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Stemmer's David Hearn remembered

Stemmer Imaging's David Hearn has died after a long illness. Mark Williamson, corporate marketing director at the company, looks back at Hearn’s career

On the 21 March we lost one of the UK machine vision industry’s most colourful and liked personalities. David Hearn started in the industry working for Data Translation selling PC-based data acquisition and image processing hardware and software, before setting up the UK office for Optimas Corporation.

In those early years I experienced David’s outwardly confident personality. In October 1997 he decided to found his own company Vortex Vision selling Imaging Technology Inc frame grabbers and Stemmer Imaging’s newly announced Common Vision Blox software. At about the same time I started Pinnacle Vision with a very similar strategy selling Coreco frame grabbers and WiT software. Although we did meet briefly to discuss if we should join forces, our competitive natures meant we became business competitors until in 2001 when Coreco acquired Imaging Technology. At this time we revisited the idea of working together and formed First Sight Vision, doubling our size and becoming the UK’s largest vision supplier.

I remember the early disclosure meetings, David sharing his concept for the Vision Elements machine vision handbook, which is still published across the Stemmer group today, along with his website domain ‘trans-world-vision’ encapsulating his drive to grow and expand across countries. This captured David’s positive and competitive nature perfectly.

In 2004 his international plans became a reality when Willi Stemmer approached us to start his ‘Stemmer goes European’ initiative and acquired a controlling interest in First Sight Vision, which was later rebranded Stemmer Imaging, a formula that’s been repeated for 20 offices covering Europe and beyond.

David continued to lead the UK business as managing director, while I split my time between managing the UK sales and working with the team in Germany with product and market strategy functions.

David’s approach was unique. Extremely funny with a long list of joke phrases nicknamed Hearnism’s, he ensured the team remained motivated and that the office was always a fun place to be. Ad-hoc awards were given for exceptional performance, such as the famous KFC voucher. Exceeding company targets saw us all go out for dinner, often to a Chinese restaurant to eat as much Peking duck as possible in the aptly named ‘duckfest’. There was also a bell rung in the office when a large order was made, a tradition that’s now replicated across Stemmer offices in Europe.

Behind David’s competitive nature was a very compassionate man, always caring how his staff were doing both in and out of work. When Willi Stemmer decided to sell Stemmer Imaging in 2017 David set his retirement plans in motion relinquishing managing director status but still working part time, bringing his magic personality into the office. Unfortunately he was unable to realise his retirement dream to build a German kit house with integrated Japanese toilet, a topic he could talk for hours on, having to leave the company earlier than planned because of long-term health problems.

David leaves Penny, his wife, who has been an integral part of the company, and four adult children Martha, Sam, Josie, and Rowena.


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