Häfele was founded in 1923 and for 100 years adopted a policy of personal contact with its customers to better understand their needs. Häfele has become synonymous with pioneering ideas for living, working and leisure. Today, Häfele offers a complete one-stop service, comprehensive advice, sound development competence, and sophisticated logistics.
Innovative strength, courage and optimism: these are qualities which have accompanied Häfele from the very beginning. The Häfele Group has developed into the leading expert for hardware and fitting systems, electronic access control systems and LED lighting. This year Häfele celebrates 100 years internationally and over 40 years in Australia.
It was 1923 and inflation reached its highpoint in Germany. Taking their destiny into their own hands, Adolf Häfele and Hermann Funk started a new company, ‘Products for the hardware and tool industry’ in Aulendorf in Württemberg. Within a few years the fledgling company specialised in joinery and carpentry supplies and moved to Nagold, the former centre of the furniture production in Württemberg, near the Black Forest region. It was here that Adolf established the principle of personal contact, industry and product knowledge, reliability and fast delivery; principles that still exist today.
Coming through the second world war largely intact, Häfele became actively involved in the reconstruction of the country with the supply of fittings and joinery products. Company founder Adolf Häfele passed away in 1949, in the midst of the rebuilding and his 26 year old nephew Walter Thierer assumed the management of the company with the support of the Häfele and Thierer family shareholders. Häfele is now a global company with subsidiaries in 38 countries and an export share of 81%. In the 2022 financial year, the Häfele Group achieved sales of 1.87 billion Euros.
100 Years of Service
Since 1923, Häfele has been an innovative family business, initially serving the local market through the economic miracle years following World War II; supplying premium products made by other companies. The foundation for today’s headquarters in Nagold was laid in 1950 after a fire destroyed the company building during the night of New Year’s Eve. Häfele, under the management of Walter Thierer turned the disaster into a positive outcome and in 1954, Häfele started their own production of special fittings for furniture ornaments and brass grills. Demand for the products grew quickly and the production area was expanded several times.
In the 1960’s a worldwide spirit of optimism existed and Häfele took advantage of this in 1964 and founded the first foreign subsidiary in Switzerland. In 1973, Häfele America was founded. The following year saw the start of Häfele’s in-house development with the company producing innovative hardware that over the years has had a lasting influence on furniture construction worldwide. A classic example of this influence was during the CNC revolution of the 1980’s; Häfele’s minifix and rafix ‘knock-down’ furniture connectors allowed manufacturers to make huge savings by assembling on-site.
Over the following years, Häfele established their third subsidiary in the United Kingdom in 1980, followed by subsidiaries in Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Singapore, New Zealand, Malaysia, and Japan. Today, architects, joiners, cabinet makers and dealers from more than 150 countries rely on the expertise of the innovative family business that has developed into the leading expert for hardware and fitting systems, electronic access control systems and LED lighting. In January this year Häfele took another step into the future with the appointment of Gregor Riekena as Managing Director.
Häfele in Australia
1982 Häfele Australia Pty. Ltd. is founded with its headquarters in Mordialloc, Victoria. Prior to this, Konrad Hengstler was Häfele Australia’s Sales Representative. Working from home, Konrad stocked a small amount of the most popular items in his garage. All other orders were shipped and delivered direct from Germany. In 1985 Häfele celebrated the opening of the first South Australia office in Underdale, SA. In the same year, Häfele opened its first New South Wales office in Lidcombe, NSW and it was here that Häfele Australia’s current Managing Director, Peter Farrugia (pictured) started with the company.
Häfele offices were successively opened in Western Australia, Queensland, and Melbourne. Peter spent a few years in Melbourne before moving to New Zealand to establish Häfele there. Peter returned to Australia after ten years when in 1998 Konrad Hengstler handed over the management of Häfele Australia. Co-incidentally. Konrad moved to New Zealand to open a winery where he established a winery producing Sauvignon Blanc. During most of this time, Häfele Australia maintained the founder’s principle of personal contact to the most remote areas of Australia with their ‘Travelling Showroom’ fitted with the latest hardware technology.
Häfele maintains an extensive number of offices and design centres throughout Australia and New Zealand to support their customers. ‘The Complete Häfele’ is a comprehensive product library builders, cabinet makers and architects turn to for up to date product. At AWISA 2012 Häfele Australia launched the Häfele catalogue app, the first of its kind in the industry.
Gary Cahoon, Head of Marketing for Häfele Australia said, “We work hard all the time to re-invent ourselves allowing us to remain at the forefront of the hardware industry.” Häfele supplies products from leading manufacturers, co-operating with them on new product innovations. Kesseböhmer, Grass, HAWA and Salice are only a few of the companies Häfele work with. In addition, Häfele produce products such as connectors, flap fittings, bedding hardware and lighting and acoustic systems as well as electronic locking systems, in-house in several locations around Germany. Häfele’s ‘Service Plus’ value-adds by supplying complete pre-assembled systems.
Gary has been with Häfele Australia for 34 years. He says, “I’ve seen a company that is extremely progressive. Häfele has a fantastic culture based on family values, we invest in people, in training and in new ideas. I’ve never looked at something we did and ask why we did that. We change things for the greater good.” Konrad once said, “Change the small things, then big things will happen.” Gary agrees and says, “The little things we do build loyalty and a sense of worth.”
Ready for the Second Century
The international Häfele company group is preparing for the next century on the occasion of its 100th birthday with a groundbreaking change of personnel. After 20 years at the helm of the innovative specialist for furniture fittings and architectural hardware, electronic access control systems and LED lighting, Sibylle Thierer (CEO) is handing over the chair of the company management to 45 year old managing director Gregor Riekena. The Häfele Group is using its 100th birthday to look back on previous achievements, and also for restructuring under the motto of “Ready for the Future.”
“With this change at the top, we are confidently underlining our launch into the next Häfele century,” says the outgoing CEO, remaining true to her motto of: “Standing still is a step backwards” with the statement, “It’s not about doing everything like we did before, it’s about the further development of the industry.” The trend of small spaces continues under Häfele’s slogan, “More life per square metre” but heading into the future, digitalisation will take centre stage with increasing levels of connectivity in which Häfele is positioned to take a leading role.
Sibylle Thierer will remain the chairperson of the Board of Directors, continuing the company’s family-oriented, customer-focussed culture. Sibylle said in 2007, “Without fittings, furniture is nothing more than a pile of boards.” It’s this simple and obvious observation that highlights the importance of fittings, and the company that invests in the ongoing development of product, that after 100 years, makes Häfele what it is today.