Fitzgerald visited Hirth in Benningen, Germany to formalize and strengthen the partnership between the two companies. The trip was quite a success and, Fitzgerald reports, one of his most enjoyable.

Hirth owner Siegfried Göbler (left) and Chief Engineer Dietrich Kehe (right) 
extend a warm welcome to Chris Fitzgerald (center).
History of Hirth

Hirth has an intriguing history. Its founder, Hellmuth Hirth, born in 1886, was the most successful German pilot before WW1. At age 18 he worked with Edison in the USA as a mechanic, then returned to Germany in 1909 to help build the first German aircraft. He founded Hirth Motoren GmbH in 1927.

Hellmuth Hirth lost his life in an air crash in 1938 and the company was taken over by Ernst Heinkel AG. After WW11 the defeated Germany could not manufacture aircraft engines due to production constraints imposed by the Allied Forces, so Hirth began manufacturing small 2-stroke engines for vehicles and stationary applications.

In 1974, Hans Göbler acquired all production rights and the company became Göbler-Hirthmotoren KG, as it’s known today. Siegfried Göbler purchased the company from his father Hans in 1993.

The company is known for its state-of-the-art research, technology and production and Hirth engines are at home in all the elements: from breaking the world’s record in hovercraft racing to lifting paragliders off the ground, pushing ultralight aircraft into the sky, supplying firefighters with high-pressure water and powering UAV aircraft for reconnaissance in natural disasters, border surveillance and traffic monitoring.

An aerial view of Hirth facilities, which remain today in their original location
in the midst of dense housing in Benningen am Neckar, near Stuttgart, Germany.
Stuttgart is a major auto and component manufacturing region.
The Neoteric-Hirth Partnership

In addition to learning more about the Hirth philosophy and its operation, one of the main objectives of Fitzgerald’s trip was to work with Hirth to modify their engines to Neoteric’s specifications. In order to meet the unique requirements of hovercraft, Neoteric spends considerable time modifying engines after it receives them.

Also, Neoteric is the exclusive supplier of training craft for HovercraftTraining Centers, and wants to partner with Hirth to manufacture heavy fuel engines specifically for HTC. Hovercraft Training Centers is developing a light hovercraft training program for the U.S.Navy’s LCAC and Ship-to-Shore Connector crews, which ultimately will require the use of heavy fuels (diesel/kerosene) for military hovercraft.

A third goal was to mutually achieve engine improvements to make them even more suitable for all hovercraft environments - salt water, etc. Finally, for aesthetic reasons and to improve resistance to corrosion, Neoteric requested that engines be painted or anodized black.

Mr. Göbler wholeheartedly agreed to all Neoteric’s proposals and he was an engaging and extremely gracious host. Fitzgerald was allowed full access to the factory and staff. He also visited Mr. Göbler’s home and met his family and was treated to exquisite dining experiences and accommodations.

Fitzgerald concludes, “Mr. Göbler was eager to assist us however he could. I regret not having made this trip several years in the past. I was made extremely welcome and this was a most worthwhile mission which should produce verifiable results in the future for all involved. I’d like to thank everyone who made this visit a productive one, especially our team at Neoteric.”

Hirth factory photos:

The Hirth assembly line. Fitzgerald noted that everything in the factory
and the office is exceptionally organized and spotless.

A technician mills crankshaft components, with a smile on his face
that is typical for Hirth employees. Note the orderly arrangement of his tools.

A technician machines and drills an oil pump housing.

A CNC (Computer Numerical Control) milling machine is programmed.

At center right is a broaching machine, used to cut keyways.

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