How the Future Is Made: A Partnership between Two Global Players

Hirschmann Automotive is again investing in the Rankweil site. The competitive environment demands that companies in the automotive industry exhibit creativity and innovation in the areas of digitalization and robotics. Together with tailored intralogistics solutions provider Servus Intralogistics, the global player is successfully implementing new and sustainable solutions and making a significant contribution to ensuring that the region remains an economic powerhouse in the future.

The competition never rests – that is something that Volker Buth, CEO of Hirschmann Automotive, knows all too well. It is all the more true due to the fact that the automotive industry is undergoing a tremendous technological transformation – with changes taking place across all sectors. “To remain competitive on the international market, we need to invest intelligently in creative, innovative, and sustainable solutions,” says Volker Buth, summarizing the challenges facing the company.

Investments for the future …

The automotive supplier emphasizes further development in the areas of digitalization and robotics in particular. These two components are crucial for the agility of a company, laying the foundation for its position in the market. Hirschmann Automotive’s strategy of continuing to be the dominant source of tailor-made customer solutions while also reinforcing its roots in the region will remain a decisive factor.

… and in the region …

Over the next three years, the company will be investing 50 million euros in buildings and technology at the Rankweil site. The number of employees and the manufacturing capacity was already adjusted to the strong growth of recent years. Each week at this location, 28 million injection-molded plastic parts are processed into eight million semi-finished or finished products, which are delivered to other company sites or directly to the customer.

A production site with challenges

To ensure manufacturing processes that are both economical and efficient, the Rankweil site uses highly automated production systems that operate on a 21-shift model. Through the use of machines and tools that become more and more efficient over time, continuous improvement of the overall effectiveness of the system, and increasing machine density, the manufacturing output is continuously growing even though the production footprint is remaining the same. This means that the need for faster movement of material and shorter supply intervals is constantly increasing, which is pushing the existing semi-automatic warehousing system to its limits in an appreciable manner. In particular, increased manual transport requirements and organization of storage capacity pose an enormous challenge for the employees. In addition, a field warehouse is needed, there is increased risk of failure and downtime associated with the existing semi-automatic storage and retrieval systems, and the problem that real-time data on the flow of goods or warehouse inventories can only be acquired with considerable additional effort needs to be addressed.

In the interest of an economically and environmentally efficient value chain, Hirschmann Automotive made the decision to fundamentally “rethink” its intralogistics system. This resulted in the initiation of detailed material flow studies with a clear goal in mind: reducing non-value-added activities as well as reliable and trouble-free provision of the right material in the right quantity at the right time and place. To ensure increased process stability and process quality, the automation of processes is to be significantly accelerated – with greater flexibility being simultaneously achieved on a sustainable basis.

Wanted: A partner with expertise and ingenuity

Intensive workshops were held with representatives from logistics, production, IT, and digitalization. These workshops had the objective of ensuring holistic integration of the new intralogistics solution into the existing production and IT system, along with identification of items for inclusion in a requirements specification. The capabilities of the various providers of innovative logistics systems were vetted in a tendering process, with the ideal partner quickly setting itself apart: Heron Innovations Factory of Dornbirn. With its Servus solution, it is unparalleled in the manner in which it competently, innovatively, and creatively fulfills the high automation and digitalization standards of a global player in the automotive industry.

Local synergies with international impact

“The use of local synergies lays the foundation for sustainable value creation and also helps to keep jobs in the region. We are therefore particularly pleased to broaden our cooperation with an innovative company such as Hirschmann Automotive on both a local and international level,” said Christian Beer, founder, owner, and CEO of Heron Innovations Factory, expressing his delight with the successful alliance.

Volker Buth of Hirschmann Automotive adds: “Choosing the intralogistics solution provided by Servus was the best decision we could make. It’s not just that the technical concept is optimally tailored to the structure of our needs. The intensive integration across the various divisions of both companies into a fully integrated solution also represents a global industry benchmark. On this basis, we are securing our competitiveness over the long term and achieving the transparency of production orders and inventories that our customers demand.”

The ways in which the customer benefits are indeed evident. With the rollout and progressive implementation of the Servus system in the production facilities of Hirschmann Automotive, customers benefit not only from optimized process quality and absolute transparency through the provision of real-time data but also from maximum planning reliability and an optimized CO2 footprint in the manufacture of their products.

A tailor-made system

Servus Intralogistics, a subsidiary of the Heron Group, is the general contractor for a solution in which all processes are seamlessly operated, which is tailored to Hirschmann Automotive. The Servus system is used to automate the entire production and warehouse logistics system. The Servus logistics modular assembly kit serves as the basis for customer-specific solutions, offering all components needed for this purpose. It starts with the Servus transport robot, automatic small-parts warehouse, routing systems, assistance systems, and load-handling devices and ranges all the way through to the software, communication, and direct connections. The enormous advantage of this modular kit is that the system remains fully scalable, allowing more performance or storage capacity to be added or additional areas to be connected to the system as required.

“That is one of the biggest challenges: designing and implementing smooth interaction between production machines, warehouse technology, and various IT systems in a manner that keeps the processes reliable. And all this with the aim of putting the system into service on schedule without disrupting the delivery process,” says Jody Forster, Global Head of Logistics Operations, recalling the integration of the Servus system. He sums up the outcome by adding: “Our production processes are on a very high level in terms of automation and engineering. The Servus system now enables us to integrate these production processes with upstream and downstream logistics processes. In this way we have put things on the right track for our Smart Factory digitalization program and for our future at the Rankweil site.”

Automation with and for people

The key component of the system developed by Servus Intralogistics is the world’s first intelligent and autonomous transport robot. It has the ability to transport boxes weighing up to 35 kg from point A to point B all on its own. This enables a changeover from conventional pallet transport to container transports, reducing the need for production storage space and unnecessary waiting times while also keeping throughput times and the associated tied capital to a minimum.

These smart transport robots, 45 of which will be used in Rankweil at the launch, move from the small-parts warehouse with 52,000 storage slots to the required machine and back again using a track system that can be flexibly configured. The robots glide around on their tracks smoothly and quietly, which benefits employees by reducing noise in the work environment.

Maximum flexibility at the locations

“With our Servus system, we are enabling Hirschmann Automotive to take the next step towards a completely interlinked factory, which ultimately means maximum flexibility – both today and in the future,” confirms Christian Beer of Heron Innovations Factory. That is why Hirschmann Automotive is also using Servus Intralogistics in locations beyond Rankweil. In the Czech Republic, the newly built plant serving as the company’s competence center for injection molding technology has already successfully integrated the new technology, with 70 machines connected to the system. A further instance of implementation is planned for 2021 at the manufacturing plant in Romania.

“For Hirschmann Automotive, projects like this one with Servus Intralogistics are the key to transforming functional processes in warehouses and production into integrated, lean, and automated value streams. Through its exceedingly high flexibility and efficiency, the robust, scalable, and autonomous system ensures the lasting competitiveness of Hirschmann locations,” says Peter Spalt, Logistics Director.

Digitalization: Blazing a trail to the smart factory

The digitalization strategy of Hirschmann Automotive pursues the goal of using innovative, digital, and sustainable solutions to optimize all value-added and administrative processes. In the context of this goal, the Rankweil-based company has been working intensively on the digital transformation of production sites into smart factories for several years now. “End-to-end optimization, automation, and digitalization of processes from incoming goods to outgoing goods, with a focus on value streams, will lead to significant and sustainable improvements in efficiency, flexibility, throughput times, and process reliability,” explains COO Markus Ganahl. This is made possible through the exchange of data with production resources, intelligent automation, and linking of processes and plants, not least through the visualization and analysis of real-time data on interactive screens and mobile devices as well as through self-learning algorithms for timely and automated error prevention and for ongoing optimization.

Important goals: Safeguarding jobs, conserving resources

In order to continue to operate in an economical and therefore competitive manner, implementation of this major project is of enormous importance for Hirschmann Automotive. Over the long term, it is the only way to safeguard the existence of the locations and associated jobs worldwide, along with the particularly crucial trainee programs. Last but not least, this move is also appropriate in view of today’s increased environmental awareness and growing scarcity of resources. Climate change can be contained and CO2 emissions can be reduced through the use of intelligent and innovative manufacturing technology and building services engineering.

Two companies united by one spirit

It is certainly not exclusively due to the regional focus of the two companies – Hirschmann Automotive with headquarters in Rankweil and Heron Innovations Factory of Dornbirn – that they are writing success stories relating to “creating a sustainable future.” What shapes and drives them as enterprises is their visionary values and ambitious goals, as well as the synergies they put to use. Solution-oriented thought and action, a passion for technology, and sheer enjoyment of a challenge – these are the qualities that distinguish them as companies with the same DNA.


Facts about the companies:

Hirschmann Automotive GmbH
Founding year: 1959
Automotive supplier
7 production locations worldwide
5,600 employees

Servus Intralogistics GmbH
Founding year: 2005
Tailored intralogistics solutions
2 production sites in Austria and the USA
120 employees

Servus Intralogistics is a subsidiary of the Heron Group

Heron Innovations Factory GmbH
Founding year: 1987
Parent company of Heron CNC Technik, Robotunits GmbH, Servus Intralogistics, and SAFEDI
5 locations worldwide
400 employees


Hirschmann Automotive GmbH
Oberer Paspelsweg 6-8
6830 Rankweil, Austria
Phone: +43 (0)5522 307-0