Interview with Heavydrive managing director Guenter Uebelacker
What would you say have been the company’s high points?
Personally, it is always a highlight to be part of big international construction projects, for example in recent years we were involved in the Elbe Philharmonic Hall in Hamburg, the Etihad Museum in Dubai, St. Jakobshalle in Basel and the Jewish Museum in Frankfurt. But the best thing is when happy customers come back to us after we have completed a project successfully. This was the case at the Lakhta Center in St. Petersburg. In 2017, Heavydrive had assembled various, partly curved façade elements in the Lakhta Center I conference centre. Then, in 2020, we were hired again to install façade elements weighing almost 2 tonnes in a building complex in Lakhta Center II in below-freezing conditions.
In what ways has Heavydrive grown over the years?
The entire company went digital in 2019. This involved complete modernisation of our technology, such as a new server structure, a new Enterprise Resource Planning system, and linking our international subsidiaries and strategic logistics partners to our network. Now we even have real-time sea freight tracking that enables us to see where our deliveries are at any time. All of our technicians were also given tablets so that every employee is connected and always up to date with things like new customer orders. This speeds up our operations, too. We also have digital services available to customers, such as the Heavydrive app, digital device finder and video calling with our advisers.
What new systems and devices has Heavydrive introduced to the market?
We continually develop all of the Heavydrive product lines, particularly with regard to greater lifting capacities or special capabilities, for example the HDL 600 S glass transport wagon which can be tilted and is suitable for off-road. The GMG M 1000 and GMG M 1400 glass assembly devices are particularly exciting innovations, as their dynamic load balance gives them special off-road capabilities. Brand new to the range is the TT 1300 stair climber, which can transport loads of up to 1,300kg up and down stairs and over ledges.
How have customer demands changed since the firm was established in 2006?
The trend for large and heavy façade elements has definitely grown in the last 15 years. Our aim is to fit panes weighing up to 10 tonnes. Architecture is more challenging; gigantic curved panes and special coated glass elements are becoming the norm. For these complicated projects, customers don’t just need any old device, but an efficient, customised solution. Therefore we are usually involved right from the planning phase to develop the optimum assembly solution for each customer according to their construction site requirements.
What have the company’s biggest challenges been and how did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge has been the coronavirus pandemic, combined with border closures, supply shortages and hygiene and social distancing measures. Since we had developed our digital services in recent years, we were already equipped to help customers regardless of their location, for example via video calling or using 3D model simulations. Our international subsidiaries and warehouses meant we could continue to serve customers in Russia, the USA, Switzerland and Dubai without interruption, as we were not affected by border closures. Of course we have also implemented a thorough hygiene policy and arranged for our administrative team to work from home.
What is your recipe for success?
Everyone on the Heavydrive team has years of experience in construction and we always work very closely with the customer. Our technicians are constantly working on large-scale international projects, so we understand exactly what is required in practice, which problems can arise on a construction site, and how to optimise and adapt our systems. What’s more, because of our proximity to customers, we are always at the cutting edge of global construction trends and can develop new systems with a view to the long term.
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