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The LVEDC Interview: HYDAC’s Matthias Mueller

By LVEDC Staff on August 5, 2014

HYDAC's strategy is predicated upon anticipating the demands that will be placed on their products in the industries they serve, rather than just reacting to customer demands.

HYDAC’s strategy is predicated upon anticipating the demands that will be placed on their products in the industries they serve, rather than just reacting to customer demands.

Editor’s Note: Excuse the cliché, but the folks at HYDAC  are “geared” to help companies with their encompassing range of fluid-power products. HYDAC is the quiet company, a company you may have little or even nothing about. The German-based company provides fluid power solutions to OEM’s, manufacturers and end users of a variety of heavy-duty mobile and industrial equipment. The list of their products is impressive – hydraulic filters, accumulators, valves, clamps, electronics and compact hydraulic systems. This week the LVEDC interview opens our notepad for a conversation with Matthias Mueller, president of the Bethlehem operations about the company, why they decided to come to the Lehigh Valley and some insightful comments about what other global companies could expect if they relocated to the United States.

LVEDC: Tell us about HYDAC, its growth and its plans for the immediate future here in Lehigh Valley.

Matthias Mueller: HYDAC USA is a subsidiary of HYDAC International, a German based company and a global leader in the Fluid Power Business (hydraulics, fluidtechnic & electronics). I came over from Germany in 1990 to start the U.S. division of HYDAC; I had worked at HYDAC in R&D since 1982. Today we have 15 plants in 11 locations in North America, 3 of these plants are in Bethlehem. Currently we employ about 850 employees (including temps ), and about 360 of them in the three plants in Bethlehem. Our largest customers are John Deere, Caterpillar, Oshkosh (JLG), GE Power Systems and CNH. We are expanding rapidly and we plan to increase the number of employees in Bethlehem by about 100 over the next two to three years.

LVEDC: Why did HYDAC choose to locate here in Lehigh Valley?  

Mueller: HYDAC had a master distributor by the name HYCON in the Lehigh Valley since 1975. I’d add there is a German-based history here and it’s proximity to New York and Philadelphia. I’d also say nice industrial parks and relatively good educated workforce. For example Lehigh University, we have many degreed engineers from Lehigh University.

LVEDC: On a personal note, what are your favorite things about Lehigh Valley – and why should other foreign-owned companies consider us for expansion?

Mueller: Close to New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Washington, D.C. I’d also say the Lehigh Valley has a great climate. Also good-developed industrial parks. I like the diversified workforces and businesses. And last I’d say the old tradition here in Bethlehem and Moravian College, the Bach Choir, and modern expansions.

LVEDC: What are some of the most impressive projects and companies HYDAC has assisted – locally and globally?

Matthias Mueller:  Has been with HYDAC since 1982.

Matthias Mueller: Has been with HYDAC since 1982.

Mueller: BP – in 2012 and 2013 we developed for them some new platform filtration systems, which are now installed on their largest platform in the Gulf of Mexico (Thunderhorse). Each filter had a weight of about 20 tons and we supplied three of these and six smaller ones. John Deere: New generation ag sprayers are all equipped with HYDAC hydraulics for their controls. Globally we have products installed in the 3 River Gorge in China, we supplied almost all of the hydraulics for the Airbus A380 Teststands (to fatigue the wings), just to name two. We are a technology-oriented company that works very closely with our customers.

LVEDC: Can you identify any special challenges a foreign-owned company operating in Lehigh Valley may face? If so, how have you been dealing with them – and what advice do you have for other global entities considering a move here?

Mueller: Coming from Germany I was used to a much higher level of education of the engineers, but in particularly of the work force. In Germany we have an apprentice system, but here in the US we have to train and educate our own work force. Employees switch jobs much more frequently; they either move to another area or state or they change quickly because another company offered them a quarter more per hour. My advice: Keep the company like a family-run business as much as possible; develop and keep close relationships with the employees, communicate regularly with them, offer them internal training and advancement opportunities and pay them decent benefits. If financially solid, companies like HYDAC do not receive much support if any from the local economic development, state or city.

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