“Shining bright, sustainably.”
How hard times tempered Heraeus.
The year was 2011. Prices of photovoltaic cells (PV cells, commonly known as solar cells) fell drastically because of changes in technology. Many small PV companies consolidated. Heraeus Materials Singapore Pte Ltd (HMSL) weathered that storm.
The Heraeus Group is a leading global technology group, with headquarters in Hanau, Germany. Started in 1851, it is a family-owned portfolio company. Its roots go back to a pharmacy opened by the family in 1660. The Heraeus of today has businesses in the environment, energy, electronics, health, mobility and industrial applications sectors. In FY 2018, the Heraeus group generated revenues of €20.3 billion, with 15,000 employees over 40 countries. Heraeus is one of the top ten family-owned companies in Germany, and holds a leading position in its global markets.
Closer to home, Heraeus has been in Singapore for over 30 years. There are two legal entities in Singapore: Heraeus Asia Pacific Holding (the regional HQ) and Heraeus Materials Singapore Pte Ltd. HMSL consists of four Global Business Units (GBUs) that operate in five locations. Heraeus Photovoltaics (HPT) is in Tuas and manufactures silver paste for crystalline silicon solar cells. Heraeus Electronics – Assembly Materials (HET-AM) and Heraeus Electronics – Bonding Wire (HET-BW) are in Pioneer Crescent and Ang Mo Kio respectively, producing soldering products and bonding wires. Heraeus Medical Components (HMC) is situated in Serangoon North and manufactures medical devices. Finally, Heraeus Precious Metals (HPM) is in the Loyang area, where it recycles precious metals and produces emissions control devices, among others.
What characteristics make up an Industry Champion? HMSL believes it is important to have a clear Vision and Mission. It is also crucial to have clear strategies to anticipate market trends, and have R&D come up with innovative solutions. The team needs to be dedicated, passionate and performance-driven to carry out their strategies.
Employees are very important to HMSL. They want their employees to feel valued, feel connected, feel growth and feel a sense of contribution. They make it clear that all employees are leaders and follow the Heraeus Leadership Model: leading self, leading people, leading the organization and leading the business.
To make it a leader in its field, HMSL has implemented some innovative changes, e.g. moving to a larger wafer size, making the printing process more efficient, and viewing the competition as opportunity. Their employees believe in the sustainability of their business and are willing to go the extra mile to achieve the company’s vision and mission. Everyone exercises together every Friday morning, for 15-20 minutes. There are quarterly Town Hall sessions to update employees on various key topics at the start of every quarter. They have weekly ‘Gemba Walks’ to identify potential hazards or ways to eliminate waste on the factory floor. The corporation is also a firm believer in the 5S factory-wide discipline (Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain). Heraeus even has its own internal smartphone app, the Heraeus Touch, which allows employees to get in touch with one another and provide company updates. There is also an Employee Engagement Board, which highlights activities and events in the company in the past 12 months.
The company’s best practices are defined by their Heraeus Production System (HPS), which has three phases: Basic, Advanced and Expert. The HPS House shows diagrammatically the six development areas of Continuous Improvement, Quality, EHS (Environment, Health and Safety), Productivity, Common Standards as well as Employees and Leadership.
HMSL has ISO 45001:2018 (Occupational Health and Safety Management) and ISO 14001:2015 (Environmental Management) accreditation from Tuv Rheinland, ISO 9001:2015 (Quality Management) accreditation from Bureau Veritas, and also bizSAFE Level Star from Workplace Safety and Health Council (Ministry of Manpower, Singapore).
Coming out of crisis shining is also a corporation hallmark. On 31 May 2018, China’s NDRC (National Development and Reform Commission, the macroeconomic and social development planning and implementation unit in China) reduced their subsidies for solar projects to prevent the solar sector from overheating. Many Tier 3 and 4 PV companies went under because they relied heavily on government subsidies. HPT emerged unscathed because of support from the holding company, R&D wizardry, sticking together as a team, and lean manufacturing. These subsidy reductions affected their revenue, but they have managed to balance it out with more efficient production processes. Due to the higher demand for low-cost electricity during the COVID-19 pandemic, HPT has seen outstanding results in the first quarter of 2020 and have raised their full-year outlook.
HPT have won many awards from well-recognized external bodies. These include the Gold Award for Solar Cells Materials Supplier Company of the year (2019) in India (from Solar Quarter), the Leading Practice award for Workplace Safety and Health 2019 (from Singapore Human Resources Institute), the Most Influential Auxiliary Material Enterprise Award in the Photovoltaic Cup selection 2019, the Joint Innovation Award at the 2019 Trina Solar Global Suppliers Conference, one of the PV TOP 50 Innovation Enterprises, the 2019 Top 10 Best PV Materials Suppliers award, 2019 LONGi Suppliers Conference Collaborative Innovation and Strategic Partner.
HMSL has also set up a Corporate Responsibility Office, which focuses on Responsibility Management (which covers topics like ethics, labor, environment, health and safety, management systems, data protection and supply chain). Their Sustainability Touch page holds comprehensive templates and standard documents. Some are Heraeus’ own documents (e.g. Heraeus Code of Conduct, Human Rights Policy, and the Heraeus Compliance Management System Manual), while others are sample documents (including customer codes of conduct, sustainability questionnaires, Responsible Business Alliance, EcoVadis, Conflict Minerals Reporting Template and STRT).
HPT Singapore is the only full-service site that provides Operations, Commercial and an R&D team. They have state-of-the-art equipment that can help customers conduct analyses and design new products. The Commercial and R&D teams can join forces to help customers with their development, technical support and perhaps future collaboration.
HPT’s biggest challenge in the coming years is to develop a high-efficiency, low-cost paste for their customers, thus making solar panels more affordable to the public. Moving forward, HPT needs to continue research into new technology, invest in talent and always be a customer-centric technology partner.
“HMSL holds annual Compliance and Ethics Education sessions, monitors and controls their risks, and provides excellence through sustainability in production. Coupled with its progressive mindset, and stay hungry mentality, this award winner embodies the best of Asian business.”
Shanggari Balakrishnan, Chief Executive Officer, MORS Group
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