The technological CEO of the German multinational Schaeffler, Peter Gutzmer, spoke to AutoRevista during the Frankfurt Motor Show about Industry 4.0 and the Mobility of Tomorrow.
AutoRevista.- What objectives does Schaeffler have by participating in fairs such as the Frankfurt Motor Show?
Peter Gutzmer.- Most of our business is in the automotive sector. Our company is globally recognised as a key supplier in fields such as vehicle chassis and propulsion. We develop and deliver essential components for energy management, emission reduction, vibration control and suspension. In the area of propulsion, we are at the cutting-edge due to our advances in transmission, shift gear systems and automatic and manual double-clutch systems for continuous variable transmission (CVT). We are capable of developing all types of transmission.
AR.- Schaeffler seeks to position itself as a leader in an industry facing profound changes.
P.G.- Changes are being witnessed of a magnitude that we have not experienced over the last 50 years. They are related to propulsion, to the internet and automated driving. The principles of vehicle conception and manufacturing, as well as the product, are changing at an incredible speed. This is why we have changed our strategy to become a leader not only in the future, but also doing so for the last three or four years. To do so we have designed a new strategy known as Mobility for Tomorrow. It is focused on finding the best solutions in the main areas of work.
Firstly, we aim to optimise the internal combustion engine with diverse solutions for greater efficiency. However, the biggest step is electrification. In regard to this trend, there are two paths to be taken. On the one hand, hybridisation, in which the potential for electric driving and internal combustion is combined, which is currently the cheapest way of obtaining lower levels of emissions. And, on the other hand, full electric driving, of which there is more scarce availability of components and in which infrastructure for charging is currently limited.
We have changed our strategy to become a leader not only in the future, but also doing so for the last three or four years
AR.- How is Schaeffler working in this regard?
P.G.- To tackle this problem, it is necessary to create an ecosystem of energy distribution, and we are working towards this through a joint effort between our business areas, which will contribute towards reducing CO2 emissions. Sustainable mobility will only be possible when the primary source of energy for transportation comes from renewable sources such as wind, solar, hydroelectric and geothermal energy.
Looking towards 2030, up to 30% of all recently produced vehicles could use completely electric traction systems. Our calculations are that another 30% of vehicles would be equipped exclusively with an internal combustion engine and 40% would have hybrid transmission. “Even in the most extreme cases, two out of every three new vehicles would still have an internal combustion engine on board. Therefore, we must do everything within our reach to continue reducing internal combustion engine emissions.
On the other hand, we already have several production orders for our electric actuator systems, since they are powerful and very compact solutions. In terms of the future, Schaeffler hopes that the presence of electric propulsion systems for vehicles increases over the coming years in a significant way. At the moment, no one can predict how long it will take for electric vehicles to be fully established in the market. Nevertheless, it is clear that the whole automotive industry is working towards mobility with zero emissions. Our aim is to help this trend with production-ready technology.
I stand firm that battery-powered electric cars need a new energy supply ecosystem. The largest market for electric cars with hybrid batteries is China, where a clear strategy is being developed, followed by Europe, where hybrid vehicles will continue to predominate.
AR.- Where is the biggest push coming from in electric mobility, from manufacturers or from large suppliers (Tier 1)?
P.G.- From both. We started designing this approach in 2001 and we have driven this forward with the most intensity since 2010. We were the first to pass this type of plan on to our customers. Currently, we are developing strategy focused on integrating new products in hybrid models, building upon our clutches, actuators, electric motors and electric components. We have finalised projects with clients in China, Europe and the United States. We have also developed electric axles for use in electric vehicles or in plug-in hybrid cars. Another area in which we are experiencing considerable progression is that of mechatronics. One example, in which all of these developments are applied, is in competitions such as Formula E, in which we have reaped great success for three years now.
Industry 4.0 combines the electrification of production and a greater number of software functionalities, which translate into greater flexibility
AR.-What is the connection between product and process changes within the Industry 4.0 concept?
P.G.- Schaeffler is not only an automotive supplier, but also an integral industrial supplier in all types of mobility. We develop and produce key components for mobility and movement in sectors such as rail travel and the automotive and machine tools industries.
How is a trend such as electrification in car assembly applied? This type of electrification involves software services. Industry 4.0 combines the electrification of production and a greater number of software functionalities, which translate into greater flexibility.
On the other hand, we have great experience in bearings. In the future, we hope to supply sensor bearings, which provide us with information in real-time on speed, load, friction, temperature, tribology, etc. In short, on the functionality of the bearing in a system.
The creation of an analytical simulation system on the cloud will allow us to get very valuable information in aspects such as preventative maintenance and optimisation in real-time. We will be able to offer services in fields such as mechatronics and data supply, providing our customers with what they really need.
We blend Industry 4.0 with the Mobility for Tomorrow concept in the same value chain with the same vision. We can individually optimise any electric mobility machine, whether they are cars or others.
AR.- How important are collaborative agreements such as the one established several months ago with IBM?
P.G.- When additional functionalities are introduced into products and services, you quickly learn that to get the right skills in an efficient manner, you need to collaborate. That is why we are establishing new types of partnerships. In digital services it is essential to learn how machines work and how software information is handled. IBM possesses in-depth knowledge of cognitive software, which will allow us to continue configuring digital mechanic simulation platforms.