I had the pleasure of sitting down with Bosch Rexroth’s Chairman, Dr. Karl Tragl, at the Hannover Fair in Germany earlier this month. Tragl explained that the company’s world is increasingly being split in two ways—regionally and in industry segments.
“Many of the trends which induced developments—which have taken three to five years in the past—happened within one year in 2009 and 2010,” said Tragl, who sees a regional shift into a “two-speed world.”
“There are countries like Brazil, India or China which are growing at completely different speeds and they have different requirements than established countries like U.S., Germany, France, Spain,” he said. “So this change of speed in development and change in regional weight is something that has been clearly accelerated during the [economic] crisis.”
The second split Tragl discussed is a different weight of importance of industry segments.
“All the industry segments linked to the [population] are growing dramatically and a few other ones are growing much less. This has everything to do with getting raw material out of the ground and food generation, energy and packaging—all those ones are growing at much higher speeds than some other ones,” he said. “I don’t want to say that other ones are not growing, but it’s just different speeds and different demands in those markets.”
Tragl also reflected on how the change in technology has been very much accelerated—for example, the combination of electronic controls and drives with hydraulics to create energy efficient systems.
“It’s very important to use the benefits of hydraulics, the high power density, together with the availability to generate energy pressure only on demand,” Tragl said. “And put the control structure of the hydraulic system seamlessly integrated to the overall control architecture. Those two trends, control architecture and energy efficiency, are really pushing at the moment cooperation of hydraulics and hybrid systems.”
Tragl said that while you have high volume, high power machines using hydraulics, and small machines using electric, he feels “in between them is a huge range of machines.” And the hybrid systems are the best use of that part of the market.
“We have all the benefits of the hydraulic side and all the benefits of the electrical side. … Such a system is not only more energy efficient, but can be more accurate and you can get higher productivity out of the system. And in addition, it’s much more quiet. So it’s not only one dimension, energy efficiency, it’s higher productivity, less emissions … great leaps forward are possible,” he said.
Tragl said that Bosch Rexroth, which had been in a “constant growth phase” up until 2008, experienced a fallback in 2009 and the company “won most of it back in 2010.” Furthermore, Tragl said that they are very confident that they will be back to where they were in 2011.
Efficiency under their own roof
Bosch Rexroth also unveiled an interesting plan—the company has a goal of reducing its own carbon footprint by 20% by 2020. Here again, energy efficiency is key.
Tragl said that the company took some pilot plants and looked at the entire operation. They asked what could be theoretically done if time and money were no object. The figures that came back were a reduction of between 70% and 80%.
“And then we asked what is reasonable?” said Tragl. “What can be done by investments that have decent payback periods?”
That eventually got them to the 20% figure. Now the company is rolling out the efficiency measures to not only their other plants, but also to customers, under the “energy efficiency services” name. The service includes doing analysis of what’s technically feasible, what’s economically justifiable, what the payoff period is, how it can be implemented, and how it can be verified afterwards. Tragl said that Bosch Rexroth is currently doing this with a huge French food company, with very good feedback.