HED Inc. celebrates 30 years in Hartford
Company continues to grow in field of vehicle control systems

By JOE VANDELAARSCHOT - Daily News

August 18, 2017

President and CEO of Hydro Electronic Devices (HED) talks with guests during the 30-year anniversary celebration outside of the company in Hartford.
John Ehlke/Daily News


HARTFORD — HED (Hydro Electronic Devices) sits quietly in the city’s Dodge Industrial Park, but little do most area residents know the company is one of the world’s leading designers of vehicle control systems. That includes controllers, displays and keypads.

Thursday’s rain however did not dampen the spirits of those who attended the company’s 30th anniversary celebration. Area business and community leaders, as well as HED customers, were on hand to help celebrate during an afternoon open house.

“Actually the 30th anniversary was in November, but we wanted to wait until now for better weather,” said HED President and CEO Paul Ludwig. “As you can see by the rain today, the wait didn’t make that much of a difference.”

The company, which has about 70 employees, has been located in Hartford for all of it’s 30 years. HED has grown substantially in those three decades.

“The company was started in a loft about a half-mile from the Mineshaft. After a few years the company moved to the upstairs of the Wisconsin Auto Museum and was there for several years,” Ludwig said. “Then, about 15 years ago they moved into a multiuse space in the industrial park and then about 10 years ago we moved into this facility. This was built for our purposes and we have 21,000 square feet of space here.”

Ludwig said HED has a wide variety of customers and their technology is used in many different ways.

“We serve the military with Oshkosh Truck as a customer. We work with fire and rescue vehicle manufacturers like Pierce Fire Truck,” Ludwig said. “In the construction field Caterpillar is a large customer of ours. Our equipment can be found in cranes, like those built by Manitowoc Crane. We also work with customers who manufacture utility vehicles and who are involved in agriculture.”

Mike Naumann of Brookfield looks over the inside of a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle
the celebration at HED.
John Ehlke/Daily News

Ludwig joined HED in 2008, right before the economic downturn.

“That was a difficult time, but we’ve been in a nice growth pattern,” Ludwig said. “We have a really great set of customers — some in Wisconsin and others worldwide including in Germany, the Netherlands, China and other parts of the world including North America.”

HED Applications Engineering Manager Russ Farrell said company engineers do a superb job of creating devices and customizing them for customers’ needs. “What we do is go into the customer with the sales force and implement whatever they need to put our devices on their vehicles. While I’ve been here I’ve worked closely with Manitowoc Crane. We’ve got someone who works very closely with Oshkosh Defense which does a lot of business with the military. We sit down with the customer and ask them what they want to do. How do they want their vehicle to work?” said Farrell. “We have the standard product line and then the application group takes that and finds a way to apply it in a custom way for the customer.”

The company’s growth has created the possibility of a future building expansion.

“The facility has been big enough to support our needs, but we see in the next few years either needing additional space on site or off site,” Ludwig said. “We have a double lot here and the current facility is on one lot, so we have the second lot where we could construct an addition. This building was designed with future expansion in mind.”

Ludwig and Farrell agree finding the right people with the right skills is sometimes a challenge.

“When we add to our team it typically does take time to find the person with the particular skill set we need,” Farrell said.

Ludwig said it is especially difficult to find software engineering talent.

“It’s a never ending investment, but it’s how we differentiate ourself by having a talented engineering team and forming close customer relationships because a lot of what we do is custom systems developed for those customers,” Ludwig said.

Ludwig said the Hartford area is a great environment for the company and its employees.

“It’s a wonderful community and many of our employees live here and the surrounding area because of that,” Ludwig said.