New machines and technologies are supposed to provide more freedom. That's very important to Václav Huta. The owner of the Czech tool builder Nafo has now networked his machinery with the StateMonitor software from HEIDENHAIN.
The morning fog is still hanging over the Czech industrial city of Strakonice as Václav Huta parks his 1200 GS Adventure motorcycle next to the main entrance at Nafo. Nafo stands for "Nástroje a Formy" – tools and molds. The company has been producing aluminum die-cast tools since 1992, and added injection molding tools three years later. The location was not chosen by chance: Strakonice has a long tradition of manufacturing tools for aluminum foundries. From here Nafo ships its products to the suppliers of Europe's large automobile manufacturers.
The second door on the left leads directly into Huta's office. Each morning he checks his e-mails while the espresso machine is running. But now he can also check the status of his machines. Click! "It's what every owner dreams of," he says, pointing to the overview of his facility as it appears on the screen. "It's just fantastic, being able to see at any time whether and how the machines are running." Click! A circular diagram appears on the screen, showing ten machines: three are colored yellow and the rest are green.
Václav Huta, Nafo
The data is presented by StateMonitor from HEIDENHAIN. Huta has attached all ten of his key machines to the system, from the eighteen-year-old Spanish CME to the modern SAMAG TFZ 3L and FPT DINOX 350. "The FPT was a Christmas present to myself," he says with a sparkle in his eyes. The SAMAG (a roughing and deep-hole boring machine) and the FPT (which has a spindle changer and can therefore dynamically switch between roughing and finishing) are a serious advantage for Nafo. After all, these machines permit the complete manufacture of very large die-cast and injection molding tools that Nafo mainly produces for the automotive industry. Nafo's products are used by suppliers like Magna, KSM or Gruber & Kaja, who in turn produce parts for BMW, Audi, Škoda, and WABCO. "The larger the machines, the smaller the competition," says Huta with a laugh.
Václav Huta was twelve years old when his grandfather bequeathed a moped to him, in the firm belief that it would never run again. However, the nephew talked to his older neighbor and started trying this and that. It smoked like crazy, it stank to high heaven... and it worked! "Bringing a ruin like that back to life is a phenomenal feeling. The experience really had an impact on me." Being able to resurrect the moped ignited a boundless enthusiasm in Václav Huta for machines and motors. First he studied them, and then he left his hometown of Prague and joined Webasto in Vienna. After ten years he went to CAG Holding, and then became director of the subsidiary Nafo 2 in Slovakia.
After the Slovak tool maker, including the foundry, was sold, Huta moved on to Nafo 1 in Strakonice. He led the company for eight years and then assumed complete ownership three years ago. "I built Nafo into a larger company, and then took control when the time was right. I wanted to see what the company is capable of." That didn't change his style of leadership at all. "But now I have more freedom." If Huta wants to invest in a SAMAG or an FPT, then he does so without delay. The same goes for introducing new programs, including StateMonitor. His company is the first in the Czech Republic to use it. "Nowadays you have to act quickly in order to get ahead," he states. Huta wants Nafo to grow, and so he must uncover hidden potentials.
In the end it is all about transparency: where are the reserves in the company hidden, and how can they be utilized? "We work in two shifts here, but an unattended third shift would be possible." StateMonitor would play a very important role here. The software could monitor the autonomous operations at night and on weekends, and could record and present disturbances and machine downtimes. "That is freedom: having my machinery at my fingertips no matter where I am. And my employees no longer need to stand next to the machines in order to keep an eye on them."
He repeatedly mentions the concept of "freedom" and how much courage it takes to use it as a business owner. What he means is: investing large sums of money. "Sometimes I'm moving along the edge," he says, choosing each word carefully. "But you have to dare to do things if you want to get anywhere."
When the pressure gets to be too much, Václav Huta jumps on his motorcycle, where he has to fully concentrate on the road instead of thinking about work. "I'm physically exhausted after a tour, but my mind is then as fresh as a newborn's." That's when the ideas and ambition return. Just like back then, when at just twelve years old he brought a ruin back to life.