Ulrich Turck graduated from Bochum University, specializing in electronic components. He has worked as an aerospace project engineer on the German Space Lab, Mission D2, and at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, participating with the Mission Control Center ground crew during flight. For the past 12 years, Turck has been employed in the family business. He was responsible for the founding of new foreign subsidiaries in the former East Germany (Turck Beierfeld GmbH) and China (Turck Tianjin Sensor Co. Ltd.).
Turck provides the OEM with automation products and proximity sensors. The company's world-wide product line includes inductive, capacitive, ultrasonic, and inductive magnet operated sensors; cables and cordsets; logic controls; device-level bus products; relays; and timers.
Design News: What role does the Internet play in product development at Turck?
Turck: The company is currently in the process of installing an Oracle-based product called Data Bank. This Data Bank will connect all 63 world-wide Turck representatives and production facilities around the globe using the Internet as the transfer medium whenever possible. This Data Bank will be used also for the production part of the company. However, we have one concern regarding the Internet, and that has to do with the confidentiality of internal information about the construction of our products. Once we know absolutely that the transmission of data cannot be interfered with, we can use the Internet more.
Q: Has the availability of Banner and Turck's device-level bus InterlinkBT(TM) impacted Turck's customer base?
A: Yes, we are now reaching new customers we haven't had access to before, such as those within the process automation industry. This is a new target for us, but I must underline that InterlinkBT is a new company, started as a joint venture between Banner and Turck at the beginning of this year. So we will see in the next few years how many new customers we can acquire.
Q: What higher-level networks does InterlinkBT support, and how will customers access InterlinkBT products?
A: InterlinkBT has the technology to interface with all bus networks required by our customers. Through the international activities of Turck and Banner, we are well aware of the requirements not only of the North American market (DeviceNet, SDS, CAN, Foundation Fieldbus), but also of other international markets in Europe and Asia (Profibus, Interbus-S, ASI, CC-Link, Beckhoff Light Bus, Sensoplex). InterlinkBT bus products are sold through the same sales and distribution channels as our sensors. It is the same channel that in the past has sold PLCs or more sophisticated products, so the new bus products won't be a problem for our distributors.
Q: Turck has had a presence in the People's Republic of China since 1994. What advice would you offer other manufacturing companies that wish to do business in China?
A: We first looked at the prospects of establishing a joint venture, but we found that with every possible partner, we would have to build the sales system right from the beginning. The Chinese do not really have experience in marketing and sales. Therefore, we felt a 100% wholly owned company was best. Recommendations for other manufacturers: import the necessary equipment, machinery, and components; rely on expatriates for training and management; and apply the same rules and procedures as used in the home facilities.
Q: As a device-level supplier, what precautions is Turck taking to ensure its sensor and automation products will not be the weak link in automated systems designed for Year 2000 compliance?
A: We have established our own task force to address this issue company-wide. Our R&D departments, for example, have ensured that the microprocessors they use are able to work over these 2-digit levels to the year 2000. We have also asked our subsuppliers of software if they are compatible with Y2K requirements. Customers can be assured there is no danger coming from Turck products--all are verified year 2000 compatible.
Q: Not including bus technology, what would you say constitutes the biggest trend within the sensor industry?
A: A big challenge in the world of sensors operating without contact will always be improving their operating parameters. This specifically applies to parameters such as sensing distance, temperature range, EMI susceptibility and Protection Class. New ideas in electronic sensor design combined with high-class production will produce new generations of sensors such as our Uprox and Picoprox, and allow new manufacturing technologies such as injection molding. These trends will create the new standard of sensing technology for the year 2000.