Hot Shots: Europe

April 1, 2001

Hot Shots: Europe

Tooling Up

By Richard Rowe

April 2001

Hydro-Geratebau has established itself as a leading manufacturer of GSE and maintenance tooling and has developed license agreements with most major aircraft manufacturers. Headquartered in Germany and with a subsidiary in Seattle, USA, Hydro is a fast growing company with an annual turnover of more than US$25 million. In our final Hot Shot report, GSE Today talks to Hydro’s Sales and Marketing Director, Ralph Wetzelaer.

GSE Today: Tell us about the origins of Hydro’s business and the development of relationships with your key customers?

Ralph Wetzelaer: Hydro was founded in 1965 in Biberach, an idyllic village in the German Black Forest. Here, a group of enthusiastic and dedicated people designed the first hydraulic axle and tripod jacks for Lufthansa, Swissair, and the German military. Over the past 35 years, Hydro has become a highly sophisticated company, being able to produce complete aircraft final assembly lines from 3D-design to turnkey operations. Airbus and Boeing soon recognized the high standard in quality and customer dedication. Today, Hydro is the largest Airbus licensee for maintenance tooling and one of the largest Boeing licensees worldwide. Hydro’s customers cover airlines, airports, military, and aircraft manufacturers around the globe.

Hydro-Gerätebau engineered, designed, manufactured, and installed the final assembly line for the Dornier DO328 aircraft. This included the complete docking system, aircraft transport system, engine-, wing- and tail-cone installation systems as well as aircraft jacking systems. Hydro also engineered, designed, manufactured, and installed components--such as fully automatic jacking systems and work platforms--for the final assembly line of the Airbus A319/A321 aircraft,

In the military field, Hydro’s tripod and axle jacks, as well as towbars, are specified for the Eurofighter project. Hydro has also been selected to supply the fully automatic jacking systems for the Eurofighter assembly line in England.

GSE Today: How would you describe the demands being placed on you by customers, and how have you responded as a company?

RW: The customer requires a one-stop source for GSE and maintenance tooling. Hydro is not only one of the main GSE and tooling suppliers worldwide, but also the supplier with the most complete program to offer a one-stop source solution.

Customers tend towards automated systems for the maintenance of their aircraft. Due to the fact that airlines and maintenance organizations want to reduce labor costs, and time, while simultaneously increasing aircraft protection and the safety of their crew, the Electronic Jacking and Leveling System (EJAL) was designed. With this system, Hydro provides the highest level in automated jacking, which enables customers to lift any widebody and narrowbody aircraft in less than 40 minutes. The fully automatic jacking system has been successfully sold with very positive feedback from customers.
Other developments include fully automatic Engine Positioners and Landing Gear Removal/Installation Trolleys.

GSE Today: When looking at your competition, what do you feel makes Hydro stand out from the crowd?

RW: Hydro is a privately owned company that continuously reinvests in its work force and products through comprehensive research and development. We only use up-to-date machinery and the latest computer solutions. Hydro realizes that the customer demands a continued high quality standard, which has resulted in the company becoming foremost on the market in its field.

GSE Today: Where are you now in terms of the company’s ongoing business development?

RW: Hydro has a high quality, innovative product, which requires less maintenance and reduces life cycle costs. Having established its own sales offices and sales representatives worldwide, Hydro is able to provide global services at all times. In order to accommodate customer wishes, Hydro expanded by establishing its own production facility in the USA as well as sales offices in France, China, and Japan. Over the last three years, the company’s turnover and number of employees have doubled to an estimated 165 employees worldwide and that is continuing to grow steadily. We plan to expand further by establishing additional offices worldwide.

GSE Today: You have hinted already, but tell us about your company’s priorities for the immediate future.

RW: It’s about providing even better service and maintaining our high quality standards. Hydro will continue to manufacture quality products and improve customer services with the objective to continue establishing innovative products on the market and to keep the position as number one GSE and tooling specialist. We will also concentrate on developing our business in the U.S. and China.