Heras has a rich history. In a series of articles, we look back at some of the key developments in our history. In part 8, we talked about Heras exporting its fences worldwide. In part 9, we focus on our innovations and the launch of new business units.
Groundbreaking in the fencing industry
Heras’ security fence for optimal protection of high-risk objects represents one of the greatest challenges in the history of our company. In 1980, an engineering department is set up that focuses on the development of new products. These products can hardly be called ‘fences’ given the complexity of their design and the fact that our bespoke solutions meet even the most demanding requirements of customers.
The development of our security fence has been one of our greatest challenges. In the first place, a security fence is intended to keep potential intruders or prisonbreakers out. Secondly, a security fence must have intrusion detection, a detection system that sets off an alarm when a motion sensor is activated. Heras’ success in this area is growing by the day. Managing Director Hugo Groeneveld: ‘The fact that these days helicopters are the getaway vehicle of choice for prisoners is testament to our success. We are now working on solutions to counter these new ways to break out of prison. However, we should avoid that prisoners are locked in cages. Caging inmates is an easy but unacceptable solution from a human rights perspective.’ The engineering department blossoms into a separate branch called the Contracting and Engineering (COEN) group. The group’s revenue increases from NLG 3.5 million in 1986 to NLG 20 million in 1991. On 1 January 1991, COEN becomes Heras Security Systems.
The bar fence, the turnstile, the sliding gate and the cantilever sliding gate were developed in the past by Frans Ruigrok. Ruigrok also came up with the idea of an aluminium lower beam with a pre-stressing technique inside the beam in which the bars are embedded. This idea was further developed into the current Delta cantilever sliding gate. In 1990, Heras feels that it is time to deliver access control components to drive sliding gates automatically. Heras Automation is established for this purpose, and the emphasis shifts from providing separate products to providing turnkey solutions. The Delta gate forms the basis for a range of products designed to control, manage and register the flow of inbound and outbound goods or people.
Fence with safety glass
Vandalism and violence at sports games have been a huge social problem for years. In their search for an alternative to regular fencing, Dutch football club Ajax contacts Heras in 1991. In 1994, Heras partners with General Electric Plastics to develop a transparent fence with panels made of plastic safety glass. The product represents a breakthrough for the fencing industry. Another striking project is the ‘Beschut Fietsen’ (Sheltered Cycling) project. The Dutch Department of Public Works and Water Management wanted to install a special type of fence along a cycling path from Houten to Utrecht and Nieuwegein. As an alternative to a shrub windbreak, which is effective but often not safe, Heras develops a wind fence that offers protection from wind without obstructing cyclists’ view. Wind tunnel experiments and air duct tests show that the wind screen can reduce wind speeds by 60 to 70%.
Gaining assembly experience
Setting up our own assembly company has been an important strategic decision. Until 1990, all assembly work was done by subcontractors, so there was always risk that the subcontractors were not be available when needed. This arrangement also prevented Heras from acquiring knowledge about the assembly process and everything involved with it. Heras’ own assembly department gradually starts to take over the assembly tasks. The result? More experience, less dependency on others, and more attention for and knowledge of the general assembly process within the company.