Video Didn’t Kill THIS Radio Star!

Written by Jen Hocken

Hetronic manufactures reliable radio remote control (RRC) systems for a variety of industries. Its diversified product line offers innovative wireless solutions that can be customized for material handling, locomotives, overhead travelling cranes, oil and gas, forestry, drilling, mining, and a wide range of construction equipment. The company is focused on providing its customers with solutions that are both reliable and safe to operate.

Hetronic was originally established in 1982 under the name Heckl Electronics, and later incorporated in 1993 as Hetronic USA in Oklahoma City. The company was privately held throughout most of its early existence until 2008 when it was acquired by Methode Electronics, an American engineering and manufacturing company with a multinational presence. In the early 2000s, the company incorporated as Hetronic International and soon expanded to include a range of multinational divisions including Hetronic Malta, Hetronic Asia, and Hetronic Canada.

Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, Methode Electronics is a large multinational company that develops innovative technology primarily for the automotive, medical, military and aerospace industries. With the support of Methode’s international footprint for the past 11 years, Hetronic has been able to expand its capacity to manufacture its products all over the world.

“Our parent company has manufacturing facilities that are highly rated for automotive, and automotive standards are some of the highest and most strict in the world. We can take advantage of all those efforts to make a very reliable, high-quality product at a good price,” said Donald Schneider, Regional Sales Manager for Hetronic USA.

The corporate headquarters of Hetronic International is still located in Oklahoma City, although in its current structure, much of the senior management is based in its European offices. To meet the needs of over 50 countries, it has contractual partners all over the world that have been authorized to assemble, resell, and distribute Hetronic products.

In an effort to continue its trajectory of growth, Hetronic has a five-year plan in place that prioritizes organic expansion within the current organizational structure. However, it does include the potential to consider acquisitions as well.

“We will look at acquisitions and mergers should they make business sense for our company,” said Don. “If we can find someone who fits our business model and is offering similar goods and services then we would take a look at expansion through acquisition as well as organic growth.”

Hetronic manufactures RRC systems for a wide variety of industrial applications. When a piece of equipment requires an operator to communicate with it remotely using a remote control, Hetronic has a solution to meet that need.

Safety is a central concern when designing devices meant to remotely control heavy machinery. If an operator uses a radio controller to signal the hydraulic arm of a crane to begin lowering, it must also be able to signal it to stop lowering. If something causes that communication link to be interrupted in the meantime, the arm could begin lowering and not know when to stop, and the results could be catastrophic. Hetronic is committed to manufacturing reliably safe wireless RRC systems that can detect and manage any interruption safely.

“We’ve always had an enhanced safety circuitry and system in place to make sure that if anything goes wrong or is not acceptable with the communication between an operator and the units or the machine that they’re operating, that it goes into a safe state,” says Donald.

RRC technology has improved significantly over the course of Hetronic’s tenure in the industry. The company has always had competition in the marketplace, but as radio communication circuitry has become better and less expensive to produce, the competition has grown more aggressive. Hetronic stays ahead of the curve by focusing on safety and reliability first, and then supporting smart innovation.

One of the major challenges of building a radio frequency circuit is ensuring its ability to maintain a reliable, uninterrupted radio link. In the past, this was a very difficult thing to do and as a result, there were only a handful of globally active companies that could compete with Hetronic.

A little more than a decade ago, a major innovation in radio communication technology – something Donald refers to as a hybrid circuit – significantly reduced that challenge for everyone. This resulted in an explosion of new RRC manufacturers entering the marketplace, which has made the sector much more competitive.

Today, the technology continues to advance. The market has seen an influx of modern machine-operator interfaces that enable machinery to be monitored and even controlled by smartphones and tablets. Hetronic is keen to incorporate aspects of these innovations into its own offering but it has approached the prospect cautiously.

Hetronic’s systems have always been designed with safety features built right into the hardware, so that any failure is instantly detected and equipment can be immediately sent into a safe state. This level of control over the hardware is simply not possible with a smartphone application. The company has plans to incorporate these types of systems for their diagnostic monitoring capabilities, but when it comes to physically controlling machinery, Hetronic intends to continue producing reliable hardware with safety features built right in.

Amidst the sudden emergence of new RRC developers, Hetronic also stands out from the rest by using its experience to add value to its customer’s operations by providing innovative customized solutions. As technology continuously moves forward, it can be costly for an OEM to invest in the research and development required to consistently upgrade its equipment or software. But as a leader in the design and manufacture of industrial RRC systems, Hetronic is a great resource for OEMs looking to keep up with advancement without having to spare the extra time and expense.

“We try to stay on top of the latest technologies and offer benefits that companies would be sure to purchase as opposed to develop on their own,” said Donald. “We try to add as much value as possible to a lot of our prospective customers in regards to our experience and how we can configure operator interfaces for various companies.”

As previous technological advancements become more commonplace in the market, they also become more affordable to develop. The result is a growing number of useful features that can be integrated into everyday radio control for industrial equipment.

“We are incorporating a lot of technologies that are coming down in cost so that we can apply them to machines in a way that is cost-effective to the operator,” explained Donald. For example, the ability to set up diagnostics through smart devices is an affordable advantage for any operator. GPS tracking is not new, but it is becoming more economical to use. “All of those features aren’t necessarily new, it’s just that now they’re more cost-effective and we’re able to incorporate them into our product at an affordable price.”

Hetronic recently launched wide-ranging video capabilities to go along with its radio controls and it was able to develop particularly long-range video transmission compared to the rest of the industry. Most of the competition is limited to a specific range of 300 to 500 feet (or 100 to 150 meters) but Hetronic has created a high powered 2.4 gigahertz radio link approved by the Federal Communications Commission that will allow its wireless controls to reach 1,500 to 2,000 feet of video range.

This unparalleled range gives Hetronic an advantage in the market. Donald provides a great example of a time when this long-range would be highly useful, “If someone wants to control a locomotive and they are 2,000 feet away, they can actually have a video link and watch the locomotive to make sure it’s not crossing a road and putting passenger cars in peril.”

Drone control is an exciting new territory for Hetronic. Currently, the vast majority of wireless controls for drones are not industrial grade, and this is an area Hetronic can really contribute value. Approximately one and a half years ago, the company began industrializing drone control systems to be far more durable for a variety of industrial applications. It will continue to pursue this goal in the coming years.

With 27 years in the business, Hetronic has become a leader in the field of industrial RRC. Under the Methode Electronics umbrella, the company has been able to reach a new potential, offering the highest quality products to the global market at an affordable price. The experts at Hetronic have the knowledge and experience to create innovative customized RRC systems for the most complicated industrial applications.



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