Exterior view of the Huf Polska plant in Tychy.

Huf Polska: Leading experts for production and painting of car door handles

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Huf Polska has made an impressive development since its foundation on October 1st, 2000. Starting as an extended work-bench to support production at the Huf headquarters in Velbert, the Polish site now is the biggest in the entire Huf Group and an important pillar in the global manufacturing network of the automotive supplier. More than 100,000 door handles are painted every day in the two state-of-the-art paint shops with a brightly colored look.

Text: Michael Gorissen

In line with the rapid expansion of automotive production in Eastern Europe in the 90’s and the need to open up new competitive manufacturing resources, the owners of the automotive supplier Huf decided also to go East. The choice fell on Poland, where major OEMs like Volkswagen, Opel and – since long – Fiat were situated.

At first, Huf rented a building in Katowice. In this region, industries like mining, paper, textile, engineering and automotive were already present. Huf started in Katowice with the assembly of switching modules for Mercedes. Soon, further projects followed, including brackets for the Mercedes W210, tailgate latches and glove compartment latches.

In 2001, the Huf Polska team established a production with six assembly lines for BMW 3 series door brackets. By then, the number of employees of the automotive supplier had risen to 26 and production space became too tight. To allow the rise from a supportive extended work-bench to a fully integrated production, the decision fell to build a new plant in the new special economic zone of Tychy, 20 kilometers from Katowice. Here, the local government offered ample opportunity for investors to expand their business. Moreover, Tychy already was the core of an automotive industry cluster, as Fiat had opened a new plant to produce the legendary Polski Fiat (Fiat 126p) here in 1975.

Automotive supplier Huf Polska with rapid expansion in Tychy

“Tychy is an attractive town with a long industrial tradition, and we can rely on a good infrastructure as well as a pool of qualified employees. This is one of the reasons why Huf Polska was able to grow quickly since we moved to the new premises in Tychy in March 2003,” explains Krystian Irasiak, Human Resources Manager at Huf Polska. “Moreover, we had a highly motivated workforce right from the start who worked quite a few miracles,” he adds.


More than 100,000 door handles are given a shiny look every day in the fully automated painting lines at Huf Polska.


At its site in Tychy, automotive supplier Huf Polska employs around 900 people.


Krystian Irasiak, Head of Human Resources at Huf Polska.

One of these memorable events was the move of the automotive supplier from Katowice to Tychy within two days only. In preparation of the move, the team had set-up brand new plastic injection molding machines. “This was a great step for us,” reports Tomasz Skrzyński, who joined Huf Polska in 2001 as an quality controller and set-up the new quality standards together with colleagues from Velbert. Today, he is head of Quality Engineering at the automotive supplier Huf Polska.

“We were the first company to introduce the new gas injection molding technology (GID) in this region. Therefore, the recruitment of qualified employees was a challenge. Yet we selected and trained the right set of highly committed people and ramped-up production in line with the high-quality standards of Huf Group,” Tomasz Skrzyński says.

With the introduction of injection molding, Huf Polska transformed from an extended workbench to a “full-grown” member of the Huf production network, delivering parts directly to customers. Among the first directly shipped products were door handles and brackets for the Ford C1 platform (comprising Ford Focus and C-Max models). Soon, orders for BMW E46 (3series), the Opel Gamma platform (Corsa, Meriva, Tigra) as well as the Kia ED platform (the first generation of Kia C’eed) followed. What started with one line and five operators now has turned into an injection molding center with 40 machines and three-digit number of employees.

Huf Polska offers outstanding painting competence - especially for door handles

To round off the production capacity of Huf Polska at Tychy, in 2005 the automotive supplier installed the first manual paint shop. With rising demand for high quality painting of door handles, antenna housings and other parts where perfect “A-surfaces” are required, Tychy was equipped with a first automatic paint shop in 2008 and an additional one in 2016.


Mariusz Prokop, Plant Director Operations at Huf Polska (center).

“The introduction of painting was challenging in many respects,” recounts Mariusz Prokop, Plant Director Operations. “Starting with the environmental and safety aspects, it also requires mastering high-level production technology. The two fully automatic paint shops consist of three-level painting lines with a total of around 760 jigs. The lines are automatically adjusted to different materials (water-borne primer and base coats, solvent-borne clear coat). All process parameters (like humidity, temperature, paintbrush, etc.) are constantly controlled. The process data are visualized and stored – a decisive means for permanent quality control,” Mariusz Prokop says.

Wide variety of colors in top painting quality

A very good example for the high painting expertise of Huf Polska: The paint shop in Tychy is one of the few in Europe that produces first-class painting results even with Liquid Chrome. This paint creates a special mirror effect on door handles, for example. The various components have to be prepared in a very complex way for this, which includes the use of a special plasma coating.

Despite the complex production processes involved, Huf Polska combines high production volumes with outstanding paint quality that meets the highest standards. Just one example: In the automotive supplier's paint shop, more than 100,000 door handles are painted with a shiny " skin" in the best sense of the word - per day. Every third new car from Europe comes with door handles painted by Huf Polska. The color spectrum is enormous: "More than 350 different paint colors are possible - including different shades," emphasizes Mariusz Prokop.

Broad product portfolio: Door handles, housings for roof antennas and tailgate release systems made by Huf Polska

Most of the products that are painted in the company's own paint shops were manufactured just a few meters away beforehand. Huf Polska produces the full scope of door handle systems for the European market. From classical pull door handles to modern flush door handles that open manual or automatically and underline the user experience entering modern cars.

These flush door handles, which Huf as the market leader supplies to almost all electric vehicles in Europe, feature the complete range of sensors like microswitches, capacitive and inductive sensor or even contactless with NFC. This underlines the high electronic expertise of Huf Polska. The production portfolio also comprises roof antenna housings and tailgate release products.


Continuous improvement at Huf Polska in line with lean management principles

“22 years after our foundation, we cover the full value stream of production – from injection molding via painting to final assembly. In addition, we constantly advanced our expertise in tool maintenance and modification. Step by step, we are expanding our competencies in order to consolidate our position as one of the strongholds in the Huf manufacturing network,” resumes Mariusz Prokop.

“Of course, there is room for continuous improvement. This is why every employee at Huf Polska knows about and follows the lean principles. However, we have high level support: One of our ‘assets’ is our cherished colleague Lukasz Paluch, who is Vice President Operations Strategy, Performance and Digitalization. Together with his team, he is globally in charge of these functions. With him, we have an excellent sparring partner on-site to identify and implement improvement measures in production fast and train our employees. The levelled and balanced production for example helped us to cope with the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic as we could overcome the high volatility in the ramp-up phase after the lock-down,” Mariusz Prokop adds.


Lukasz Paluch, Vice President Operations Strategy, Performance and Digitalization (center), talking with two colleagues at the shop floor of the automotive supplier Huf Polska.

Musical Milk Run: Agatka delivers

One example of the lean production processes at Huf Polska: Every 20 minutes between the injection molding department and the paint shop, there is music in the air on the shopfloor. That's when Agatka comes by. Everyone knows her. And everyone hears her even before she can be seen. Because on her way through the plant, she is always "singing". She finds her way independently with the help of magnetic strips on the factory floor.

Of course, Agatka is not a very musical employee, but an Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV). This autonomous transport vehicle handles the so-called milk run at Huf Polska: Agatka picks up finished injection molded goods to take them to the next station and at the same time delivers packages with single components.

Agatka can play eight different tunes. Incidentally, she owes her name to the female main character from the children's TV series "Jacek i Agatka", which was very popular in Poland in the late 1960’s.

Unlike her eponym, who was a naturally very stationary finger puppet, Agatka is restless at Huf Polska. On her tours through the factory halls, she covers miles and miles every day. That’s clear, because the products of the automotive supplier are in high demand worldwide and are installed in a wide range of models from well-known car manufacturers. Production in Poland is pulsating The order books at Huf are full - so the music at Huf Polska will keep playing loud.


Allow me: Agatka. The Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) does the milk run at the automotive supplier Huf Polska.

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